Interview with Bénédicte Haubold defining the services provided by Artélie Conseil :
Bénédicte Haubold, in your field, you find psychologists, sociologists, but not always consultants who really know the business. Does this not detract from your credibility?
My studies began in the conventional way: I studied at HEC Paris, and law in France, then the USA. I wanted to work in business, and that’s what I did. Meanwhile, I spent several years studying clinical psychology. I can assure you, this has proven extremely useful for our work!
For 10 years I worked all over the world at large industrial or services groups as a financial and organisational auditor.
My work entailed understanding a strategy, analysing accounts, auditing an industrial process or production line, and proposing more effective organisation options.
But isn’t Artélie just one more consulting firm in a market already well catered for?
First of all, as you say, it’s not very common to offer this dual expertise in our sector.
Artélie is also the product of my own personal journey, a long journey that began in the late 1990s.
I realised the corporate world was not really for me, and I had a fundamental need to work across a range of different fields.
I joined the “occupational malaise” unit at Garches hospital, specialising in stress management. We saw employees in great distress there. We helped them boost their capacity to regain confidence, to reposition themselves in their company or secure a peaceful return to work. Sometimes we would contact their employer and act as mediator.
Throughout my experience as an auditor, and at Garches hospital, I was struck by the growing disparity in companies between the ultimate aim of strategic decisions (or organisational measures), and how these decisions were experienced on the ground, particularly in terms of work life quality.
This disparity produces multiple tensions that are counter-productive to the organisation itself and generate stress. It creates human resource imbalances that are often irreversible. I felt I was seeing people who were “burned out”, unable to return to work after leaving their company.
This is our vocation at Artélie, this is what we’re about: helping to ensure there is this link between strategic decisions and impact on the ground.
What makes Artélie so different?
For us, it is not simply about responding to developments in legislation, about merely identifying psychosocial risks (PSR), about focusing just on staff “malaise” and stress management. This ignores the connection between strategic decisions and human resource risks – at the expense of providing effective support to the company and its employees.
Artélie favours a “systemic” approach to organisation. We never address issues of competitive environments, strategy, organisation, management and high-pressure situations in isolation. It is about demonstrating why there must be consistency across all of them, while assisting in very specific situations.
This approach has another merit: it is received well by an executive board or an investment fund, but also by CHSCTs when conducting CHSCT appraisals; it helps them to better understand the connection between their objectives and their responsibility towards staff. And to better identify priority actions, particularly in change management projects or projects to implement specific measures affecting work life quality.
But with this approach, you are clearly protecting the employer’s interests!
What we are protecting are the interests of the business. Positioning ourselves solely as management consultants – or conversely as CHSCT experts – would accentuate divides, and would not help to formulate clear, shared diagnoses that are likely to result in pertinent and workable solutions.
From the start, Artélie’s impartiality has been paramount. Firstly, to preserve the originality of our insight and our inventive approach. But above all to reconcile the various stakeholders’ positions with challenges that are becoming more and more common.
I confess: it’s a daily discipline! Whoever the call comes from – be it the employer or the CHSCT – they believe that we will espouse their sole point of view. This is understandable, but it is a risk.
The objectivity of our approach is recognised, and we are much more frequently commissioned by the employer together with the CHSCT. This is more favourable, because it produces faster agreement on the findings, and on a truly workable action plan, and we can constructively implement psychosocial risk prevention, HR mediation, work life quality, change management measures.
This objectivity is also achieved through pivotal methodologies: what we call “key success factors”. For example, we always meet all stakeholders before we begin our assessment; during our audit we take stock with general management, as well as with the CHSCT; we never begin our work without agreement on a joint working group responsible for fine tuning the final recommendations and following up implementation of the action plan.
What sort of companies or organisations call on your services? And in what circumstances?
Customer word of mouth is our best source of recognition.
In recent years, lawyers specialising in labour law have become regular customers. They see the problems head-on, they seek non-contentious solutions that deliver results for their clients. Artélie provides them with a trustworthy, empirical understanding of the situation on the ground, which is somewhere they obviously cannot be.
Several members of Aract, the network of the national agency for the improvement of working conditions, also advise their contacts to include Artélie in the database of experts.
If you go to our website – What can Artélie offer? Case studies – you will see the huge range of situations and organisations in which Artélie provides assistance.
There are case studies of individuals and teams; of companies, associations and public bodies, firms, factories, schools and care facilities.
We sometimes assist on the same day in acute crises, or on an ad-hoc basis for a reorganisation, or as part of multi-year risk reduction plans, human resource planning (GPEC), or work life quality improvement plans.
We take pride in our unique expertise and refuse to get involved in strategy or relations; but we are extremely adaptable within our specific remit.
How can you remain free to speak frankly in such sensitive situations, where sometimes the parties are very much opposed?
How can you remain free to speak frankly in such sensitive situations, where sometimes the parties are very much opposed? It is much easier to speak frankly when your impartiality is beyond doubt. This is another reason why we value this so highly.
We have cultivated an immutable principle: Artélie only presents and delivers one report, the same one goes to all stakeholders. This is an exacting requirement: we have to develop one analysis that leads these stakeholders in the same direction, even though their visions are often a priori very opposed.
The verbatim reports speak volumes. Illustrating our analysis through anonymous but representative responses from the surveyed employees soon provokes decisive awakenings. We allow plenty of space for this educational exercise, in order to foster commitment to taking the initiatives required.
Are there any projects that you would refuse? Or ones you would suspend?
Yes of course! We always reserve the right – after discussion with our client – to suspend a project, or for that matter, no to begin it in the first place. It happens! We believe it would be irresponsible to undertake an audit, to meet with employees, when we feel overly “instrumentalised”, or where no interest is shown in implementing change management, work life quality or risk management action plans, for example.
Consultants must often work with a multitude of juniors, who carry out a considerable amount of work. Is this not a risk in Artélie’s work?
Of course! But the greatest danger is to believe we already “know” the client’s industry, its challenges and risks before we begin… A senior practitioner can possess this shortcoming because are experienced!
Artélie works with people who believe “they know nothing” before starting any project; they have no preconceptions, an open mind, and are genuinely ready to listen. This is crucial. This is how a project becomes “custom-made”.
This also makes it Artélie’s unique offering: all the firm’s project associates have many years’ experience in operational roles at several companies. They shed light on organisations’ challenges and obstacles they face with change management and risk management.
They enable Artélie to have a very hands-on approach.
We reduce risk, as you say, but from my point of view, the real opportunity is for our clients: what we offer is high value-added expertise, beyond the usual framework of a CHSCT appraisal.
Can you remember any project that made you happy, where Artélie really made a difference?
Happily, I can remember more than one ! Perhaps paradoxically, the ones who first spring to mind are the employee representatives at Dirrecte (regional office for business, competition, consumption, labour and employment) or the employment inspectorate, who showed us how our work benefits companies and is instrumental to conciliation and improving the internal climate. I am also delighted when CHSCT and management come together and trust Artélie’s expertise to move forward in a high-stakes reorganisation. This is where our work truly matters!
Of course, I never forget clients who thank us months after our visit, or who invite us back to see how much progress they have made as a result of our work.
It is also why we offer an “Artélie certificate”: this certifies that initiatives addressing the issues identified during the project have been fully and properly implemented. We go way beyond a pure CHSCT appraisal, which may have been requested initially, on the offensive!