INTERVIEW: Céline Schillinger – Head, Quality Innovation & Engagement – Sanofi Pasteur


Why are you so passionate about Employee Engagement

I’ve worked in small and big organizations, in different countries. I’ve seen business models hit by technological disruptions, globalization… I’ve witnessed the evolution of social values, profound shifts impacting people everywhere. Yet, one thing doesn’t really change: the way organizations “manage” their workforce. By sticking to traditional, top-down, transactional models, we are wasting a lot of precious resources. These old management schemes are more and more ineffective – even detrimental to the business. I believe we can do much better. There are untapped resources of commitment, creativity and engagement everywhere in our companies. I’m passionate about revealing these resources, and helping the organization leverage them. But it requires a big change in mindset, and in leadership behaviors.


Please give us an example of the innovative way Sanofi Pasteur are engaging with Staff

We’ve created a massive movement for change, driven by employees, facilitated by leadership, focusing on a common purpose (or “Big Opportunity”, as per John Kotter): make vaccines available to all who want them. Today, there are 3,500 volunteers across 14 sites worldwide. Volunteer networks are flourishing and implementing improvements at an unprecedented pace. Some improvements are just amazing. People are now taking action, together, spontaneously, to change and improve what they feel needs to be. Leadership is very supportive. Internal social media is the backbone for the community. It is profoundly transformative for our manufacturing culture.


One example of what you have developed which you think others could adopt as Best practice

Co-creation by the “diversity of many” is an absolute best practice. “People own what they help create”, Myron Rogers says. This is so true. Every time you ask people to adopt something they haven’t contributed to, you waste resources and undermine engagement. Also, decisions are more relevant when they build on the diversity of viewpoints – including front-line workers. Our movement creates many opportunities for people to get involved in the design of important decisions or projects. Internal social media is key to supporting this community of intent and fostering exchanges.


One example of the tangible business value delivered by your programme

Let me give you two examples. Charles, a shopfloor trainer, came up with an idea to change the way 2 machines were connected. The change actually decreases operation costs significantly and increases the production output. And Charles had this idea for 9 years! Only through the change movement and the volunteer dynamics was he able to express this idea, and be supported to implement it.

On another site, laboratory technicians challenged an established procedure and came up with a better way to manage product samples. This is saving 1,000 work hours a year. All this is unprompted… you don’t need heavy, costly improvement initiatives when everyone cares for the common good and feels empowered to speak up and act.


One example of how the programme improved the lives of employees

Hear Lorrie, one of our volunteers: “My involvement in the Big Opportunity started with a really bad day at work… And then I realized it was up to me to make things change… The “Big Opportunity” became “My Opportunities” to make a difference. I have had an incredible opportunity to meet people all with the same goal: ”What can we do to change the way we work?”. I have had an unprecedented opportunity to directly communicate with our global executives to give feedback and to gain knowledge as well as perspective on what we can do to change. We have made progress and recognize that we are all enabled to ask “why” and make changes”.


It’s very simple. We didn’t try to convince the Board about employee engagement. We convinced the Board about the business challenge which EE was the answer to. EE for the sake of EE makes no sense. Employee Engagement for business performance is a whole different story.


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