Life@Convelio: Marianne Descamps, Head of HR interview by Sainoo

Life@Convelio: Marianne Descamps, Head of HR interview by Sainoo

Sainoo magazine has interviewed our Head of HR, Marianne. Read the full article on Sainoo

After an internship in HR, Marianne fell in love with this sector. She decided to kick off her career in the startup world. She started at Mirakl where she gained precious HR knowledge. This allowed her, later on, to take on the role of Head of HR at companies like Foodora, Circ and now Convelio. Convelio is a logistics tech startup in the fine art industry, specialised in the global shipping of high-end goods. Goods such as paintings sculptures or basically any valuable or bulky merchandise. Marianne spent a moment with us to speak about dealing with remote work and managing HR in times of growth

Hi Marianne, thanks for joining us today! What challenge made you move to Convelio?

First of all, I love the scope of the role, which I wanted to keep in my next job. Contrary to popular belief, it is an extremely strategic function in the company. HR is the only department that has to focus both on the employees’ diverse needs and on those of the Management Team. It’s a balance that is very difficult to find and which requires making dozens of decisions every day. These decisions can have a direct impact on the company, whether in terms of organization, staffing, morale, corporate culture or legal implications. You have to be prepared and willing to take on these kinds of responsibilities. That’s a challenge that I love! I’m also very lucky to get enough leeway to decide on priorities and to start a lot of new topics from scratch.

Secondly, I was really attracted to Convelio’s business model and its plans for the future. Convelio has a strong foundation to build on. Every day we feel that we are actually transforming a traditional industry upside down. The art transport market is in huge need of digitization and very big names on the market trust us to ship their artworks across the globe in the quickest and safest way. That’s very motivating.

Also, managing the HR department in 3 countries is very rewarding and allows me to learn new things every day. We have been growing a lot in the past year and will continue to do so. We have 2 offices in Paris and London with 50+ employees and we are currently opening a new office in New York City.

Finally, I was attracted to Convelio’s company culture. The people I met were caring and ready to help. The ambitions and the standards we set ourselves are high and we are very flexible and reactive in the way we work. It’s stimulating and a great basis to bring the company to the next level.

What are your goals for the next 6/12 months? How are you going to reach them?

My goals need to be linked to the company’s objectives. We are currently aiming at doubling down on client acquisition, product development and our global expansion. We are even starting to explore other market segments. The company has reached its best months in June and July despite the pandemic, and we, therefore, need to prepare ourselves to grow even more.

To do this, we will need to make sure we have a strong HR basis, very good HR processes (recruitment, training, onboarding…). But also the right digital tools in place in our 3 countries. Hiring the right people at the right time will be crucial. Good communication inside the company will be key to uphold and enrich our company culture.

Our team members obviously play a major role in our growth. We need to offer the best environment possible so they can grow and gain skills

How do you manage to keep a good candidate experience when you’re recruiting remotely?

I was kind of surprised when I saw how fast we adapted everything to working from home. We digitized our onboarding process, created a guide for remote work, increased the communication – and all of this has been done pretty fast.

Our remote recruitment process is similar to the one we used to have, we simply do everything via phone and video-call now. It’s also about taking more time in calls to set the context and to give as many details as possible on the role, the company, and how we are working through Covid-19. I feel like this removes some stress off of the candidates who are not used to getting interviewed through a laptop screen. I also hope this helps them better picture our company, as they cannot see our physical office, atmosphere and people.

How important is employer branding when expanding abroad?

Overall, employer branding is really important, whether it’s in your country of origin or abroad. It comes down to so many things but the first step to a strong employer brand is a good candidate and employee experience. Word of mouth is probably the best type of employer branding you can have, as it is genuine and it comes directly from the team.

A good candidate experience should be common sense, but it does depend on a lot of factors. We should not forget that a company and an applicant are assessing each other mutually. Here at Convelio, we do our best to give clear explanations during our interviews, to be flexible in the process when necessary, to create quick recruitment processes when the timing allows it, and, very important, to give an answer to every single applicant. We also value giving comprehensive feedback as much as possible to all applicants who’ve had video or physical interviews with us.

In the end, it’s a long process, you cannot create an employer brand within 48 hours and need to keep that in mind when expanding abroad.

What was your remote/in-the-office policy? Is it going to change?

Yes, it’s changing completely!

Before Covid-19, we were all 100% in office and we only worked from home occasionally. Nothing was defined but after a few weeks of remote work we realised that the company was doing great to adapt to this new situation. Our communication is at its maximum, our productivity is not suffering and teamwork is pretty much the same as before. To assess how our team members feel about remote work and get their opinion on what to implement, we sent out a survey and the answers we received until now are really positive : 100% of our employees wish to get an unlimited remote work policy, with an access to the office when they don’t feel like working from home.

We therefore decided to launch a policy allowing unlimited remote work. It is still work-in-progress and we are working on it with our team members to improve and adapt it over time.

Can you tell me about one specific issue you had to deal with (related to growth)? What did you do?

The challenge when growing fast is to manage to constantly switch between daily tasks and process structuring. When do you know if you should be pushing hard this week with dozens of interviews on difficult recruitments or if you should work on implementing a comprehensive training program for the people you’ve recruited already?

I’ve asked myself those kinds of questions in every company I’ve been in. If you grow too fast, hire too many people without implementing and communicating a proper structure on different topics, you are riding for a fall. If you’re too slow with amazing processes, you might not make it either. A balance needs to be found between quick wins, short term and long term objectives.

Do you have any books/resources you would recommend to other professionals?

The Culture Map, Erin Meyer: contains examples and hands-on advice on how to better understand the behaviour of people from different cultural backgrounds. As I come from a franco-german family, this has always been a passion of mine. Even more so at Convelio at the moment as we have more than 7 different nationalities and are opening a new office in New York. Your communication style has to be adapted to the person you’re talking to – otherwise, you’re increasing risks of misunderstandings! Lik (Learning is King) app: It’s an app for French speakers, which has good content for HR but also for all types of people in the company interested in management, conflict management, communication etc. L’essentiel pour gérer son temps, Harvard Business Review collection: it’s part of my current readings on time management as I feel like my biggest pain these days is finding the time. Typically, the French book identifies easy-to-use techniques to streamline tasks and increase efficiency.

How do you make sure the candidate you are hiring is going to fit the company’s culture?

We have a strong culture at Convelio, it does play a role in our differentiation. We know very well what we want and what we don’t want. I think it’s also good for our candidates. They probably won’t be happy in our company if they don’t fit with our values.

We’re known for the energy we put in our work and for always looking for new opportunities and new solutions. We’re therefore very reactive and flexible in the way we think and work. At Convelio, we want people with a thirst for knowledge but there’s no room for any ego. It’s a collaborative team and we should help each other to make everyone grow.

After having checked the specific job-related competencies in the first interview(s), the rest of the interviews assess the candidate’s values thanks to real-life situation examples, predefined questions linked to how they would react in certain situations, etc. It enables us to know if that person will fit our culture or not.

It’s a first step to feel our culture and our values. But the next step is to put words on it. We are therefore currently defining them more precisely with the whole team. We will integrate them in an even more structured way in our recruitment processes in the near future.

What kind of questions would you recommend candidates to ask during the interview?

Show your interest: ask about priorities, the company’s goals, the expectations for your role, etc. Try to understand what your impact will be, who you will work with, and what you will learn. This shows your curiosity and your motivation.

Learn more about Sainoo here

August 25, 2020