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Case Study

Creating the “Winning Spirit” to Improve Engagement with SUEZ

How HR can contribute to making the “winning spirit” shine to improve engagement and involvement in the SUEZ mission

Pauline Jouy, Rebecca Rotensztajn


@morp via Twenty20

UNLEASH Your Employee Engagement Times of crisis means businesses must get competitive and find new ways to secure podium places from their people power

  • SUEZ conducted a major employee engagement survey with more than 17,000 collaborators worldwide.
  • It revealed HR teams were key in shaping a “winning spirit” culture for employees to engage with.
  • Four “restart workshops” were planned based on different themes of analysis in team members.

Battling coronavirus is becoming more of a marathon than a sprint.

But still, it’s a race we’re all training hard to win. Since the crisis started, global teams at SUEZ, a major player in environmental services, have met the challenge of commanding the activities essential to the wellbeing of humanity: water treatment and distribution, waste collection, and sorting.

Whilst succeeding in their own lane, internally, operational and support teams have experienced the crisis very differently.

To be able to capitalize on lessons learned in light of employee engagement, SUEZ has conducted a major survey to which more than 17,000 collaborators answered all over the world. Here’s what we found:

pascalkrumm via Twenty20

In the survey, employees outlined the great level of support and reactivity of SUEZ. Words like “understanding”, “support”, “exemplarity”, “care” were used by respondents.

To sum up, there is a shared conviction that “SUEZ has successfully managed to protect as much as possible employees whilst preserving customer service”. 

Relying on these solid foundations and its ability to answer timely to the crisis, SUEZ has been able to take another step in their global employee engagement – but before digging further, we need to go back in time a little.

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Since the popularization of Simon Sinek’s “Start with the Why” principle, organizations have communicated more and more around their “mission”.

At SUEZ, after nine months of collaborative work, our purpose statement* was officially communicated in May 2020. It can be summarized in one sentence: our vocation is “shaping a sustainable environment, now”. Associated with that, one mindset: the winning spirit.

Now, how HR can contribute to making this “winning spirit” shine throughout the organization to improve employee engagement and involvement in the SUEZ mission? 

Engaging each employee to fully embody the winning spirit 

We have enriched our approach to development discussions. We ask more questions to help employees engage and reflect on their strengths and achievements.

For instance, we launched, on top of our global survey, an ad hoc post-lockdown global interview campaign for collaborators to exchange with their manager about their perception of the crisis (our managers really took time to make these conversations happen, making some Business Units reach interview completion rates above 95%!).

Steven Lelham via Unsplash

The first question asked to the employee was about the “highlights, successes, and proud moments” they experienced during the crisis.

This kind of question forces the brains to get out of the negativity bias[1] that can plummet performance analysis and self-esteem, especially in harsh context such as the current one.

The best way to lead our people to success is to help them reflect on their strengths, identify and develop them, and build a career path based on them. 

 “restart” workshops allow team members to take a step back, re-energize and build the future collectively

What doesn’t kill your team makes it stronger 

Along with conducting one-to-one interviews, our managers have been supported to lead “restart” workshops to allow their team members to take a step back on the period, re-energize and build the future collectively.

A turnkey pathway based on no less than four workshops was designed, based on different themes: a reflection and sharing about the lockdown period from a personal and professional point of view; an introspection about own strengths, aspirations, motivations; an analysis of the team interactions that had proven fruitful during lockdown and that should be nurtured in the future; the identification of the reliable team strengths to address the challenges ahead. 

ebekah via Twenty20

You can’t reach greatness if you spend all your energy making up for your weaknesses 

On top of development discussions and restart workshops and to help employees further explore their strengths, we have reshaped our Development Centers.

These development programs (that aim at delivering feedback through a structured approach based on psychometrics, 360, co-development, and coaching) often offer a report much focused on areas for improvement for our employee engagement plans.

Here we chose to make our employees take the StrengthsFinder so that they can base their development upon what they are truly gifted at. This doesn’t mean that they should rest on their laurels. This means light is shed on their greatest talents so they can be aware of them to elaborate on the best strategy to succeed. 

ask yourself: am I giving employees all the room and light for them to reflect on their strengths?

To sum up: deploying the winning spirit at SUEZ – and why not in your company tomorrow – is a multifactorial approach that has to be deeply rooted in every managerial and HR action: giving feedback, leading a development discussion, building a development program, managing and animating teams.

So, fellow-HRs, next time you will have to (re)design a module, program, or review, ask yourself the question: am I giving employees all the room and light for them to reflect on their strengths, thus enabling them to use them to be more engaged and create more value for the organization? 

SUEZ Partners for the different engagement initiatives: 

  •       Global survey: OpenSquare 
  •       HRIS (development discussions and reviews): Cornerstone 
  •      “Restart” workshops: VersionOriginale 
  •      Development Center: Oxford Group & Gallup 

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