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Case Study: La Poste – a story of change

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This is a story of change, says Domnique Bailly, director of HR Strategy Management at La Poste.

“La Poste has two faces. We have public service activities with 2 million customers each day through 17,000 outlets each day in France. Then there is the industrial dimension of La Poste – we have to deliver 90 millions of items everyday. We are a public company under the pressure of change,” says Bailly. “La Poste was born in the 15th century. How people can believe that a company born 6 centuries ago could die is impossible to consider. We are facing real problems though and we had to move. We developed booklets of our problems and we gave them to our employees, the media and the parliament to say that we had to do something.

“Our first response was to invest in the main channel. We invested 3.4 bilion Euros to modernise. We can get the best profitability and the best quality and we can also have the most cutomised service. We are diversifying horizontally into parcels, finacial services with a full bank and a new retail network. We are also diversifying vertically with hybrid mail and marketing. We are the only company able to contact every consumer everywhere. We can use this knowledge in marketing.

“We developed a new strategic plan based around Performance and Confidence. We wanted to turn La Poste into a high performance European services company. The confidence that customers have in La Poste gives us a major competitive advantage. If we go in this direction, we had to take care of HR and people skills. In the services business, what matters is people and skills.”

All of this needs a new management culture, admits Bailly. “New contexts and objectives are needed for management,” he says. “There are key objectives. We had to move 20,000 people in 8 months. We needed to be more flexible. If a manager has a rank and won’t accept a job in a lower rank, then it is a problem. We have to have continuous change. We have to be more adaptive to the markets and make sure our compensation levels are linked to the market.

“In 2006 we decided to implement SucessFactors. It was difficult for people to understand the meaning of the new system and how to use it. Schedules were not respected, especially for performance assessment. It was a lot to learn for people at La Poste to learn in a very short time. But we decided to implement SuccessFactors for a number of reasons. We wanted to make performance management easier to understand. We wanted to make sure that principles and rules were respected. We wanted a full implementation with a new framework of performance management. It would also add value by sharing personal data, giving continuous information and facilitate contacts and information sharing.

“There are lessons that we learned. It is not easy to implement such a big system for a big company. We had a lot of problems and difficulties to address, but you are not losing time, you are winning time. Do not underestimate the need for investment. Very strong project management is needed. This is not just a technical project, it’s a change management one. You need to develop value added applications. Ask what will be more comfortable and profitable for managers and employees To make this process successful you need to be totally customer-focused. The main danger is that this system is designed totally by the HR department. You must remember that this system is designed for users first.”

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