Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Connecting the Dots in HR to Push Change Forward

Meet Laure Rudelle Arnaud, Chief People and Impact Officer at Sendinblue – a digital marketing platform dedicated to helping small businesses grow. We recently connected with Laure to discuss how she got her start in the industry, her biggest influences, best mistake, as well as her thoughts on what business leadership looks like now and for the foreseeable future since the Covid-19 crisis. What’s one strategy Laure has found successful as a leader during this new work era? She says it’s all about connection.

Laure Rudelle Arnaud

“During this period of uncertainty, isolation and deployment of full remote work at a fast pace, I did emphasize the connection with my team members and people I was supporting,” she recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “As an HR leader, there is one specific initiative that I have put in place and that has been particularly successful: the peer-to-peer coach approach through “co-development.” We invited leaders in the organization, on a voluntary basis, to join with a group of 6-8 peers and gather virtually for 90 minutes monthly to share leadership situations they had to face during turbulent times.

“During each session, one or two leaders had the opportunity to share with their peers one challenging business situation that they were facing and ask for coaching advice from their peers,” she continued. “Facilitated by an internal or external coach, these rotative structured sessions reinforce knowledge sharing, active listening skills, empathy, ability to show vulnerability, break the silos in the organization, and first and foremost, avoid social isolations for leaders, and create a space for deep and authentic conversations. Feedback from participants has been extremely positive. It is a successful strategy that I recommend to others.”

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Laure Rudelle Arnaud. 

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my career as a consultant in strategy, and very quickly, it became apparent that I was interested in topics related to people and change management, which is why I decided to switch to HR. I joined Sodexo in 2011 as HR Project Manager, where I oversaw employee engagement and quality of life for 40,000 employees. I then took on different HR responsibilities related to talent management and HR development at a global level but also supported big business transformation cycles from an HR perspective. At my last position, I was the SVP HR for Group Senior Executives, namely for the top 200 Sodexo Senior Executives, supporting them in their career choices, crafting succession plans, and performance and potential assessment.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry? 

Rohini Anand, who used to be the Chief Diversity Officer at Sodexo, who really paved the way on this area within the organization and for many other companies has been very inspirational for me.  Sheila Heen, author of “Thank You for the Feedback,” is also an inspiration. I discovered her during a SHRM event 5 years ago. I loved her personality and her approach, and really try to implement and deploy her philosophy around feedback and performance management. This is the same for the author of “Radical Candor,” Kim Scott, who really helped me to structure a new cultural approach of an organization.

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

My best mistake was probably to push myself starting my career in strategy consulting. I learned a lot in terms of project management, framework, structure, and analytics but realized very fast that I was not analytical and detailed enough to do this job well. The thing that I really liked was the human side of the projects, the change, and people management aspect. It was full of learning and a great way to jump with strong roots into the HR industry.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?  

My favorite part about working in HR is helping connect the dots between the purpose of individuals and organizations while keeping a good balance between systemic approach and individual journey.

In parallel to that, I love developing the organizations in which I work to discern the line of their own values and identity as a social body and deploy it through statements, leadership initiatives, strong employer brand and so on. My least favorite part is the administrative and pure legal aspect of the job. I admire my team members who excel in it and are amazing HR back-office supporters, but it is not my favorite side of HR.

It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here. 

Indeed. My conviction is that the more people feel safe and comfortable physically and emotionally at work, the stronger they will be in their work, in their conviction, in their capacity to improve the way the work is done and to be a source of innovation and inspiration. I do believe that each of us should aim at becoming a leader. What does it mean? It means feeling empowered to know who you are, know your needs and get a good understanding of their business and social environment. Based on that, they are stronger to make the right choices for them and for the organization. Additionally, they dare to speak up, to innovate and, thus, they are the best ambassadors of the organization.

I do believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion as a great enhancer of quality of life at work. How do we make sure that each employee feels fully respected and proud of who they are with their specificities, their disability, their sexual orientation, their origin, their personality, and/or their personal situation?

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization? 

When they do care sincerely about the people, about how people react, can develop themselves, can react in their day to day and strategic decisions, they put HR as a value. When a leader embarks HR to think together about organizational design, career, and competencies mapping, they make HR a value within their organization. Finally, when they recognize HR to enhance innovation and impact, they make HR a value within their organization.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I do believe that HR will be less and less in silo but will be more connected and approached jointly with impact, with innovation since people and human capital is the best intangible asset that an organization has to push the change deeply.

At the same time, in the last three or four years, the strategic and critical role of HR has been thrusted into the spotlight due to the Covid-19 crisis, and several lockdowns and with the need to manage our employees’ safety, to maintain connection, to restructure workplace initiatives, and to cope with the “great resignation.” For me, the part of the role, which consists of connecting the dots and being the “glue” of an organization, is the most relevant and critical in order for an organization to succeed.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of the balance that I cherish between my intense professional life and my personal life. Having four kids at home, some of them with special needs, and helping them to grow as individuals on one side while having professional and business impact is something that I am very grateful for.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Dare to challenge and to innovate – HR needs to be pushed to move ahead, to keep reinventing the way we work. Try to be balanced in your assessment, behavior, and recommendation, and avoid being too judgmental; human nature is complex and requires a lot of adjustment. Finally, work on your own self-awareness. The more you know about yourself, the best you will be to support others.

Anything else you’d like to add? We can talk about anything you’d like to discuss here.

As new HR in an organization, it is extremely important to get a fast sense of what is the quintessence of the culture of this organization. What makes it special? What explains the boundaries of the employees to this organization? That’s the best way to build a successful people and value strategy, especially in a scale up environment where things grow very fast, and the culture needs to be protected while the company is growing.

With that, the ability to empower and develop the leaders to work and exemplify the values of the organization is a major workstream to focus on to succeed in keeping this culture alive. It is something that I learned from Pierre Bellon, Sodexo founder, who in 1966 understood the importance of giving pride through values to field employees within his organization. At the time, it was very innovative.