Women, diversity, leadership development

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At the Employee Experience Awards 2021, Singapore, Societe Generale won bronze for Best Women Leadership Programme. 

In this interview, Renae Lim, Regional Co-Head of Talent Development & Inclusion, Societe Generale, shares the secrets behind this win - in terms of the multiple initiatives developed to accompany the organisation's drive for gender equality, while taking into consideration the needs of women employees.  

Q How did you and your team conceptualise and adapt your women leadership strategy to suit evolving workforce needs in the past year?

At Societe Generale, we firmly believe that promoting diversity and inclusion is key to building a company that is both efficient and innovative as well as responsible and open to the world.

In the beginning, our initiatives were more ad-hoc but in 2015, together with our APAC Diversity Council and HR, we set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to focus on key challenges facing us in Asia. Gender Network was one of the ERGs set up. Together with Gender Network, we probed deeper into the issues of gender equality and over the years, came up with multiple initiatives to accompany our drive for gender equality.

In developing these initiatives, we considered the needs of our female employees, at different stages in their career. The new initiatives that were rolled out in the last year specifically are:

  • Sponsorship – Developed to increase women representation as well as cultural diversity at senior level.
  • Executive coaching for female MDs – To help our senior leaders uncover their abilities, as well as develop areas that might have been overlooked, in order to put them on the fast track towards achieving their goals.
  • Parental transition – Comprises maternity coaching to accompany our pregnant employees through the four stages of parental transitions, and webinars for managers/HR/colleagues to create awareness as well as strengthen inclusion.

Q What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

For our new D&I initiatives, we have full support from our senior executives. The main challenge was to ensure we have a comprehensive plan, and to make sure there is sustainability over a period of time. Initiatives like sponsorship require significant quality involvement from senior management, and we are happy to see that it is going well, despite the scarcity of time in this current challenging environment.

Another challenge we faced is the fact that all our programmes have to be run virtually now. Luckily, COVID-19 has seen the advancement of both technology, as well as the change of mindset, allowing us to embrace the virtual mode of programme delivery.

How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organisation, in terms of ROI? 

The feedback from our employees has been really positive so far, for all the programmes we have rolled out in the region so far. Apart from the initiatives mentioned above, 2021 is also the third consecutive year that we are running Spectrum, a programme we designed, which targets the development of our mid to senior level female talent. We continuously look to ensure the topics covered stay relevant, addressing key trends to help our participants achieve their career goals.

Spectrum has become a key offering in our talent development landscape, one which our employees aspire to be nominated for, as positive word of mouth from previous participants affirms the quality of the programme.

In the year that we rolled out Spectrum, our efforts in women empowerment were also recognised as we won bronze for the Best Women Empowerment Strategy at the 2019 HR Excellence Awards.

Gender diversity is fully embedded in our HR processes, where we have global targets (30% women) set for the Group’s management bodies. At APAC level, this is also taken into account in various processes such as talent development nominations, promotions, succession planning etc. For recruitment, we have recently implemented new processes to ensure we have at least one woman as well as one international profile in our interview panel, and that at least one female candidate must be part of the candidate mix for all open positions, on a best-efforts basis.

Another thing I would like to highlight is our signing of the #JamaisSansElles charter ('Never Without Her'), which further demonstrates our commitment to promote gender diversity at every level. 

What is the most exciting and valuable thing about being part of (and winning at!) the debut Employee Experience Awards?

The Employee Experience Awards has provided a great platform for us to showcase our efforts towards gender equality. It allowed us to take a step back from the everyday grind, to take a look at what has made a difference to our employees in their day to day life, in terms of inclusion. In the last 18 months, COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone. More than ever before, employee experience and engagement have come to the forefront of our attention.

We are proud of what we have achieved in this area. There is a lot more to be done, and we are constantly thinking of innovative ways to tackle these issues.

Looking ahead, what else do you have planned as you continue to enhance the overall employee experience?

Apart from continuing our initiatives in improving employee inclusion through our diversity ERGs, we have accelerated our communication to employees on HR initiatives which have helped them achieve their objectives through more touch points with HR teams in the region. We have a dedicated monthly newsletter on HR topics, wellbeing initiatives throughout the year, learning and development opportunities, flexible working options (wherever applicable), as well as staff engagement activities planned by staff clubs.

Regular communication by senior management on Group and regional strategies through virtual townhalls and e-visits keep our employees engaged and we will continue to do so in the coming years.

Do share tips to inspire your peers who are working on their EX strategies and would love to participate in the awards next year.

  • Tap into your employees for their ideas to ensure your initiatives stay relevant and the buy-in will be there at grassroots level.
  • Co-creation is key while developing ideas into implementable actions.
  • Experiment even if there is no proof of success in the past – dare to pioneer!

Lastly, to end on a fun note – if you could describe the employee experience at your organisation in one sentence, what would that be?

We strive to have an individual customised experience for employees to create an environment where employees take charge of their own career.


Image / 123RF

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

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