by generic versions, the resulting loss in revenues forced downsiz-ing
initiatives that resulted in low employee morale, and a monthly
attrition rate that peaked at 15 per cent in January 2012. A pro-active
change in management strategy needed to be adopted, one
with the ultimate objectives of:
a) Preventing turnover as a result of the relocation and fundamental
change in work culture
b) Ensuring employees were truly engaged in the change man-agement
c) Ensuring employees were satisfied with their new work
THE ACTION PLAN
In April 2012, as preparations to move offices began, Sanofi Canada
welcomed a new president and CEO, Jon Fairest, who on arrival
committed senior management to a year-long change management
campaign. A Steering Committee with cross-departmental repre-sentation
was then formed of members of the executive team, HR
and communications, and led by Franca Mancino (vice president,
Regulatory and Medical Affairs) who together developed a com-prehensive,
12-month change management strategy to ensure a
successful move and cultural change.
Its rollout would empower employees as active players in the
change process from the beginning, with Jon Fairest assuming the
role of “driver” and change “catalyst.” Employees would be engaged
directly at every stage of the transition, and be involved in as many
aspects of the decisions related to the new office space as possible.
1. Change Ambassadors. Selected from across the organization
on the basis of their networks, credibility and capacity to influence,
three groups of ten employees became “Change Ambassadors.”
Tasked with sharing information about the move with their peers,
and providing feedback to the communications and executive
team to ensure that all employees concerns and questions were
addressed, this tactic engaged employees as active players in the
cultural change management process.
2. Open and consistent communication to employees. Strong,
regular and transparent communications with employees were
maintained before, during and after the change management cam-paign.
All communications with employees were framed within
the context of a “new chapter” for the company, and messaging fo-cused
on the shared opportunity that stood to benefit all at the
When employees were promised information, it was delivered.
When feedback arrived, the change management team listened
actively to ensure that the change remained inclusive. What it
learned influenced decision-making right up to executive level.
3. Employee engagement: getting to know you, employee
voting, housewarming. A series of tactics were executed to keep
employee engagement high throughout the change management
campaign. These included “Getting To Know You” sessions dur-ing
one breakfast and lunch, in which employees interacted in a
30-second “speed dating” style scenario in order to break the ice
and begin the relationships necessary for collaborating in an open-plan
Employees were also polled on their preferred choice of work
station module, chair, carpet and lighting, with mock sample work
stations set up for them to view. On moving day, the company
threw a “housewarming” party, with Fairest and other members of
senior management welcoming those arriving with bags of special
housewarming goodies, and information to help them with orien-tation
on the day.
The move was a great success, and Sanofi Canada was able to
keep this initial wave of excitement alive for several weeks with
supplemental activities to help employees acclimatize to the
change in environment. Eighty-eight per cent of employees polled
in a post-move survey agreed or strongly agreed that they felt “sat-isfied
with their new work environment” and that their “new
workplace environment had a positive impact on engagement.”
KEY LEARNINGS FOR HR PROS
TO SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE
Carpe diem. HR must seize the opportu-nity
to forward a positive change agenda
for employees when senior management is
open to organizational change.
Be proactive. During periods of major
change, HR must take a proactive approach
to employee engagement.
Collaboration is key. HR must work
in tandem with leadership and other key
corporate departments, including commu-nications,
to achieve change objectives. ■
Marie-Pierre Lalande is director of human
resources at Sanofi Canada.
42 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL