When you’re not working in a static environment, you find room for creativity and improvement.
A new year brings a new ‘Introducing’ interview and we are delighted to share the thoughts and observations of Aurelie Francois, Group HR Manager for Gantrex. With a background in the entertainment industry, Aurelie talks about her experiences so far and explains what keeps her motivated and energized in such a different sector. So, lights, camera, action...it’s time to shine the spotlight on this superb HR talent.
Can you tell us how you found the transition from the world of entertainment to the world of crane rail systems?
When I joined Gantrex, back in 2015, I was coming from a world which could not have seemed more different. As I say, moving from live shows to crane tracks, there were some very significant differences between the two industries. The mentalities and profiles, personalities and pressures in the entertainment sector were very different. But for all of that, there were some similarities which made the switch more straightforward. Both my previous employer and Gantrex were what I like to call human-size, sharing a similar culture. And when you work for a business that has such a commitment to its people, it makes the sector differences less of an issue.
You develop and drive the global HR strategy for Gantrex. What do you think this delivers to the business?
I think it’s important to have a global HR strategy so that everyone shares and works to the same standards. It’s my belief that coherent policies and procedures bring structure and consistency to Gantrex as a business and as an employer. And for the people who work for us, wherever in the world they are located, it provides a sense of unity and connection, giving people the feeling of belonging. What we have also found is that it provides a platform for sharing best practice, effectively globalizing ground level initiatives that have been successful and building these into our strategy for the future.
We hold an enviable market position, and our brand credibility and quality are key drivers of this. The same is true of our position as an employer of choice. Only by attracting and retaining the very best talent can we retain our market position and having a global HR strategy in place, we are able to build on this. What this means in practice is that the strategy has to be recognisable and deliverable by our partners and collaborators also. This can be done through the provision of training and skills development , framing the recruitment process so that the selection phase is brief and by regularly assessing performance and suggesting ways to improve it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a global HR strategy provides a mechanism to serve the strategic goals at a group level. To be successful, it requires buy-in by all teams. Only by engaging all of our people can a strategy deliver, and that’s where strong communication comes in. Everyone from the exec to the field must believe in the strategy and play their part to bring it to life.
Thinking about retaining talent, what does good leadership look like to you?
For me, there are two qualities that a good leader will possess. Firstly, an ability to inspire others. This is a real talent, and it is incredibly important to give people the inspiration they need to achieve their goals. Additionally, a good leader, in doing this, will persuade their team to follow the chosen route whilst maintaining motivation throughout so that everyone works together and plays their part in the overall plan. The second quality is confidence. To be an effective leader you need to have confidence in your decisions and exude confidence to those around you. If you are unsure about your own decisions and qualities, then it is very difficult to get anyone else to believe in what you are asking them to do, or to follow the path you are asking them to take.
What is about Gantrex as an employer that keeps you motivated?
As my role has evolved, and my remit has grown from a local to a global one, I have such diversity in what I do that I have been able to really broaden my horizons and my mind. I now work with people all over the world, day in day out, looking at developing new HR initiatives and practices.
As a business we have continued to experience steady growth which means that as the business grows so does the role of HR. What I especially like is that there are always new things to develop and new changes to adapt to. When you’re not working in a static environment, you find room for creativity and improvement and in fact that’s one of the reasons I give to candidates when they ask me why I enjoy working for this organisation. And I really do mean it.
Can you give us an example of this kind of creativity in practice?
Absolutely. During 2020, we launched an online learning platform which was available to all staff: the Gantrex Academy.
Designed to act as a global resource for teams throughout the world, the Gantrex Academy provides a central resource for the sharing of group policies, training resources and skills development and management.
Working with our Managers, we developed rich content applicable to Gantrex needs and specifications. One example of such content is the creation of a group wide induction program that can be taken by anyone, regardless of where they are based. The Academy is available in a variety of languages to reflect our business operations and also provides information on other key areas including Finance, IT, Marketing, etc. The platform is being updated all the time and today has more than 50 live training modules.
More recently we have also created an internal employee satisfaction survey, designed to build a picture of employee satisfaction at both a group and local level. Using the results, we get back from this we will be able to identify areas where further focus and improvement are needed and suggest appropriate actions to progress this. The intention is to run the survey on a regular basis so that we can benchmark employee satisfaction and gain a good understanding of how employee welfare is benefiting as a result.
Looking to the short-term future, we will be continuing to develop our global HR policies and procedures to standardise practice throughout the group. Specifically, we will be focussing on the recruitment process, the onboarding process and our performance management process. So, as you can see, there’s still plenty for us to do.
And to wrap up, what would you consider your biggest achievements so far?
That would be the development of the Gantrex Academy. It was really interesting to work on that project, develop the platform from scratch, identify the training materials and styles that would be interesting for our teams, and then finally launch and present the tool internally. And the fact it was tangible and something that teams could start to use right away made it especially rewarding.
The timing of the release was also particularly poignant as it was ready to launch when the operational impacts of Covid brought a halt to on site training. Having an online resource which provided continuation of the training support was fantastic.
We’ve seen real proof that the Gantrex Academy is working, as Managers spontaneously think of it when they need to share training updates or information with their teams. The Academy is growing all the time, with staff providing feedback and ideas and actively participating in shaping its development. The goal is for the Gantrex Academy to become a valuable platform that will grow organically, to meet the developing needs of our business and our people.