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      Developing leaders who dare to step outside the traditional model - Interview with Quentin Bardet

      Developing leaders who dare to step outside the traditional model - Interview with Quentin Bardet
      Jean-Charles Samuelian
      Jean-Charles SamuelianCEO d'Alan
      Updated on
      12 October 2023
      Jean-Charles Samuelian
      Jean-Charles SamuelianCEO d'Alan
      Updated on
      12 October 2023
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      During his professional career, Quentin Bardet has acquired a solid expertise in transformation and project management through various experiences in the public and private sectors. Today, as Director of HR Transformation and transversal HR projects for the Carrefour Group, he has contributed to the digitalization of the work experience of employees in the group's 8 countries, to the creation of an "Academy" to train all the company's employees in digital skills, and to the internal implementation of Carrefour's partnership with the Paris 2024 Games.

      On the program:

      • HR transformation challenges: adapting to the specific constraints of your environment

      • Transforming culture to meet new consumer expectations

      • Investing in employee training for a successful digital transformation

      • Meeting employee expectations: from social responsibility to positive legacy

      • Customer, Change, Cooperation, Courage: the key ingredients for attracting, retaining, developing and retaining talent

      HR transformation challenges: adapting to the specific constraints of your environment

      J.C.S: Hello Quentin. Can you tell us about your background? 

      Quentin Bardet : Hello Jean-Charles. After six years of experience in ministerial offices in the social sphere, I decided to move into a completely different field, that of digital. I worked for eight years at VISEO, a French ESN (Entreprise du Secteur du Numérique), which allowed me to experience from the inside all the challenges of a hyper-growth ETI - which must constantly structure itself and reinvent its processes to keep up with its growth. 

      Two years ago, I joined Carrefour as Director of HR Transformation for the group. This position allows me to work closely with J√©r√īme Nanty, Carrefour's HR Director, to support the transformation in our eight integrated countries and to put HR at the service of the group's strategy. I am proud to be part of a dynamic team that is committed to providing a positive and beneficial work environment for all employees.

      J.C.S.: What challenges did Carrefour face when you arrived? 

      Q.B: When I arrived in early 2021, we were coming out of the first waves of the Covid-19 pandemic and all countries were thinking about how they could capitalize on that experience and preserve what that crisis had brought us in terms of innovations in the way we work. The challenges of confined work forced us to experiment a lot in the way we collaborate, to digitize our processes, to give much more autonomy to employees and to try out more hybrid ways of working - "smart ways of working" that we wanted to preserve after this period. 

      At the end of 2021, Carrefour also initiated a considerable acceleration of its digital strategy, to become a "DigitalRetail Company" by 2026. HR is very committed to achieving this vision - in particular by bringing digital into the daily lives of employees - with, for example, the implementation of a social platform that brings together the group's 350,000 employees - and by creating a"DigitalRetail Academy" which should train 100% of employees in digital by 2024, i.e. more than 100,000 people per year. It's an exciting challenge, one that requires us to support people who are sometimes very far removed from these uses.

      J.C.S: Can you tell us about your cross-disciplinary experiences and how they have influenced your vision of work and your working methods?

      Q.B: During my years in the public sector, I acquired a systemic, legal and global vision of the employment market. 

      At VISEO, I worked with highly qualified professionals who were in great demand on the job market. In the tech industry, the skills market is short and the competition to attract the best talent is extremely fierce, with very high turnover rates: one of the HR priorities was to work on attractiveness and retention. I developed a fairly "marketing" approach to the employer brand.

      At Carrefour, the dynamic is completely different. In France alone, there are 150,000 employees behind our banners, half of whom are directly employed by Carrefour, spread across France and working in more than 300 different jobs; all generations and all levels of qualification are represented. This calls for a rather different approach to human resources than in a small tech company. 

      Transforming culture to meet new consumer expectations  

      J.C.S: Are there any trends specific to the retail sector and how do you deal with them? 

      Q.B : Since the invention of the hypermarket 60 years ago, the mass retail sector had experienced relative stability in its model. With the emergence of the Internet and e-commerce, our customers' expectations have changed considerably, and the competitive field has included new players like Amazon. We have to adapt to a more volatile and demanding clientele, offer new channels, new in-store services, new shopping experiences and customer satisfaction is more than ever a key asset of the company. 

      Carrefour must also respond to changes in consumption. Mass consumption has given way to more segmented and responsible consumption, attentive to environmental impact and sustainability issues. As of 2018, we have put the "food transition for all" at the heart of our strategy - it has become our raison d'être. Our employees have been trained on organic, certified sustainable products and our distribution model is striving to be more sustainable, sober and responsible. 

      Another trend we must address is the digitalization of shopping experiences: from the disappearance of paper catalogs to the development of new commerce and delivery channels - from social commerce to fast delivery - we must constantly innovate to delight the shopping experience of customers who are adopting these innovations at an ever increasing rate.

      Finally, Covid was a reminder that our businesses are essential to the daily lives of our customers. It was a reminder to consumers and to our employees of the meaning of our business, who are proud to hold their positions in the midst of the pandemic, despite fears about the disease or school closures. 

      The HR transformation is there to help the company and its employees adapt to all these changes, to continue to meet customer expectations and to prepare Carrefour and its employees for the future of commerce. 

      J.C.S: How did you manage this cultural change on such a large scale? 

      Q.B: In 2018, the previous strategic plan put customer culture at the heart of the model. A diagnosis of the existing culture was carried out to determine the strengths and identify areas for progress and a managerial and cultural transformation plan was initiated to translate this ambition and support the company's strategy. This plan was built around four major commitments: to grow and move forward together, to serve the client with passion, to act with simplicity and to be proud to transform our business. 12 managerial competencies have been associated with these commitments and now serve as the basis for the evaluation of all employees. Other measures have been taken to strengthen the customer culture, notably the introduction of the Net Promoter Score as a key performance criterion throughout the company. Targets have been set and all HR processes have been aligned with these commitments. 

      The progress of this cultural transformation is measured using an annual barometer that assesses the implementation of the four commitments on the basis of the feelings of all group employees.

      Invest in employee training to succeed in the digital transformation 

      J.C.S: And what were the stages of the digital transformation? 

      Q.B:¬†In November 2021, Alexandre Bompard announced a very ambitious roadmap to accelerate digital. This roadmap includes very concrete economic objectives - such as tripling our online sales by 2026, leveraging our data or developing our financial and merchant services with digital in order to bring ‚ā¨600M in additional results to the company.

      Achieving this vision requires a profound transformation of Carrefour, to become a "Digital Retail Company", a company that sees itself as a technology player, capable of competing with the industry leaders thanks to its technological density and innovation. In a Digital Retail Company, it is no longer just one service or department - e-commerce for example - that is responsible for achieving the digital ambition; it is all employees, at all levels of the company, who are stakeholders in this strategy.

      J.C.S: Can you describe the concrete results you have observed following the adoption of digital technology, and those that have satisfied you the most? 

      Q.B: To enable the company's employees to communicate with each other regardless of their country or language and to better collaborate together, Facebook's WorkPlace corporate social network is being deployed to Carrefour's 350,000 employees. 

      Although the adoption of this platform is still in progress, WorkPlace is already a key element of the company's digital transformation: it facilitates collaboration at all levels of the company and changes the way we communicate, going beyond traditional hierarchical lines. With this platform, a store can contact the head office, an employee can talk to a manager, a business community can be set up between all our establishments and our leaders can talk directly to the whole company, without any filter. 

      J.C.S: Have you encountered any difficulties in getting employees to adapt to digital? 

      Q.B : The adoption of digital in everyday life requires the removal of many obstacles, both material and psychological. We have encountered difficulties during this process and there is still a lot of work to be done to make digital easy, simple and truly accessible to all. 

      The success of an in-depth transformation of our businesses through digital technology depends in particular on training. To give everyone the keys to digital, we started by defining what digital is - four major areas of expertise were selected: digital commerce, tech, data and digital mindset - everything that helps instill a culture of innovation and agility. We also identified learner typologies in order to propose solutions adapted to each group.  

      In 2022, we deployed a digital training initiative in the form of a Serious Game. For three weeks, students from digital schools visited all our stores and warehouses to lead a training game played in teams. The framework of the game allowed them to put themselves in the shoes of our customers to understand the challenges of digital and to solve with them the daily challenges by using the services offered by our digital devices. It was a great experience that made digital more accessible and understandable and, in the space of three weeks, enabled us to provide a first level of digital knowledge to nearly 90% of the country's employees.

      J.C.S: And how does the company determine how much time employees should invest in these digitalization activities? How do you evaluate the costs and benefits of this compared to other tasks and projects? 

      Q.B : Developing everyone's skills is a key issue for Carrefour and its employees, and we consider it a priority investment. Of course, this requires significant resources: to carry out this event on such a large scale, we sent 900 students from digital schools throughout the country. These students experienced an incredible human adventure, and for us, this investment was an essential factor in the success of this initiative. We also mobilized a communications agency, developed a custom game, called on our experts and set up a dedicated educational and project team. 

      Finally, training means freeing up time in our teams. We are pragmatic: we have to find the right balance to allow a real increase in skills for each person while minimizing the impact on our operations and our clients: we have tried to fit this training game into one hour. This constraint finally led us to invent a very dynamic format, with methods that keep the participants' full attention and probably help them memorize the concepts covered more effectively than a more traditional training course. 

      In the end, we had all the means necessary to achieve this crazy challenge of providing all French employees with a basic training course in the space of three weeks; we could not have done so without the clear support of Carrefour's entire management team, which was at our side right up to the highest level of the company: Alexandre Bompard was personally involved in the training course and provided us with valuable support. 

      This unprecedented initiative has been incredibly rewarding for everyone, has left a mark, has renewed the way we think about training and we have been delighted with the impact it has had on the company - both in terms of skills and in terms of the mindset towards these issues.

      Meeting employee expectations: from social responsibility to positive legacy 

      J.C.S: How does Carrefour plan to improve its approach to helping its employees with mental health?

      Q.B: We have set up listening and support solutions available to everyone - any employee can, if he or she feels the need, be put in touch by a company platform with a psychologist who will accompany them. Our health coverage also includes coverage for these consultations. 

      However, these solutions do not meet all needs and we are looking to improve our support offer by exploring complementary approaches. We want to offer more tools to allow our employees to also question themselves if they feel communication with a specialist is a barrier. Pilots are planned to see if these approaches meet a need. In addition to the measures dedicated to mental health, we believe that sport contributes to mental health: we offer a sports membership to 100% of our employees. These activities can help relieve some of the stress and improve the well-being of our employees.

      J.C.S: How do you integrate your corporate culture into your premium partnership with the Paris 2024 Games?

      Q.B: We are determined to leave a positive legacy not only for the company, but for society as a whole. To do this, we want to use the Games as a gas pedal for our disability initiatives, as well as for Carrefour's commitment to healthier and more responsible eating. And our employees should be the first beneficiaries of this promise: our goal is to contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a better quality of life - everyone wins. 

      Being a Premium Partner of the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games offers unprecedented opportunities to accelerate in these areas; we want this partnership to bring very tangible benefits to our employees. We are focusing on nutrition, in line with our mission to support the food transition for all. In addition, we are offering free fitness subscriptions to all our employees to enable them to practice physical activity adapted to their age and level of fitness at 4,000 sports facilities in France. We will also launch a Carrefour France-wide sports tournament.

      Finally, we are well aware of the issues surrounding safety at work. While some jobs may not seem very risky, our businesses involve dangers related to storage, moving goods and handling tools. We are working on our corporate culture to better integrate good practices in terms of safety, heating and personal protection.

      J.C.S: How do you deal with the growing demand for flexibility in the world of work, particularly in professions where constraints are strong? 

      Q.B : In our stores, we have an essential challenge: to meet our customers' expectations - from stocking shelves to cashing out, we have to adapt to their habits and adjust our schedules to their needs. Everyone understands this necessity, even if it means that our schedules are very different from those in the office. We try to spread this constraint as much as possible, using "time island" systems, to minimize the impact on our employees' lifestyles and to offer compensation, but these are demanding jobs. 

      Cross-functional departments have more freedom from these operational constraints and greater flexibility is possible. During the pandemic, we asked employees to stagger their arrival and departure times to avoid traffic peaks and the risk of virus transmission - they appreciated this increased flexibility. Once the constraint was removed, even if they quickly wanted to come back to the office to get together, we also noticed a strong demand to keep the autonomy they had acquired and to preserve the possibility of working remotely. We have therefore developed the use of hybrid work, allowing people to work at home for part of the week - a system that has been massively adopted by eligible employees. Being able to avoid some of the commuting time is a real comfort for these employees.

      Customer, Change, Cooperation, Courage: the key ingredients for attracting, retaining, developing and retaining talent

      J.C.S: How do you manage the personal development paths within Carrefour? 

      Q.B : Carrefour is very committed to equal opportunities; this is reflected in our recruitment policy: we recruit locally throughout France and we are the leading employer in France in priority urban areas. With our 300 professions and our training capacities, we offer career opportunities to everyone, from the most highly qualified to the first levels of qualification; with or without a diploma, everyone has a sustainable career path waiting for them with us. Carrefour also cultivates a tradition of internal promotion that allows everyone to rise through the ranks. No one is held back by a diploma that they do not have - some of the company's managers come from the "tile" industry - you can start your career on the shelf and end up in charge of a store with several hundred employees or even a country. 70% of our managers are promoted from within. We have also set up the School of Leaders to enable employees at all levels in the company to train for 6 months and move up the hierarchy of responsibilities in the company. 

      Carrefour remains a real career elevator for everyone: we are proud to offer career opportunities to all our employees, regardless of their degree or experience.

      J.C.S: What are the main threats facing Carrefour in terms of talent management?

      Q.B : Carrefour is facing a change in its business lines and must reach out to new talent.Traditionally, we used to recruit business school graduates to take up positions of responsibility at Carrefour; today, with our DigitalRetail Company model, we have to diversify our recruitment to be equally attractive to new profiles: engineers, data scientists... Carrefour has an enormous amount of data: 10 billion sales receipts are recorded in our databases. To make the most of these assets, we need new jobs and new skills. 

      We must also take up the challenge of social and environmental responsibility - a challenge that the younger generation is particularly attentive to. Our efforts are now recognized by students and young graduates: for the second year running, Carrefour is on the podium of the Universum ranking of companies recognized by young graduates for their CSR commitment. But the stakes go far beyond an annual ranking and will mobilize the entire company for decades to come; as for all economic players, it raises profound questions about many aspects of our economic model. It challenges Carrefour to know how to respond to the challenges of both the end of the month and the end of the world - it's a formidable challenge. 

      Finally, we face the challenges of a rapidly changing industry in an extremely competitive environment. We must constantly remain at the forefront of operational excellence to remain competitive with multiple distributors and always offer the best products and services to our customers. In short, we must be attentive to distribution costs in order to remain competitive, without ever lowering the quality of service or missing out on an innovation that the competition would offer. This environment does not allow any slackening of the company.

      J.C.S.: Have you set up programs to develop the key skills and qualities sought after in managers and leaders at Carrefour? 

      Q.B: We have formalized our leadership model as the 4Cs. 

      The first C focuses on the Customer, because it is essential in the retail sector to have managers who are obsessed with customer satisfaction, whether they are internal or external. 

      The second pillar is Change - as our industry is constantly evolving, we need leaders who are able to pivot and support their teams through these changes. 

      Cooperation is the third key point, always difficult to implement in a company of our size.  

      Finally, Courage is the last C, reflecting the ability to take a strategic step back and dare to take risks, so as not to miss any innovation or emerging trend. 

      Carrefour has appointed leaders who possess these qualities because the importance of the challenges we face requires leaders who are prepared to constantly challenge established models. We have assembled a team that, with these 4Cs, has all the qualities to invent the responsible business model that will sustainably consolidate Carrefour's position with its customers. It is truly a leadership model aligned with the company's strategic challenges.¬†‚Äć

      Published on 14/02/2023

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