HR communication by the SNCF team

Because any business exists first and foremost through its employees, it is essential to take particular care of them. 🙏 However, supporting them in their doubts and fears is not always an easy task for HR communication. In a world subject to constant change, how to rethink the salary experience? How to develop a viable human resources strategy over the long term, bringing both meaning and confidence? 🤔

Lucette Charcoal

In order to see more clearly, Lucette Charcoal, HR communications manager at SNCF group, was invited to a workshop in Club We Are COM, in order to share good practices in this area. And for good reason, this global giant of passenger transport and freight logistics, had to face a rail reform, directly impacting the organization of work, and by extension, the personal organization of the lives of its more than 200.000 employees. On the way to deciphering a top HR communication plan? 🚂

☝️ Human resources in a few figures (1)

  • Only 53% of employees believe that their company takes their needs and expectations into account. While 78% of employees consider that the needs and expectations of customers are taken into account more. 
  • 45% of employees say they are poorly informed about the projects and strategies of their companies. 

✌️ The SNCF group in a few figures:

The SNCF is an integral part of our daily lives, everyone knows this company. However, are you really up to date on the impact of this giant in the world? The SNCF group is: 

  • 270.000 employees
  • 30 billion turnover in 2020
  • 15 million travelers 

And in France ? 

  • 210.000 employees
  • 5 million travelers 
  • 15.000 trains every day 
  • 150 trades
  • the 2rdnational recruiter
  • the 3rdin the ranking of TOP LinkedIn companies 2021
  • Very high internal mobility, since 81% of supervisors and 78% of executives come from internal promotion

👀 Lucette, to begin with, can you explain to us what is the role of HR within a group such as SNCF?

Since January 2020, we have been a unified public group around a parent company, SNCF, and organized around six other companies: SNCF Voyageurs, SNCF Réseau, SNCF Gares & Connexions, Rail Logistics Europe, Geodis and finally Keolis. In 2019, the colossal “Tous SNCF” project was launched, an operation common to all of the group's employees, which applies the company's three values: commitment, efficiency and openness. His goal ? To raise the company, by 2030, to the rank of world champion of sustainable mobility, for travelers as for goods. In order to achieve this goal, we must focus on the environment, territories, innovation and digital, but also and above all - on what interests us here - the human.

200.000 employees are just as many challenges for Human Resources. The HR communication department has the particularity, within the SNCF group, of being directly attached to the Communication and Brand Department. Following this logic, we develop our HR and social communication campaigns in close collaboration.  

How do we address our employees? The key word is the "who"! Let me explain, we are convinced that the “who” of the target matters more than the “what” of the content. It seems essential to us to optimize the nature and the quality of the relationship that we manage to create with the recipients. We communicate with all employees, HR players and managers, using all the channels of the corporate communication. However, our centralized model has been evolving since the unification of 2020. From now on, we need to rethink our way of communicating on certain campaigns. Depending on the topics covered, we choose to express ourselves at the corporate level or with a social logic. 

200.000 employees are just as many challenges for Human Resources

(I.e. Can you tell us more about the bottom line of your HR communication plan? What was the background?

In 2014, the Reform of the Railway System was presented. The latter announced a fundamental transformation of the group structure - with the merger of SNCF and Réseaux Ferrés de France - as well as a major social reorganization. Negotiations on this reform, aimed at preparing the rail sector for opening up to competition, were to start in May 2016. The challenge was to find the right balance between the assets to be preserved for our company and the flexibility to be introduced in order to gain in competitiveness. This subject was obviously highly sensitive since it directly affected the pace and quality of life of our employees. 

The main mission of all HR communication is to support employees in the face of changes. THEWe had to put in place a strategy to match the context. How to communicate on a project which can turn the daily life of many employees upside down? What devices should be deployed to optimize access to essential information? 

We have chosen to produce information rather than communication. There was no question of getting employees to join the project, nor of convincing them of anything. The imperatives that guided our posture were "transparency" and "hyperresponsiveness". It was important to allow everyone to have access to the subjects that were at stake in the negotiations, both for oneself and for the company. The aim is for each employee to form their own opinion and to be able to position themselves according to it. 

We have chosen to produce information rather than communication

(I.e. How did you organize your support towards the transformation, what was the highlight of your HR communication strategy?

Initially, from 2014 to 2016, it was necessary to "plow the managerial ground". For it we carried out educational work upstream, with numerous speaking engagements and field trips. Managers got involved with their teams, by listening and explaining. We have also initiated a regular exchange with the medias from 2014, so that they can follow our preparation. 

When the time for negotiations arrived, it was a question of not slackening the effort, always maintaining this bond of trust with collaborators and the media. Regular internal chats followed by debriefing round tables were systematically put in place. We have supported managers in real time, so that they can meet their teams. Panels of establishment directors have been set up to report questions and requests from employees. Our role was above all to support, in the most appropriate way, each professional in the group.  

Beyond this arsenal, the key point, THE real revolution in our HR communication plan, was the launch of our application mobile Infos Nego SNCF! 


🤔 What was the role of the Infos Négo SNCF application?

In March 2016, we launched the Infos Négo SNCF application, intended forinternal and accessible toexternal. The objective of this unprecedented project was twofold. On the one hand, we wanted to hit the targets where they were, that is to say on their mobile. On the other hand, we wanted to position ourselves as an absolute reference in terms of information relating to the progress of the negotiations. Our slogan ? " The app to know everything in real time and react to the negotiations of the new work regime ».

In order to optimize access to information, we have opted for an approach editorial journalistic : interviews, infographics, decryption and of course videos, the super format of smartphones. Putting online content was done just a few minutes after they were sent to the unions. We have also decided to offer features that promote interaction. Just like the general public applications, Infos Négo SNCF offered the possibility of liking, commenting, putting in favorites the articles of its choice… The success was such that in the sections of comments, the readers interacted with each other, sharing and explaining their points of view. view. 

👊 What were the challenges and conditions of this implementation?

If this solution seems obvious to us today, the project was not so easy to carry out. We had to overcome many reservations? On the one hand, to convince the HR Director at the time, reluctant to disclose the behind the scenes of the negotiations to the general public. On the other hand, reassure managers about the speed and efficiency of the transmission of information. To be completely honest, within the team itself we were engulfed in fear. We must not forget that with this application open to the outside, we are advancing in unknown territory.   

When the project was validated, we redoubled our efforts on the “ user-centric »And the production of content. Regarding the user experience, we carried out surveys and tests beforehand. And during the negotiations, it was necessary to systematically analyze the reactions of the readers: weekly reports, comments, panels ... Concerning the production of content, it had to be concreted, organized in fashion. crisis communication : 24/24 on-call, daily editorial conferences, briefs with the Human Resources department at least once a week, etc. En internally, and only for the application, we mobilized a digital manager, an editor, a multimedia content production team and a graphic designer. Our partner Webedia, whom I welcome here, was fortunately responsive and efficient. 

Finally, support for a multi-media communication campaignsupports must be supported over time, even before the start of negotiations. We mobilized the internal newspaper of the time, carried out SMS campaigns inviting employees to download the application and set up numerous poster and poster campaigns. digital

Regarding the production of content, it had to be concrete, organized in crisis communication mode

Info Nego communication campaign

What conclusions do you draw? 

As of June 30, 2016, Infos Négo SNCF had more than 70.000 downloads, more than 200 published content and already 4.000 comments shared by employees. During negotiations, the application was the preferred means of access to information for the managers of the group. Here are some more evocative figures:

  • 85% of users found Infos Négo SNCF useful
  • 46% of drivers - inspectors and drivers - used it
  • 81% of users rated the responsiveness of the publications as satisfactory
  • 81% of users found the information relevant there
  • 76% of users found the information to be factual and objective

🏆 What were the developments thereafter?

The success of this project was such that, after the negotiations, the application was renamed Les Infos SNCF, thus becoming THE central channel for sharing information for the group. Gradually, since 2017, we have equipped all our employees with professional mobiles and eliminated print media, for both economic and practical reasons. We had to adapt to current uses of information consumption. Today, Les Infos SNCF is the application to download to find out everything about the news and life of the SNCF group. 

In 2018, a new railway reform was announced that would turn the life of the company upside down. Without even asking the question, we restarted the mechanism. It was gratifying to see that the managers themselves told us of their desire to reactivate the 2016 operation. 

Today, the key words mentioned above, namely “transparency” and “hyperactivity” remain our mantras and constitute strong markers of SNCF's internal communication. Having kept this logic of instantaneous communication, the application is now downloaded by journalists. Each presentation made to managers is relayed in a few minutes. When the group is attacked, a company response is posted in just a few hours. The idea of ​​not having double talk is our pride: what can be said internally, can also be said externally. Moreover, can we really speak of internal and external, when a company has more than 200.000 employees?

Obviously, the Les Infos SNCF application is evolving. Now, it offers personalized content, depending on the sector of activity, status, centers of interest and even the location of the reader. The formats have been redesigned for even more visual consumption of information: slideshow, Snapchat discover, Twitter wall, short videos, etc. The application also offers reading customization features or content reserved exclusively for managers.

The idea of ​​not having double talk is our pride: what can be said internally, can also be said externally.

???? What should we take away from Lucette, in terms of HR communication? 

The SNCF Info application is now positioned as a real tool for the transformation of the group. It is a marker that drives our communication very strongly. First, this application empowers employees. The recipients tend to become actors, who form their own opinion in order to be able to make well-founded decisions. Secondly, it guarantees the company's duty to provide information to its employees, being the first to be affected by these changes in the organization of work on a daily basis. Last but not least, The SNCF Info tool is well timed, information is delivered at the right time. Good timing is the sine qua non condition for credibility in an ecosystem where information sources multiply: trade unions, exchanges between employees, public opinion... Thus, our communication obeys the following triptych: accountability, sincerity and temporality. 

(1): Jean Jaurès - Ifop Foundation study: expectations for the company at the end of an extraordinary year 2020 - October 2020

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Le Club We Are COM allows communication professionals to progress together during moments of sharing best practices only between peers, all sectors combined. Objective: an increase in collective skills in particular thanks to a workshop each month on concrete cases, responses to the major challenges of the COM, meetings with renowned experts, etc. Always exchanges in complete transparency and independence based on feedback: 0% self-promotion, 100% conviction.

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