Sanofi – 2023 Digital Award Winner Shares Details of Their HR Transformation

By Vin Kumar, Maria Elena Castillo, Christian Mueller, and Christine Van Heertum
February 27, 2024
Season 5, Episode 15

How has pharmaceutical giant Sanofi used technology to transform their human resources (HR) operation and improve the way they manage talent? The Hackett Group’s Principal Vin Kumar talks with Sanofi Head of Process Intelligence Christian Mueller, Sanofi’s Workday Employee Experience Product Owner Maria Elena Castillo and Sanofi Head of Employee Life Cycle & Solutions Christine Van Heertum about their cutting-edge efforts. Sanofi won a Digital Award from The Hackett Group in 2023.

Welcome to The Hackett Group’s “Business Excelleration Podcast,” where week after week we hear from experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours and celebrate milestones on the journey to world-class performance. This episode is hosted by Vin Kumar, principal, AI and Digital Operations practice leader, at The Hackett Group. Vin is joined by Head of Process Intelligence at Sanofi Christian Müller, Sanofi’s Workday Employee Experience and Product Manager Maria Elena Castillo, and People Services Head of Employee and External Life Cycle and Solutions Christine Van Heertum. In today’s episode, they discuss pharmaceutical giants and technologies to transform the human resources (HR) operation and improve the way they manage talent.

First, they discuss the process Sanofi was trying to improve with technology. This included the job change process, which is related to all changes within the employee life cycle. This is executed 25,000 times a year in a person’s career, which they improved by 83%. Next, they discuss the challenge Sanofi was trying to address. Sanofi was too complex, and there was a strong need to improve the process and simplify it. Another challenge Sanofi was facing was the lack of governance. There was no specific team in charge, and there were many issues with compliance because data was not updated in due time, therefore, changes were not visible in the system so there were many corrections in payroll. There were also changes in managers and the reporting process, which created larger workloads.

Next, they talk about the solution they found, and the first thing they wanted to change was employee satisfaction. When you are promoted but your payroll is not updated, that does not increase employee satisfaction. They wanted the team to be proactive instead of reactive. Therefore, they focused on extracting the data and technology to analyze the system. There were different actors in the process not giving approval and various people looking at the process, but some managers were not. The first idea was to look at the data with the technology of prediction so they could see how cases would run in the future. They wanted to play with artificial intelligence and a statistical model. The result was deaf board, where they identified different risk indicators and presented them to the operational team. The motivation from the team was completely different, and they received feedback to improve the model and make it more reliable. The five exercises solved 80% of the problems. They also created automatic bots for managers to use to ask questions and feel more capable in leading. The process has a bad design underground and that was the answer for all the problems.

Then, they discuss why they decided on this solution. They decided to stop, sit back, clean the table and redesign the process. They needed to first show the stakeholders where they needed to improve and simplify. They also had a realization of the bottlenecks and wanted to change the mindset and tell the stakeholders to simplify and get rid of unnecessary steps. Then, they can automate and move to the digital part of it. They analyzed each of the steps digitally for the different countries and removed localizations. They went for a global approach and harmonization among all countries, which was part of an HR transformation. They wanted this change to be long lasting and reliable. They took out steps in HR and simplified it into HR services. They empowered managers to be responsible for their own data in the system through strong communication and training. They simplified the system with information that managers would know and transferred it to HR services. They also gave managers a bot where they could ask questions and interact with all the needed actors around the table to test the process before implementing it.

In addition, they discuss what technology components were used to solve this simplified process. They used QPR process mining to do the analysis and other technologies to build the prediction model. They also put a VPN through the process mining tool and components. It was a huge rollout and took over a year. The technology helped to monitor the process, and the change management is different by country. This solution increased employee satisfaction because the data improved by 95%. Managers are satisfied to do the changes by themselves with manager satisfaction at 75%. They also freed HR by 95%, which now they can focus on strategic partnership. Their compliance improved, and now they have fewer red flags from the auditors. Their conformance also improved, and they continue to fine-tune minor rules and keep bringing added value. They also redesigned the form of initiating the process. The number of approval steps are only two and before it was eight, which increased the acceleration of the cycle time for 83%.

Sanofi won the award in 2023 for their transformation, and since then their goal is to continue to improve based on managers and feedback. They want to continue to streamline, simplify and keep feeding the Q&A. Right now, they want to improve the look and feel of notifications. They removed steps and replaced steps by sending notifications to the actors who should be informed about the process. They want to reshape these notifications in terms of wording and create automatic notifications. They want to leverage this lighthouse project to others in the company and have started with purchase-to-pay. They want to support predictions and process insights. They want to use all of the new opportunities to improve and manage for the future. Their suggestion is not to chase the latest technology, but the overall goal for them was all about simplification.

Time stamps:

0:54 – Welcome to this episode hosted by Vin Kumar. 

2:21 – Introduction of the process to improve technology.

3:22 – The challenge Sanofi was trying to address.

6:01 – The solution they found.

10:56 – Explanation for why they decided on their solution.

15:08 – What technology components were used to simplify this process?

16:34 – What was the value delivered?

19:15 – Any changes since then and what do you expect for the future?