In Action

L’Oréal’s HR programme as seen by Judith Ruiz de Esquide, Human Resources Director for Spain

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Judith Ruiz de Esquide

Judith Ruiz de Esquide heads up human resources for L’Oréal Spain. Since 2013, she and her team have been taking care of the nationwide roll-out of Share & Care, an initiative aimed at establishing a uniform level of benefits for L’Oréal employees worldwide.

After introducing the programme’s “must-have” core components, the HR team worked with the subsidiary’s senior executives and country committee to prepare a road map for “nice-to-have” additional measures, which have to be in place by the time 2016 draws to a close. With a review of the programme slated to begin soon, the head of HR gives us the run-down on L’Oréal’s strategy and the three main parts of Spain’s Share & Care plan.

Share & Care: “For real, or just a slogan?”

When the Share & Care programme was announced, the Spanish subsidiary held a meeting of its senior managers to talk about the local implications of the Group-wide initiative. Ruiz de Esquide remembers the question that was on the minds of top management: “Do we really have our leadership’s backing in this? Is this for real?” She also recalls the underlying question: “Will we have to give up existing benefits to introduce Share & Care?” She says the fact that Group greenlighted the budget needed to meet the Share & Care targets for 2015/2016 was key: “We could really see that this was a corporate project over which we had a strategic say.” The hard work still lay ahead for her though, namely to implement the programme that she had devised with HR and country management.

“The programme was warmly received on the Spanish market”

Share & Care is a two-part programme. Over the first two years, country teams were asked to introduce the must-haves to build up a core set of social benefits. These got a warm reception on the Spanish market, which came as no surprise to Ruiz de Esquide, as she knew that her home market was no laggard on these issues when compared against the 68 countries where the Group does business. “Several must-haves, such as maternity leave or preventive aspects, were already required by domestic law.” The big changes for the head of HR concerned three areas: extending life insurance coverage of two years, establishing a welcome programme for young mothers and setting up a stress management training programme.

Ruiz de Esquide firmly believes that “companies have a role to play in society”, which is where the second wave of nice-to-haves come in. These bolder measures provide additional benefits in countries where people already enjoy a basic level of social protection.

“Each country was in charge of tailoring the programme to its specific local needs”

The challenge was to match the situation in the country, while being creative. The local team of top managers, middle management and union partners worked to come up with nice-to-have measures that reflected the country’s specific needs. Although there were few if any outright stipulations, each country team was asked to submit an appropriate roadmap for its nice-to-have measures: “The question was how to make the most of this freedom while shaping the Share & Care Spain programme.”

Ruiz de Esquide wanted the Share & Care programme to address two of the three business targets in the country’s HR roadmap – relating to talent and workplace culture respectively – while making sure that the organisation reflected local issues.

Attracting and retaining talent

The HR Director wanted to use the programme to attract and hold onto talent – a key part of her job. She believes that applicants are no longer necessarily going after high-earning positions but would rather be in tune with the company’s values and enjoy a better quality of life. Her approach seems to be paying off, with the media now reporting that L’Oréal is Spain’s second-top Best Place to Work. Previously in 30th position, the company has shot up the rankings in two years. “Share & Care has played a big part in this performance.”

Building a better workplace culture

Employee well-being is a priority for the HR boss: “We have introduced a whole raft of well-being measures, including installing showers so that employees can do sport or bike to work, organising health seminars, dental, vision and skin check-ups, and providing a workplace doctor and osteopath.” To strike a better work/private life balance for L’Oréal Spain personnel, she also designed a more flexible work organisation that promotes greater independence: “We have overhauled our toolkit and are now offering more up-to-date, flexible and collaborative working approaches. We are also working on a new personalised remuneration system.”

Reflecting the realities of the Spanish market

The head of HR Spain felt that the nice-to-have components needed to address business objectives while at the same time adapting to country-specific challenges. As she puts it: “We wanted the programme to resonate with local issues.” One obvious question for Ruiz de Esquide was employment. The HR team now spends one day each month assisting out-of-work relatives of L’Oréal personnel to make themselves more employable. Different modules have been set up to help people write up their CV, manage social networks, make a skills assessment or even start out on their own. Spain’s ageing population is another country-specific question. Ruiz de Esquide responded by setting up partnerships with retirement homes for employees looking after elderly people. “We are always on the look-out for new projects that we can build into Share & Care to improve the quality of life of our employees, both at work and in their private life.”

Human capital | September 2015