People + Strategy Journal

Fall 2020

Digital Transformation Blends Technology and Culture

While Schneider Electric has long focused on digital, recent pivots in two talent management areas strengthened the innovative mindset.

By Andrew Saidy and Isabel Barbosa, Schneider Electric
Digital Transformation Blends Technology and Culture
For years, Schneider Electric’s focus has been on digital. Yet 2020 confronted our organization, as so many others, with a series of challenges none of us had experienced before. Early in our responses to the pandemic, our Chairman and CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire issued our employees and leadership both a reassurance and a challenge: “The future is not cancelled.” His words became a mantra for Schneider Electric as we navigated our new realities. 

While COVID-19 gave us heightened motivation to ramp up our digital initiatives, we were building on a strong tradition, and because of that organizational DNA, much of what we did in result of the pandemic was not a shock for our workforce. A year earlier, Tricoire had written that “people are at the heart of digital transformation”1 and while our digital shifts brought about agile changes in our organization, the innovative mindset we asked of our people and ourselves was not new. Some pre-existing initiatives were enhanced while others were new.

While we have enhanced our digital efforts in many areas, products and services, this article focuses on significant pivots in two areas of our HR functions: the student experience with Schneider Electric, and career development and internal mobility.

Engaging and Identifying Our Workforce of the Future

Global Virtual Student Experience
With students worldwide affected by cancellations of internships at many companies, including Schneider Electric, we wanted to continue to provide college students and potential future employees with an opportunity to learn and get exposure to our way of working. Our Global University Relations team worked quickly to launch our first Global Virtual Student Experience. The Global Virtual Student Experience is designed to provide students with a way to engage with Schneider Electric through e-learning and project simulations. On their journey, admitted students can learn more about what it takes to be in our sales or services business areas. 

In phase one, students take professional learning courses originally designed for Schneider’s employees. As participants complete a phase one regimen, they moved on to phase two, where they complete project simulations and receive feedback from Schneider Electric’s industry experts and professionals.

In prior years, our online early careers page received about 15,000 clicks per month—within 15 days of launching the Global Virtual Student Experience, we had a nine-fold increase. The Global Virtual Student Experience brought in incredible interest with 7,000 applicants from 99 countries, which led to 812 admitted students. We were overwhelmed by the results and automatically decided that another edition of the experience will be launched again by the end of 2020.

Accepted students were grateful for the opportunity and many of them shared their excitement of being accepted with their networks and with the Schneider Electric University Relations team. It was clear that this virtual experience and exposure are just as valuable as a traditional, in-person one. 

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We were fortunate to have already invested over the years in developing our own Energy University. With this tool already implemented and fully functioning, it made creating a program such as the Global Virtual Student Experience quick and seamless. Participants use Energy University for exclusive e-learnings. Energy University’s content focuses on improving energy efficiency and conservation in any organization.

Having said that, doing anything for the first time comes with challenges and difficulties. Having Energy University was a huge steppingstone to getting the virtual experience off the ground, and if we didn’t have this platform, we’d likely have had to create e-learning courses from scratch. Whether you have a similar platform up and running or not, you’ll want to ensure three things as you consider virtual student engagement curriculum:
  1. Choose courses that are relevant, up-to-date and attractive to students and the specific tracks they choose to participate in. 
  2. In addition to preparing the e-learning courses, set up a team and process that works for your organization as students go through the phases.
  3. Students will have questions; ensure you know where and how they can get answers, so that the overall experience they have with your organization is entirely positive. 
Schneider Go Green Student Competition
Every year since 2010, the Schneider Go Green global student competition solicits and recognizes bold ideas from students for energy efficiency. Contributors from all over the world submit innovative concepts for consideration for our global finals. Since the launch of Go Green a decade ago, regional and global finals have usually taken place in person at Schneider Electric’s offices or at Innovation Summits. With the pandemic in full swing, our 2020 Las Vegas Innovation Summit was postponed to 2021. Faced with the option of going virtual or waiting a year, we decided to move our 2020 global finals entirely online. 

Somewhat to our surprise, holding the competition virtually posed many advantages for the student experience. Since the finals are usually included in the agenda of our large events and innovation summits, typically judges are limited to those able to be physically present. In a virtual setting, judges from all over the world and from various business functions could participate, which led to a more diverse judging panel. A panel of eight judges—including our executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, chief financial officers, and country and zone presidents—presided over the competition. 

In a traditional career fair, timing and attendance can be an issue. When a career fair happens on campus, it could be difficult for students to make the time to attend because of prior commitments such as class, commutes and extra-curricular activities. Since a virtual career fair doesn’t require as much hassle for the student, it’s easy for the student to drop in at a time that’s convenient for them, such as between virtual classes. With the convenience of a virtual fair, more students attend (countries that have held virtual career fairs have reported more students on average in the Schneider Electric booth per event compared to physical career fairs). With more students attending, that leads to a larger database of students that Schneider has for programs such as internships, the virtual student experience, Schneider Go Green and optimally, full-time jobs.
 
Career Fair Career Fair
With a virtual career fair there is also a great opportunity for branding. When a company visits a university, there is very little branding that can be done by the employer, and if there is, it comes at a high cost. A virtual fair affords you the opportunity to customize your booth with posters, signs and presentations that reflect the company, open opportunities and core values.

Just like any traditional fair, if you go to a school that does not have students with a major you are looking for, you will not benefit by attending, and the venture will negatively impact your time, money and candidate journey. If you have the option to customize your virtual career fair, make sure you have relevant content that is eye-catching. The giveaways at your table won’t help reel in students, so you’ll need to find another way.

Even when students worldwide are eventually back on campus, virtual career fairs may have now evolved to a viable option for a wider array of schools and employers to connect with students than may have been possible before.

Career Development and Internal Mobility

Open Talent Market
Career development and internal mobility has always been a priority at Schneider Electric. One of our core values is to “act like owners.” One of the ways this translates culturally is by giving employees the confidence to lead their career and seek new opportunities. With this empowered mentality, employees have historically thrived, leveraging an inner mobility platform by helping others and making a difference in their careers.

In the shift to a much more virtual work world, we remained committed to this core value, even as we have had to rethink how we can best facilitate it in the current circumstances. A few months ago, we launched to all employees the Open Talent Market (OTM), a disruptive, AI-enabled technology which serves as a one-stop-shop for career development by creating an internal talent market. The system’s AI matches the supply and demand of talent throughout Schneider Electric.

Once again, we benefited in our efforts to rapidly adapt because of prior years’ commitments to improving mobility and leveraging technology to do so. We started with an existing, if only partially deployed, internal opportunity marketplace.2 Our OTM gives employees access to part-time projects or gigs, internal job postings, mentors and learning opportunities. This shift to an internal gig economy allowed employees and managers to optimize their time and move towards a workforce model where employees and managers were matched depending on need, availability and skills.

The message is simple: if you need support, raise your hand by posting a gig. If you have bandwidth to support a project, lend a hand. 

In a blog article from November 2019, Andrew Saidy,3 Vice President of Talent Digitization, wrote, “I am excited to see where the Open Talent Market (OTM) takes our #SEGreatPeople in the future and I am so proud of Schneider’s commitment to empowering our people to own their development and take it to the next level.” 

After successfully piloting the OTM in 2019 in a handful of countries, the pandemic accentuated the need for rebalancing capacity in the organization. HR received the green light to expand the OTM to all employees. The original rollout was in English, with French following by the end of 2019. Spanish rolled out in the summer of 2020, and Mandarin debuts in the autumn. That combination will give 90 percent of our employees access to the platform in their preferred language.

Launching a platform globally is never easy, especially with a large workforce. The global launch called for support for different regions, countries, business units and segments. We identified people to provide training and overviews, answer questions, promote and most importantly, use the system. Getting people to see value in something new can be difficult, but because of the shifting work arrangements due to the pandemic, many were grateful to have this platform to lean on.

Since the global launch, over 34,000 employees have accessed and created their profile, 1,000+ projects have been posted, 70,000+ hours of work have been unlocked and 170+ jobs have been filled.

Innovating from Our Values

Digital transformation is not only about great technology but about the great culture that is built on the core values, employee value proposition and leadership expectations. Digital capabilities have been and will continue to be a focus for us at Schneider Electric. But key to our successes with adapting student and employee experiences to digital platforms has been—and will be—our core values: empowerment and use your judgment.

In an interview with CHRO Charise Le,4 she emphasized that empowerment and judgment are what helped Schneider Electric navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic to date. 

Act fast, fail fast, simplify processes and learn from them. Each initiative brings its own challenges, but with empowerment and daring to disrupt, we’ve had great success so far.  

Andrew Saidy is Vice President of Talent Digitization, Employer Branding and University Relations at Schneider Electric. He can be reached at Andrew.Saidy@se.com. 

Isabel Barbosa is Global Employer Branding Specialist at Schneider Electric. She can be reached at Isabel.Barbosa.US@se.com.

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