Giving everybody a voice at the world’s leading fashion brands
Gucci’s flagship store in Paris is located, as you might expect, in a tasteful building set slightly apart from the Champs-Élysées, the French capital’s retail Mecca. But if you were lucky enough to be browsing the store in March 2016, you might have noticed something - or someone - slightly out of place.
Because it wasn’t any old store associate fetching high-heeled shoes for well-heeled customers. It was Béatrice Lazat, newly installed SVP of Human Resources at Kering. And she was on a mission.
“When I joined Kering, as part of my onboarding I asked to work as a sales associate in a flagship store for a week,” reveals Béatrice, who has since become the company’s Chief People Officer. “I wanted to get first-hand experience of the daily professional environment for our sales associates.”
Ask the average shopper what brands (or ‘Houses’ as they’re known in fashion industry parlance) like Gucci, YSL, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen have in common, and you’ll get the same answer: they’re all luxury boutiques. But industry insiders will tell you something else: all of them belong to a single company. That’s Kering.
“I wanted to connect everyone in the company to share news, successes and really make them feel like they belong.”
Kering employs 35,000 people in 50 markets around the world. With 60% of those people working in retail stores, Béatrice was determined to understand their needs. What she discovered was how disconnected they were from the parent Group.
“I realised that most retail employees were not aware of company news or results,” she says. “They sometimes got to know about policies and benefits, but they were weeks behind. I saw that there was potential to give them more knowledge about their own House, but also about what the Group does for them. I wanted to connect everyone in the company to share news, successes and really make them feel like they belong.”
The tools she had back then - desktop-only intranet, notice boards - weren’t up to the job. So Béatrice set out to achieve “a total digital transformation”; one that responded to people’s real needs.
“Employee expectations are increasing,” she explains. “They want the same digital experiences in the work space that they have in their personal lives. So we wanted to give our employees the best experience, and at the same time we wanted to equip our HR community with the best tool to manage the full work life cycle of our people.”
“I could see the potential of Workplace very clearly. Its familiarity, its mobile application. It was obviously a winner.”
That tool had to be able to connect everybody, which meant it had to be simple, mobile and global. “I could see the potential of Workplace very clearly,” says Béatrice. “Its familiarity, its mobile application. It was obviously a winner.”
Béatrice gave Workplace the green light in early 2018. But only after serious consideration of the launch strategy. “We didn’t just press the ‘invite all’ button and hope for the best,” she says. “We put in place a very comprehensive change management program.”
That program was based on a phased launch that started at the top. “We gave exclusive access to 200 senior leaders during our annual leadership conference. That conference had no agenda on paper, no speaker bios, nothing. It was on Workplace. So they had no choice. You want to know where to go, where to find the shuttle bus? Go on Workplace.”
Then there was “an army of Workplace experts on the ground”. These were the Workplace champions, one for every 50 employees, trained in 12 languages. Only then did Béatrice and her team commit to a House-by-House roll out.
“We gave exclusive access to 200 senior leaders during our annual leadership conference. They had no choice. You want to know where to go? Go on Workplace.”
Next came communication and engagement. “We wanted to give everybody a voice but at the same time we wanted to make sure that Workplace was a central hub where we could deliver key messages,” Béatrice explains. Her team developed a three-tier posting strategy that covered everything from planned announcements to breaking news to more spontaneous posts from the leadership team like in-store selfies with frontline staff. They also hold regular livestreams and share high-quality video content from across the Houses.
With leadership onboard from the start, adoption was rapid. Today, 85% of people at Kering are active Workplace users. Over a third visit Workplace every day. For the first time, people at Kering are connected. To their House, to each other and to the Group.
For Béatrice, the impact comes back to people. “Luxury is about creativity and exceptional experiences. When we talk about those things we have to talk about people because so far that is something that AI can’t do,” she jokes. “That’s why without a doubt the most meaningful Workplace group for me is the all employee group. We call it the ‘Kering Universe’. Because it reflects the diversity of Houses, the diversity of people and countries that we have. And they are all together in a single group."
"We have more than 30,000 people in that group and it allows us to communicate very rapidly to all of them. Sometimes I wonder what we did before we had the Kering Universe in Workplace because now it has become so easy.”