In this interview, Françoise Schoenberger, Social Relations Director at L’Oréal with responsibility for Share & Care, speaks about the three stages that went into this bold programme and explains how L’Oréal has gone about bringing it to the 68 countries where the Group operates.
“Laying the groundwork was the most important stage in this worldwide project”
Schoenberger singles this aspect out as key. By virtue of its scale, Share & Care required extensive advance preparations. Over about a year and a half between early 2012 and autumn 2013, Schoenberger and her team of ten colleagues worked tirelessly to come up with a comprehensive implementation plan that addressed specific national features.
How did the team anticipate stumbling blocks in terms of applying a social benefits programme on a global scale? By involving HR departments from participating countries. Schoenberger and her colleagues got the ball rolling by sending out a questionnaire with 106 technical queries to the country HR units. This provided a way to pinpoint the main local challenges and adjust strategy accordingly. Next, two workshops were held in each country to glean a better idea of expectations and wishes. Last but not least, 18 of the 68 countries, drawn from different regions, participated as pilots in a more in-depth study.
After 18 months of collective preparations, the Share & Care programme was ready. The aim is to offer L’Oréal employees across the world an outstanding programme of benefits based on four pillars: welfare, health, parenthood and quality of life. “Goals have been set for each pillar. In the case of parenthood, we want to increase maternity leave to 14 weeks for all women in the Group. In health, the aim is to offer a system that reimburses 75% of medical costs for the four most serious diseases.” Not all countries are starting from the same point, but they all have two years to comply with these must-have targets.
“While Share & Care is a global programme, it must primarily meet local needs”
These intense preparations were followed by the launch. “For the sake of efficiency, we opted for a synchronised launch and a short two-year implementation period.” The idea was to concentrate efforts over a short timeframe to get stakeholders engaged and be more efficient. This is where management stepped into the frame. “Chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon provided vital support, acting as an ambassador to spread the word about Share & Care.” By taking a “universal approach that is respectful of specific local cultural features”, Share & Care is rooted in the vision pursued by the Group, which has sought since the earliest days to adapt its globally distributed products to local cultural needs.
To cater to local needs and enable participants to meet their targets, the Share & Care programme strives first and foremost to be collaborative. As well as being consulted and involved from the design stage, the countries were used as testing grounds for innovation after the launch. To help them put the programme into practice, management provided an intranet platform with a practical guide to country implementation, a set of frequently asked questions and a document detailing best practices. For organisational reasons, Schoenberger also appointed individual team members to cover each different region – South-East Asia, Latin America, Europe, and so on – where L’Oréal operates.
“While this is a worldwide programme with a set of must-have targets, as mentioned above, it must primarily meet local needs” says Schoenberger. The must-have components are therefore accompanied by locally-specific nice-to-have elements. Every country has its own priorities. The many measures taken around the world include medical check-ups for employees’ children in Peru, a maternity room in Dubai and extended paternity leave in Brazil and the United States. “The universal nature of health issues and collective implementation of the programme meant that we could get everyone on board without too many legal problems or cultural barriers” she continues. Given the initial outcomes, the strategy seems to be working.
“The countries will do self-assessments. We are there to support, not to issue orders.”
The programme runs until the end of 2015, but the results are already there to see. In the third stage – assessment – Schoenberger wants to press on with the collaborative approach. “The countries will conduct annual self-assessments. This is an important point: we are there to support them in these changes, not to issue orders.” Country HR departments will be supplied with a set of questions to help them gauge progress towards their goals. Since the information is openly available, countries can draw inspiration from what is going on elsewhere. Backing this up, an internal audit team from head office will examine the overall results and issue recommendations.
Some numbers? “In terms of healthcare, we have increased the number of countries covered from 26 to 58. In welfare we are up from just seven countries at the outset to 49 in less than two years” explains Schoenberger. After the summer holidays, a final audit will confirm whether the objectives have been 100% met in all the affected countries.
By virtue of its size and macroeconomic impact, the project has attracted the attention of the International Labor Organization, which has included L’Oréal in its Social Protection Floor Initiative alongside other multinational pioneers such as Sodexo, Total and Danone (with which the Group already dialogues with regularly). The new economic intelligence initiative is slated to be launched in Geneva in October 2015.
“We remain focused on the task at hand, which is to get all of L’Oréal’s subsidiaries to the same level by the close of 2015. But yes, our thoughts are already turning to the next step!” says Schoenberger. That might include millennials’ aspirations in terms of quality of life at work. Watch this space…