Sustainable Success Stories: Saint-Gobain

A worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions for the construction, mobility and industrial markets. Born in France in 1665, the Group is today present in 75 countries. Developed through a continuous innovation process, its integrated solutions provide sustainability and performance in daily life, addressing the renovation of public and private buildings, light construction and the decarbonization of construction and industry. The Group’s commitment is guided by its purpose “Making the World a Better Home”.

Amrop spoke to Smărăndița Schnel, HR Director of Saint-Gobain Romania, about the successful collaboration of Saint-Gobain Romania with Amrop’s Global Digital Practice, Oana Ciornei and her team at Amrop Romania, on a program created for defining and assessing leadership competencies within the company.

Amrop Saintgobain

Q: Can you talk a little about how the project was initiated? What were the needs of the company?

A: About three years ago, Saint-Gobain started a journey of transformation on an international level, launching the “Transform & Grow Program”. The Group adopted a new management system globally, which involved an extensive process of organisational transformation, aiming to bring clarity and speed in decision-making and to respond to increasingly dynamic market demands based on customer needs. The transformation program also involved a more flexible management of solution portfolio and a new, more agile organisational structure. Before that, every entity and every business unit had their own leadership team, whereas the Transform & Grow Program was aimed towards creating one team. It was important for the organization to build synergies between entities, and this has been crucial from the HR perspective too: to build a team empowered to implement all the necessary processes to sustain transformation.

Consequently, one of our priorities, at management level, was of course related to leadership. Thus, we wanted to assess our development needs, current capabilities versus competencies needed to sustain our transformation, aligned with the Group’s Principles of Conduct and Action and calibrated with leadership competencies specific to VUCA environment. Therefore, we needed support, guidance from an external consultant.

Q: How was Amrop selected as the partner to collaborate with on this project?

A: Amrop is one of the top executive search companies in the Romanian market and our collaboration started long time ago. I can clearly say that they are on top of trends, both in Romania and worldwide. We know both the company and Oana Ciornei, a partner who is aware of the development trends in terms of people, leadership, digitalization, and having great understanding of the local market. We started our partnership with Amrop because we knew they would offer us the necessary support, having an excellent customer orientation, and focusing on the identification of specific leadership areas that needed further development. Amrop is very knowledgeable about the current reality, both business and human development, but at the same time anticipates the skills of the future.

Q: What did the program you designed together include? What was the process?

A: Together with Amrop we identified very concrete competencies, which are crucial for the organization’s strategy and culture, and, even more importantly, for the organization’s future. We believe that “Leaders For What’s Next” is not just a slogan when it comes to Amrop’s approach – in the current volatile landscape they are able to identify not only competencies that the organization needs now, but also in the years to come.

We used a top-down approach and worked with N-2 level colleagues: we developed a program for the assessment of their competencies and those that needed further development. There were individual discussions with all our colleagues involved, designed by Amrop, followed by a calibrated report. As follow-up, an individual development plan linked to Saint-Gobain’s learning culture was then created for each colleague. In Saint-Gobain, each of us is responsible for developing our own competencies. The organization offers consultations, various tools, support and trainings, but, ultimately, it is the individual’s responsibility to develop his or her own career – and the program created by Amrop respected that.

Q: Had the need to define and evaluate leadership competencies more to do with the structural changes within the company or the current landscape which presents new challenges? In your opinion, what qualities are essential for leaders in today’s environment?

A: For us, the need for assessment and development relates to the transformation in the way of working. It has a VUCA and digital component, for sure, and each company has its own understanding, its own journey and its own strategy when it comes to using digitization as tool. But, it is deeper than that - it is a transformation of the way leadership works. In terms of key qualities, I think it's important for a leader to be a role model and to be able to deal with ambiguity and volatility - an uncertain environment.

Q: Is there anything that stands out particularly when it comes to collaborating with Amrop?

A: Among the main reasons we decided to collaborate with Amrop was the fact they understand not only the current business and employees’ experience, but the future as well. That was exactly our goal too, because we talk about both Saint-Gobain of today and Saint-Gobain of the future! We were confident about the ability of Amrop’s specialists to evaluate the competencies needed for our journey, since they have an extensive experience in evaluating top leadership together with a deep understanding of the market trends. Our journey did not stop after Transform & Grow. On the contrary, it continues today with the next chapter called “Grow & Impact”, a strategic plan for the years to come, aiming at pursuing our growth trajectory so that we remain a leader in most of our markets.

Returning to the collaboration with Amrop, I would like to add that we have experienced this journey as a deeply authentic collaboration. Amrop provided us specific tools and methods that helped us explore what strengths, skills and competencies we needed to further develop. These specific tools and methods helped us understand better how we could translate the company's strategy and purpose into action at local level. Leadership is encouraged in all our activities, and represents one of the attitudes that we encourage at Saint-Gobain. Cultivate Customer Intimacy, Act as an Entrepreneur, Innovate, Be Agile, Build an Open and Engaging Culture - these five Saint-Gobain Attitudes concern all Group employees. They reflect both our heritage and our ambition to help create great living places and improve daily life and by putting these into practice on a daily basis, we are making this ambition a reality.

Q: Can you say a few words about what you mean by “authentic collaboration” in this context?

A: Amrop’s specialists do not simply deliver simple messages or, on the contrary, incomprehensible content. They provide the right leadership solutions for unique needs. They know what it takes for individual leaders and leadership teams to fulfil their full potential. They knew exactly what range of services to offer so as to develop and grow, not only individual leadership capabilities, but also the teams’ effectiveness. They have been our partners for a successful transformation journey. They listened to our exact needs and envisaged themselves as part and parcel of our organization. And these are some of the reasons for which our collaboration can be defined as authentic and beyond.