[Talent management practice]

Identifying and developing an expert community: an HR-business project for a key population at SBM Offshore

Interview with Claire Rannou, Group Talent & Learning Manager, SBM Offshore

Can you briefly present SBM Offshore and why you launched this project?

SBM Offshore designs, builds and operates floating facilities that provide more than 1% of the world’s oil. We do this in the safest, most affordable and sustainable way possible.
As a leader in floating technologies, we recognize the considerable significance of climate change. As such, we invest in products and services that enable the transition towards renewable energy and develop smart digital services to improve and support everything that we do.
Today, our expertise is widely recognized in the energy transition industry. Our technical capabilities and collective knowledge have a significant impact on our company’s reputation, performance, and growth. 
Our aim with this project is to strengthen our reputation as an industry leader while retaining our competitive edge in terms of expertise, a core part of our ecosystem and a key enabler for achieving our strategy. As such, we focused on experts as a community to support their development, enabling them, and ensuring that they are sustainably engaged in our organization. 

Describe your initiative: what and who are we talking about exactly and what have you implemented?

The Expert Management program is a global development program, for our technical population at large. The program aims at defining SBM Offshore’s fields and associated levels of expertise to meet current and future industry demands. Furthermore, it also strengthens our Technical Expert community and positions it for the future. Lastly, it increases visibility and recognition of our Technical Experts across all technical functions.
The program consists of 39 different families of expertise. Each family is animated by a Family Expert which is usually the most experienced expert within the family. We currently have 31 family experts as some of them are responsible for several expertise families. 
The expert community consists of 3 distinct levels of expert proficiency: Master Expert, Senior Expert, Expert. Experts are identified according to 4 criteria: 2 related to technical knowledge and the 2 others to knowledge management and behavioral leadership competencies. 
The project started with a focus on 4 technical functions. Once the foundations of the program have been validated, we will envisage opening it to other functions.

The program was launched a year ago now, what initial results have you obtained and what are the next steps?

his first year involved mapping and setting up our community: 28% of our technical population is included. The mapping will be reviewed on an annual basis to make sure it reflects SBM expertise reality and needs
We are working on a succession plan, identifying expertise at risk and future expertise, running gap analysis and defining action plan.
To support the development of this community, we introduced a learning budget specific to this community, as well as additional person-hours assigned to develop their expertise. It sends a very clear message about top management’s recognition of this community.
Being part of the expert community is to be a true contributor to business value creation through expertise, which is in itself a source of development.
Our roadmap for 2022 and beyond is to embed the program in SBM practices, and to design a solid expertise learning plan for each level of expertise.

What are the key factors for the success of a project like this, and what challenges have you come up against?

The key factors for success can be summarized as follows:
•    Unwavering sponsorship from top management; 
•    A solid partnership between the business and HR communities, notably embodied in project governance;
•    The engagement of Family Experts 
The main challenge for the project is for experts to find enough time to spend on developing their expertise!

You mentioned contributions from the Cercle Magellan: what were they?

The Cercle Magellan’s network has proven its value for this project. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to HR counterparts at Michelin, Sagemcom, Alstom, Plastic Omnium, Eramet and Renault, among others. Sharing best practices with them contributed to shaping the program as it is today.