It is often thought that flexibility in the workplace, working hours and innovation on issues related to the "future of work" are reserved for the American tech giants, wrongly.
Our meeting with SARETEC - the French leader in claims management - proved us wrong and showed us that the most innovative companies are sometimes not the ones we think!
Saretec is a 46 year old company (1977) which today employs more than 1800 people, divided between a head office near Paris (in Créteil) and 80 agencies throughout France, the French overseas departments and territories and in Spain.
We met with Elodie Bonnet, HR Development Manager, and Sébastien Laumond, Communication Manager, and simply asked them, "How have you changed the work organization at Saretec, since the Covid crisis?"
We learned more about how the company works. Check out their tips!
As is the case for many companies, Saretec took advantage of the Covid crisis to move towards greater flexibility in its on-site and remote work organization. In the words of Elodie Bonnet, this period was "a particle gas pedal". This forced transformation went well for the workers and the company's production.
"A lot of the work had been done upstream with the deployment of a fleet of laptops, the implementation of an initial rider linked to remote work, a lot of training and awareness-raising on remote working for our employees."
Since then, Saretec has continued to innovate and evolve in the field of hybrid work organization, with a specific goal: to bring more fulfillment to each employee.
From these different developments and innovations, four lessons could be useful to any employer seeking to move his structure towards more flexibility in his work organization.
Saretec is a particularly geographically distributed company (1800 employees in more than 80 different offices). Setting up a dialogue and listening approach can be quite complex. However, according to Elodie Bonnet, it is a sine qua non condition for any innovation to obtain excellent results.
"We set up a proactive process of sharing between the different offices, the CSE and the HR department to understand how each agency was experiencing hybrid work and organizing themselves, and how we could better help."
From this phase of exchange, Saretec's need for flexibility in the workplace (by facilitating the implementation of "hybrid work" in particular) but also for social links and conviviality despite the distance, emerged.
The second lesson concerns the uniqueness of each team. Sébastien Laumond insists on the fact that "each team, via its manager, functions differently with its own rituals and culture" and this diversity is a strength that must not be broken.
According to Saretec, the HR department has to give a great trajectory concerning flexibility at work, but each manager can adapt his functioning according to his team. Thus, a lot of autonomy is left to the teams to organize themselves and the managers accompany their teams and encourage this autonomy.
However, managers are not left out in the cold. The company trains its managers extensively to enable them to better lead and direct their teams, even in remote work or in a "hybrid mix".
In addition to this training, the management allocates a budget to each manager to animate the life of his or her team in hybrid mode in a more personalized way. Each manager is given a "conviviality budget", to be used as desired to bring the team together. Sébastien Laumond illustrates this practice with a concrete example:
"The communications team got together to listen to a jazz concert, while the HR team hosted a dinner at a creperie."
Adaptability is key!
According to Elodie Bonnet, there is no point in "copying and pasting" a culture or organization from elsewhere. Any change must come from an internal dialogue to understand what is really expected by employees and managers in terms of flexibility at work.
Furthermore, we must not be afraid to test new formulas and experiment with employees on the subject of flexibility. This is particularly evident in Saretec's gradual transition to a flex desk system. Elodie explains that this was done gradually. Initially, a test was carried out using a zoning system where each employee could sit where he or she wished in an area defined for his or her team. The idea was to set up zones by team, then to evaluate the performance of this system before considering a switch to a full flex office total.
Saretec has not stopped at the flex office to make office life more dynamic. Several pilot projects and advantages are still being developed: for example, allowing employees who wish to do so to move to another branch or to live with a colleague for a few days in order to gain a better understanding of all the jobs.
The last lesson we learned from this exchange is that in this process of flexibility and innovation in the organization of work, technology can be a valuable aid in the long run.
Saretec has implemented a fleet of laptops and the Office 365 suite with Microsoft Teams. This now facilitates the daily life of all employees. A project is currently underway to deploy a new intranet, like a social network, which will promote exchanges between employees and cross-functional communication.
To give all teams greater visibility over "who's coming when" and "who's where", a solution has been developed via SharePoint, where everyone can enter their remote work days for the next 2 weeks. This enables "employees to see who's coming into the office, so they can plan their week more effectively and be in the right place at the right time". It's a first step towards better office management.
Other companies have experienced or are still experiencing the same problems as Saretec. Some have also started to organize flexibility in the office with an "in-house solution", such as Excel. The most innovative ones have turned to a turnkey solution.
To sum up, many French companies still think that it is too early to bring more flexibility to the workplace and fully embrace the "future of work". Saretec and its HR team are convinced that in order to bring real fulfillment to employees, it is necessary to be more flexible and to move forward on these subjects today.
Through a process of exchange and trust between all the teams, Elodie Bonnet and Sébastien Laumond also show us that innovation is within everyone's reach and that technology is a real ally!
To go further, discover how a good management of the hybrid policy optimizes the offices and leads to a real cost saving for the company thanks to the flex office.