Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Interview With Christophe Laval

My good friend and fellow RPI Board Member recently did an extensive in depth interview in “Les cahiers du DRH,” an HR publication out of France. The interview was in French and you can read it in French here.

I thought the interview was very good so, with Christophe’s approval I have tried to summarize his thoughts.

Recognition In The Workplace – Money Doesn’t Mean Everything
How did Christophe become interested in recognition?
When traveling he noted how corporate culture in France differed much from American culture. Americans were more likely to believe in deliberate recognition programs versus the French.
How do corporations view recognition?
In France, recognition is often discussed in psychological terms, philosophically. They look at the cost of not having recognition, but seldom of the benefits of having recognition: ROI.

For example, Christophe found while studying companies such as Club Med, Disneyland Paris and FNAC, companies with line managers that practiced recognition had 15 to 20% better customer satisfaction than those who did not.

Christophe speaks of the “Latinization” of American methods of recognition. You cannot simply “cut and paste” recognition the way it is being taught in North America. The culture simply isn’t there yet in France. You must take into account the geographical location and the company’s internal culture. For example, Christophe speaks of a time when he saw a manager recognize an employee in public and it turned out quite badly by making others jealous or the recipient uncomfortable. However, in companies where recognition is already part of the culture, recognition is easily received. In companies like FedEx and Bouygues, a recognition system was in place since its inception, recognition is well received by employees. Therefore, it helps successfully accomplish company goals.

Among the four types of recognition defined by Dr Jean-Pierre Brun, which ones are the most seldom used?
In France, the most pervasive form of recognition is results. It doesn’t matter how much or little effort you put into your work, results are the only thing that matters. If your sales and marketing team work morning, noon and night, this makes little difference if their projects do not result in sales.

What is seldom seen in Europe is existential recognition, where people are valued for their attitudes and ideas.

In a successful recognition program, all recognition types are intertwined and dependant of each other.

During these difficult economic times, have we seen a shift to a real internal move towards the implementation of true recognition?
According to Christophe, recognition is not just a short term tool during a crisis. If you are going to put recognition aside after the storm has passed, might as well forget the idea altogether. For recognition to have a real impact, companies must have the will to change their internal vision and values.

How does Christophe go about implementing a recognition program within a company?
First question would be “what is the main concern within the corporation?” Turnover? Absenteeism? Customer satisfaction? After which the scope and context of the problem is assessed. Then, Christophe meets with employees to get an idea of the perception of the problem. Following this, he meets with managers to identify their behavior. Depending on the situation, he could have more in depth meetings with different individuals within the company. Finally, implementation occurs over a period of 6 months to a year.

However for recognition to truly take root, it will take up to one or two years.

Future projects?
Christopher is creating a “Club Européen” which will be a sort of RPI Europe, an extension of the current association. He is also preparing his first international conference on recognition in the workplace in France next November.