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Sylvie Nicol has been part of Henkel for over twenty years. She has gathered business experience in Marketing, Sales and Human Resources before becoming a member of the company’s Management Board.
Applying for Henkel, what does it take for you to welcome someone to Henkel?
Besides the skill set – which can differ a lot from job to job – it is the mindset that really makes a difference. What we are looking for are people with an entrepreneurial spirit, who drive things forward and really want to make an impact in the company. We are also looking for people who have a very strong cooperative spirit. One of our leadership commitments is to collaborate as strong teams. We want people who focus on achieving results in teams, rather than those who focus on their individual results. That is important. And we are also looking for people who are open in terms of culture and diversity, who appreciate working in diverse teams with a broad spectrum of people and personalities. We put a lot of effort in driving diversity and inclusion.
Why did you decide to work in Human Resources?
I am very passionate about people in general. Before I worked in HR, I was a leader of big teams, so I already had many touch points with HR. When you lead a team, you need to choose the best people, support them in their personal development and train them so they can grow. I strongly believe that all these topics should not only be driven by Human Resources, but also by every single leader. This is what I did when I was a business manager – and I love it! I discovered very quickly how fulfilling it was for me to work with people. I have a lot of experience in business and I enjoy driving our business and financial results. In the end, though, success is the result of a strong team. By building these strong teams and taking care of people, you can make a big difference for the company, for the people and ultimately for yourself.
... is Executive Vice President Human Resources and Infrastructure Services at Henkel. She started her career in 1996 in Marketing and Sales for the Beauty Care sector. Nicol graduated from ESCP Business School in Paris with a master’s degree in Business Administration.
Henkel has started a worldwide program for its employees called “Digital Upskilling”. What is the purpose and what does this initiative look like?
Basically, we offer and encourage all our employees to continuously develop themselves so they and the company can be prepared for the digital future. We developed the program together with all business units, as well as with the Henkel X team. One pillar is the “Digital BaseFit” which provides employees with the basic digital knowledge they need today. The second pillar is called “Digital ExpertFit”; this pillar is tailor-made to an employee’s job profile, whether it is marketing, IT or communication.
The “ExpertFit” is a long-term program, that can be done individually or in a team. It’s a deep dive into specific digital skills and knowledge people need to have in the future for their specific job. Of course, we are continuously updating the program to make sure that we keep up with digitalization and new technologies. The whole initiative is completely digital. You connect to our new learning platform, starting with an anonymous self-assessment that shows you where you stand. With the help of AI, a tailor-made program is created, so employees can then choose and complete their modules when it suits best.
What would be your advice to Human Resources departments in other companies?
That’s a good question. For me it is important that you stay close to the people and close to the business. By that I mean the whole organization: all levels and areas are important. You do HR not for the sake of HR, you do it for the company and business partners. This connection is super important. This also means, you have to talk to the people, be open, ask for feedback and listen. This is something I personally do a lot. I talk to colleagues that I don’t know whenever I can – on my way to the canteen or at events like this one.
This is very inspiring. Another important aspect for me is to not only focus on my organization. HR may be an internal function, but the world is happening outside of the company. We have developed new leadership commitments – combined with concrete “hacks”, simple things everybody can integrate into the daily work and that can have a big impact. One of my favorites is to go external at least once a week. On Monday, I check my agenda and I look for an external meeting or exchange. If there isn’t one on the agenda, I reorganize my week to make sure that I have one external connection. It can be with another company, a head-hunter, a design agency, a start-up or anything else that gives me a new perspective. It’s important to stay connected to the world and not only to the company you work for.
Looking into the future, let’s say 2050: Will HR still exist?
I don’t know if it will be called Human Resources department. Maybe that is something that will change. But you will always have people taking care of the needs of all employees. That will continue to play an extremely important role. After all, what is a company without people? Obviously nothing. A company’s biggest asset is its people. HR won’t disappear with digitalization.
Text: Chloé Lau
Foto: Carolin Weinkopf
Read more about Europe’s largest Idea-Hackathon, the Xathon by HenkelX Ventures.
The article was featured in our November edition 2019 „Next“.