By launching an HR policy that is the antithesis of traditional practices in the dental sector, Faustine Gallier, Clinadent's Human Resources Director, has succeeded in reducing turnover by half and attracting experienced managers from different backgrounds. In this interview, she explains the advantages that make the difference for her employees, as well as the importance she attaches to the link between HR and the Director and to local managers.
On the program:
"At work, we build ourselves either by mimicry or by opposition."
"We are taking initiatives that other players in the industry are not doing."
"We've managed to cut turnover in half."
"We have extreme confidence in our local managers"
The importance of the "match" for recruitment.
Faustine Gallier : I studied law and began my career in a law firm as a lawyer. But I quickly sought a more human approach to the legal profession. That's how Human Resources came to me.
I then joined the Inditex group, within the Zara group, as a general HR specialist. However, due to the size of the group, the employees were becoming numbers. I was still too cut off from the human side.
After this experience, I discovered the health sector by working for a group of pharmacies: Healthy Group. It was a very good experience and I finally found the human side I was looking for. The structure was relatively small: there were only 10 of us at the head office when I started - 80 when I left the company. It was a very interesting experience because it was a question of accompanying the growth of the group and structuring an HR department that did not exist until then.
F.G : During my time at Healthy Group, I worked with a very human and caring HR Director. She inspired me a lot by her closeness to the employees.
When she left the company, I took a position as HR Director on and off, even though I only had 2 - 3 years of experience. I was managing 80 employees at the head office alone, in addition to the employees of the 400 pharmacies indirectly. That was a very important moment. I was asked if I was capable of taking on this position, and I said yes without really believing it myself. Looking back, it challenged me a lot and gave me a lot of input for the rest of my career.
Then, another HR manager arrived from a large group. She was very "high up" for a human-sized company like ours. I am convinced that, at work, we build ourselves either by mimicry or by opposition. In this case, I built myself in opposition to her way of doing things. I have a very operational profile, I need to get things done and be in contact with people. This HRD made me understand that I did not aspire to follow her way of working.
Then, I was approached by the founder and CEO of Clinadent on Linkedin, Philippe Yacharel. It was a perfect fit because I was no longer aligned with my manager. Philippe immediately inspired me. He was a dental surgeon who became an entrepreneur by force of circumstance. He built the Clinadent group from scratch. He did everything, including designing the centers and setting up the tables and chairs for the openings.
This interview comes at a crucial moment because he recently passed away. I would like to pay tribute to him because he trusted me despite my 28 years to take a decisive position in his company. He always accompanied me in a very benevolent and protective way. He gave me the desire to surpass myself. He is the manager who inspired me the most and I want to follow his example for the rest of my career.
F.G : When I arrived, everything had to be done on the HR side. In particular, I quickly realized that the group had a lot of demands of its employees but that the compensation offered was not sufficient.
So we started by putting in place employee benefits. They may seem basic for large groups, but they are in fact very differentiating for the dental sector. For example, I'm thinking of the 80% Alan mutual insurance company, the meal vouchers, the external works council... For a group of dental clinics, this was already enormous.
For us, these initiatives were part of a global approach. For our management team, for example, we didn't just want to recruit people from the dental sector, but also profiles from large groups such as Sephora or Decathlon. In order to attract them, we had to match the benefits they were used to.
F.G : We realized that 80% of our employees are women. So we asked ourselves how to improve and simplify the lives of our female employees.
With Manon Gobillot, my HR manager, we have created a parenting package that includes a partnership with Choisir ma Crèche. We finance the cost of the crèche, which represents a significant advantage and cost for an SME like ours. We also offer all our parents a week's paid vacation during their child's first week in the crèche.
We also offer a birth bonus and an adjustment of the schedule at the beginning of the school year. Also, we do not deduct from the working time of our employees the time necessary to pump their milk, when it is done on the work place.
All these initiatives meet the expectations of our employees, who are between 20 and 35 years old on average, and differentiate us from other structures in the sector. Finally, given our activity, it is logical for us to offer our employees a very good quality dental care. In addition to the 80% health insurance, we offer them discounts on dental care to facilitate access.
F.G .: Yes, when I arrived, we set up a bonus system based on objectives. Once again, we were starting from scratch. The project was quite intense: we worked out the categorization of the employee populations, the scheme for annual interviews and the frequency of bonus payments.
It was very challenging the first year. Most of the center directors were going through the annual review exercise for the first time. I accompanied them all to explain the process to be followed, how to deliver the objectives, how to give feedback... I went to each center and conducted more than 180 annual interviews in two months!
The following year, when we paid out the first bonuses, we saw a real impact on employee satisfaction and commitment. It is important to note that this type of initiative is very rare in the dental sector.
We also made a point of not reserving bonuses for positions that generate income. Dental assistants, for example, are just as concerned. At Clinadent, we believe that the success of the company is a collective effort.
The message sent to our employees was therefore strong: we take initiatives that other players in the sector do not and, in addition, we keep our promises.
F.G : Our parenting package has convinced some people to join us, especially because of the easier access to day care centers.
These advantages are very important to us because, like all companies, the dental sector is not spared the challenges of attracting and retaining employees. In addition, it is very competitive and growing. Dental groups are obliged to be hyper aggressive in their recruitment policy and offer high salaries to employees to attract and keep them.
Clearly, we cannot align ourselves with this type of crazy proposal. But, for all that, I am not at all ashamed of the remuneration we offer at Clinadent! Moreover, I prefer that the people we recruit have good reasons to join us and to stay. We can't be in a permanent bidding war.
When I arrived, staff turnover was very high - up to 40% in some centers. Gradually, we have managed to reduce it by half.
F.G : Yes, of course. As soon as we recruit, we look for center managers who are ready to help their teams grow with kindness. At this stage, I always work in tandem with Angélique Thibout, Director of the Development Division, with whom I share the same approach to management.
We are also looking for people who have managerial courage. For me, this is a form of benevolence.
In the past, we have had isolated cases of unhealthy or even harassing center directors. As soon as the case was reported, we immediately conducted internal investigations and took disciplinary action.
The health of employees, especially mental health, is the most important thing to preserve. I can't imagine that a Clinadent employee comes to work with a gut feeling.
F.G : Yes, and that's very important. Our management team is quite special because the people come from very different sectors - from retail for example. We wanted to recruit people with good management experience and who have learned how to support their employees.
For one month, we take the time to train these employees to give them all the keys to understanding our sector and to present them with what we expect from our managers. They have a theoretical part during which we train them on the basics of dentistry, the management of Doctolib, our internal dental software, the functioning of our third-party payment service, the role of each employee within the centers, the functioning of our processes, etc. Then they spend 15 days in a center with a Director in order to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice.
When we started recruiting and training completely non-dental profiles, it was a big gamble for us because we were the first in the sector to do so. Angélique Thibout built this training and made it evolve over time, and today it is a management model that we would not change for anything in the world!
I am proud to see that our company is able to recruit managers from large groups. For me, this is proof that our project and the health sector are meaningful.
F.G. : We have great confidence in them to sound the alarm or to calm down situations in the event of a problem. Then, when necessary, we always act very quickly from headquarters.
In particular, I have built up a very strong partnership with the Occupational Health Service. If there is the slightest doubt, I suggest that employees contact them.
Also, we have started to work on workshops on the gestures and postures to adopt in the office to reduce musculoskeletal disorders.
Moreover, for me, well-being also involves team cohesion. For this, our managers all have an operating budget that allows them to organize their teams around key dates and/or events. It's their choice! A team dinner, a team building activity, they have their own budget and we trust them to boost the commitment of their employees through the event they deem most appropriate.
F.G : I would almost say that each center, which has between 15 and 30 employees, has its own culture! It depends a lot on the center director.
However, we do have one very differentiating point compared to other dental groups: our high-end positioning. This is very expensive for us and really differentiates us in terms of vision.
Our employees are proud to work for Clinadent because they know that our group really focuses on quality of care and patient management. We do not seek profitability at any price.
Unfortunately, our sector is regularly confronted with legal disputes concerning Social Security fraud and unnecessary and/or painful operations on patients. Clinadent has never had to suffer a single case like this. Our employees know that they will work under good conditions.
We place a great deal of importance on the notion of exemplarity and excellence in our care, and I think that the corporate culture has been built around this pride for the teams in belonging to a group that holds such values.
F.G : It took me a while to build myself as a manager and to identify the profile of people I work best with. For example, at the beginning, I recruited people with whom I didn't have a "match ".
I have the advantage and disadvantage of being very frank. I am able to get my point across without any detours, but the people in front of me have to be able to hear it. I also give a lot of confidence to the people who join my team. You have to be able to be autonomous quickly and know how to manage this pressure.
In the past, I have tended to adapt my management style to the people. But, I think that after a while, you become yourself again. Nature always comes back! So I learned to recruit people who are like me. Since then, it has worked out great.
F.G : I listen to my instincts a lot when recruiting. It's something I had a hard time doing at the beginning, because I'm rather Cartesian.
In several cases, I have recruited people who ticked all the boxes on paper but I didn't "feel" it with them. It's a difficult opinion to express because there's nothing concrete to back it up!
In the case of several recruitment mistakes, I thought I should have listened to myself. Then, while discussing with Angelique Thibout, my colleague with whom I do Director recruiting, I realized that we were thinking the same thing. We just hadn't dared to share our instincts with each other. Since then, we have made a promise to each other to always listen to each other.
On the other hand, we have already recruited people who were not 100% what we were looking for. However, we sensed their potential during the interview and we recruited them anyway. I am thinking, for example, of the case of our Director of the Avignon center, who manages his center very well, even though his CV did not correspond to what we had in mind for this position.
So you really have to listen to your instincts. In reality, we know quite quickly if it will "fit " or not with a person. You have to feel capable of overcoming difficult moments together, as well as moments of happiness. For this, it is essential to have "chemistry".
F.G : This is a job where you have to have total confidence in the person who manages you, because the HRD has a very structuring and confidential scope.
I have seen situations where HR managers are not in agreement with their management. This only leads to unhappy employees.
The link with the person who manages us is fundamental. I was lucky enough to have an exceptional relationship with Philippe Yacharel, who helped me grow a lot. I hope that all HR managers will be able to forge a relationship like this one! That's how you build healthy working relationships and mature within your work environment in a caring environment that you then want to pass on to your employees.