Seven Case Studies of HR Excellence

Seven Case Studies of HR Excellence

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Seven Case Studies of HR Excellence

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    Société Générale Succeeds in Retaining Talent While Undergoing a Major Transformation Process

    Société Générale, a French multinational banking and financial-services company, successfully managed to keep and develop its talent throughout a workforce reorganization. As a result of the global financial crisis, the company had experienced significant turbulence dating back to 2007, and it needed to reduce its cost base and simplify the organization to become more agile and adaptive. Bank leaders proposed a vast transformation program that would reorganize its operations in all divisions worldwide.

    The reorganization forced the bank to reduce the total number of employees, and, working in conjunction with the strong French labor unions, it agreed on a new social contract, which among other measures, included a voluntary process for layoffs. At the same time, the bank’s leadership insisted on continuing to develop internal talent and preventing the loss of key employees.

    The strategy built on robust talent processes that Société Générale had put in place in 2009. Among other improvements, there was a highly efficient talent-cycle process that included regular performance reviews, succession plans, and mobility management. The company also established a standard talent-governance model that it could apply in all regions.

    The high level of transparency associated with the talent pipeline and international standardization proved crucial when the bank had to reduce its workforce in 2012. In order to ensure that it would retain key talent, Société Générale systematically reviewed more than 3,000 key employees (high-potential employees and high performers, ranging from emerging talent to prospective senior executives) out of a total workforce of more than 150,000. In doing this, the bank leadership demonstrated that it still recognized talent and that Société Générale would remain an employer that offered promising career options.

    Another important pillar of the talent strategy was a new “mobility campus,” which was staffed with former line managers and strong members of the HR function and which helped organize thousands of internal transfers efficiently. The mechanism allowed the bank to triple the number of transfers in a short period of time, so employees could shift from divisions and areas with overcapacities to those with greater need. To support these employees, the mobility campus also trained them in the skills they would need in their new roles, helping them adapt quickly and further increasing the retention of key talent.

    These talent-management measures are still in place today, and as Société Générale’s head of group HR, Edouard-Malo Henry, says, they “enable us to retain our best performers and prepare our future with high potentials, while running the necessary bank transformation.”

    This simultaneous process of reducing the workforce and developing and retaining key talent is symptomatic of a broader shift that has unfolded over the past several years. While traditionally the primary focus of companies was to attract, retain, and motivate talent, today, in many cases, the challenge is to reduce and retain at the same time.