Sanofi combines leadership and vulnerability for sustainable performance
They might have a visible or invisible disability, or suffer (or have suffered) from a serious illness. How does the company view these individuals? What does the company’s treatment of such employees tell us about leadership? And if the way a company treats these vulnerabilities changes, can leadership change too? These are the questions that Sanofi France wanted to explore.
[highlight_box title=”Biography” text=”Guillaume Leroy has been CEO of Sanofi France since 2017. He joined Sanofi Pasteur after graduating from ESCP Europe 26 years ago, and has held various positions within the group in France and abroad.” ” img=”https://business-digest.eu:443/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/BD301022.jpg”]
Guillaume Leroy has been CEO of Sanofi France since 2017. He joined Sanofi Pasteur after graduating from ESCP Europe 26 years ago, and has held various positions within the group in France and abroad.
“Managing” disability — and vulnerabilities more broadly — in a company is still largely interpreted from the perspective of the regulatory framework, moral obligation, and compassionate diversity. Management takes precedence over integration, and the shortcomings that need to be mitigated obscure the potential to be exploited. Nevertheless, there are calls in various parts for a fresh perspective, where individual differences would be seen first and foremost as a source of riches, leadership, and ultimately as an essential part of sustainable performance. “We have introduced a number of initiatives at Sanofi regarding disabilities and vulnerabilities over recent years,” notes Guillaume Leroy. “Our response to these complex questions is mostly organizational, which is a good starting point. But I’m convinced we’re missing out on unthought-of resources that could benefit leadership and performance.”
And Sanofi is far from being an isolated case. In fact, preconceived ideas are hard to uproot in a great many organizations, as evidenced by the latest Kantar barometer on employment, disability, and prevention in businesses, conducted among 240 leaders and HR departments. Although the companies interviewed identified numerous advantages to implementing a disability policy, the benefits were expressed mainly in terms of employee pride, solidarity, and reputation. Only one in four respondents thought that a disability policy could have a positive impact on the performance of their company, with one in ten seeing no benefits.
Give a voice to those who are not always heard
Sanofi France decided last spring to launch a large immersive survey by giving the floor to a dozen employees with varied profiles. Some have a disability, visible or invisible; some have had an illness or suffered from burnout; some are responsible for managing people in fragile situations; and some have simply chosen to help change people’s views and practices.
When asked about their perceptions about how disability, illness, or burnout are viewed, everyone shared an identical observation: that a feeling of incomprehension still reigns. “At the same time,” adds Leroy, “those around them see them as sources of inspiration, embodying the values of courage, resilience, efficiency, openness, and innovation. Having contact with them gives us a new way of looking at things that enriches us personally and that can only be beneficial to the company as a whole. Based on these observations, we now think we need to bring together ideas about vulnerability and leadership so we can create an environment that benefits the men and women working at Sanofi, society as a whole, and a company whose purpose is to ‘empowering life.’ I hope that working with people in vulnerable situations isn’t experienced as a ‘lost opportunity’ for teams or managers but as an opportunity for inspiration, creativity, and cohesion for the entire social body at Sanofi.”
The first Acting Together initiative
Excerpt from Business Digest N°301, November 2019
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