[HR challenges – mid-sized company]

On-the-ground support for business teams: the key to rising to Semosia’s HR challenges

Interview with Anne-Hélène Leveille, HR Manager at Semosia.

Anne-Hélène, can you tell us about your career and about Semosia?

I have a master’s in human resources and initially worked as social development manager at a public authority. I then joined a car dealership as HR manager and was there for almost 3 years before joining Semosia in 2013.

Semosia is a multi-operational industrial business in the environmental sector. Traditionally, the HR function was the direct responsibility of management. I was hired to set up an HR policy throughout our entities, harmonizing, professionalizing and securing practice on skills development, recruitment, mobility, compensation, staff representation, etc.

Semosia now has almost 250 employees and has built its operations around 3 business units: 
- Environmental equipment and services (urban and industrial water treatment, ore recovery)
- Industrial equipment (development and construction of complex technical solutions)
- Event and stage equipment (design and manufacturing of fixed and modular stands)

Semosia very quickly started operating internationally. It has a solid network of agents, partners and distributors across the 5 continents.

The company has also set up entities internationally to be closer to its clients. We are now present in 7 countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Philippines, Thailand and Mexico). They are small teams (1 to 5 people) made up mainly of local employees with very diverse roles and ways of working.

We have 3 French employees on expatriation (2 in Mexico and 1 in Thailand).

What are your main challenges as HRD of a mid-sized company? How do you handle them?

Our company is facing, and will face, several medium-term HR challenges: 
- In a medium-term context of family-owned business transfer, with the gradual retirement of the group’s original director over the next 3 years and the arrival of his 2 sons, my role will be to manage change with operational and managerial teams.
- The development of our international entities: I am working on implementing common processes. My objective is also to secure the different situations of expatriate, seconded, traveling and local employees, all taking into account legislative and cultural differences.
- The integration of new companies through external growth. It is important to understand how these businesses currently operate, their strengths, the issues we might then come across when working on a project shared across companies, integrating our HR policy and vision.
- Preparing for the retirement of employees with genuine occupational skills.
- The implementation of a solid skills management policy.
- The development of our employer brand to attract and retain talents, as we are in shortage occupations. I am therefore working with our communication manager to improve our visibility and to develop our company culture, including our mission statement.
- Implementation of a CSR policy. We are lucky to be in a growth sector, the environment, one that makes sense to many of us. We must therefore now show that we are an international leader in responding to the human and environmental concerns of the future. This is a company project in which I am going to play an active role.

What is your understanding of what you bring to the business and how do you meet the expectations of international management?

It is really a question of understanding our business. It is essential for me as an HR manager to take an interest, to discuss concerns, issues and opportunities related to our businesses, whether in France or internationally.

Human capital constitutes real leverage for the company’s development. My role today is to support managers in organizational changes and help employees better meet company objectives.

What would be your recommendations to your successor when you leave your role?

Today, I am alone in my job. My position therefore allows me to work on a wide range of very operational but also more strategic subjects. 
It is thus essential to first take the time to meet the teams on the ground, find out about their jobs and get to know the company’s culture.

The key is also to exchange and build a means of working with management to play the role of HR adviser to the full.
My role currently covers 6 companies in France (with 4 collective agreements and regional specifics), 4 subsidiaries abroad and 3 offices with expatriate or local employees. Therefore, you have to be adaptable and organized in order to manage everyone’s priorities and above all not to forget anything!

Lastly, the key for me is to keep a principle of equity for all employees in mind. You have to be firm when faced with possible excesses while remaining as diplomatic as possible!