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Why Is La Boîte à Outils Investing in the Well-Being of its Employees?”

Pourquoi La Boîte à Outils mise sur l’épanouissement de ses collaborateurs
Published on
26 April 2018

“To become the favorite company of our employees, customers and suppliers by 2022.” This is the ambitious goal of La Boîte à Outils, a company that employs 1,800 employees across 37 stores in France. 

Jean-Jacques Chabanis and Frédéric Dufau-Joël (respectively, president and director of information systems and methods at La Boîte à Outils) share with us several good reasons to combine profitability and well-being.

La Boîte à Outils is one of 11 companies that have partnered with the Chair for Mindfulness, Well-Being at Work and Economic Peace. On May 15th, the chair will be organizing a conference at GEM on the subject of Profits and well-being at work: mission impossible?

According to you, what prerequisites are needed to successfully combine well-being at work and profitability?

First of all, the company's shareholders have to be willing to accept risk. La Boîte à Outils is a subsidiary of the Samse group and we were given a certain freedom to act. Next, you have to have a real commitment towards this goal. Of course you need to be profitable and have a solid history of good results. But you need to let go of money: Profits cannot be the end-goal. You also have to be willing to spend and invest in recruitment and training, in particular for unqualified workers or those who help reinforce teams on an occasional basis. It's important to think about the medium term (five years). These investments can lower profits over the short term, but they will improve profits over the medium term.

Can you share with us the current and future shareholder environment that defines La Boîte à Outils' situation?

Samse is a French group that was initial family-owned. The group has 6,000 employees and a yearly turnover of 1.5 billion euros. Within the group, La Boîte à Outils and DIY activities account for 400 million euros of turnover and 1,800 employees. The Samse group owns 98% of our capital.

The Samse group is owned by the holding company Dumont Investissement, in which majority control is shared by the founding family, natural partners and employees. 28% of the capital is owned by the Irish group CRH and approximately 20% is on the stock market.

In 2020, CRH will become the majority shareholder and employees will retain 15% ownership.

The company is undergoing a major transformation: 80% of its managers and teams are facing profound changes due to new technology. Our company project, “to become the favorite company of our employees, customers and suppliers by 2022,” was officially launched in September 2016 to support and facilitate this change.

Why explore the possibility of combining well-being at work and profitability?

This is not a new question for us. For the past six or seven years, customer and employee satisfaction have been top priorities. We created indicators of internal and external satisfaction thanks to the regular use of surveys. We also launched a "festival for employee satisfaction" which helped us understand that employees lacked sufficient time to satisfy our customers. As a result, for the past four or five years we have chosen to go against the "always more" trend in terms of budgets and turnover and instead focus on human factors.

Based on your experience, what were the effects of a culture based on "always more"?

Managing solely on the basis of turnover and profitability creates boredom and a lack of happiness at work. More than ten or twelve years ago, managers at our company started reporting the negative effects of this approach. Trying to implement centralized budgets and guidelines for all 37 stores in France was absurd! In particular, pressure to perform in terms of turnover created an environment in which teams had to present budgets that didn’t match reality and this ended up hurting investments, which also hurts profits! In short, everyone was playing a fool’s game. In reality, real improvement comes from supporting work that is done properly. And this leads to better results. It’s something we can measure at the end of the year.

What are your current indicators in terms of satisfaction?

Informally, their based on the freedom to speak, share experiences, act with agility and cooperate. Each person learns to work with another and interact no matter their job. In more formal terms, our indicators are based on a yearly survey with approximately 40 questions. It's an important part of the process because it underlines top management's interest in this subject. It's also a means of checking the current situation and reacting if there are any red flags. We currently have a ten person team dedicated to implementing this change for all 1,800 employees in our 37 stores. The team pilots and supports projects for change in the field. (To learn more, download the publication by the Chair for Mindfulness, Well-Being at Work and Economic Peace).

Is there anything that you are worried about for the future?

The company has good results and they will continue for at least the next two years. We'll be increasing our market share, consolidating our profit margins and we've never had such a good earning before taxes. In 2017, we reported 400 million euros in turnover, including 5% earning before taxes (approximately 20 million euros). If there is something to worry about, it has to do with the evolution of sales and the impact of digital transformations on our organization. Our belief is that the best way to anticipate this is to perform well. And the best way to perform well is to continue supporting the satisfaction of our teams, customers and suppliers in order to ensure their loyalty.

Profits and well-being at work: mission impossible?

On May 15th, the Chair for Mindfulness, Well-Being at Work and Economic Peace will be organizing a conference at GEM on the subject of: Profits and well-being at work: mission impossible? During the event, Dominique Steiler, head of the chair, Jean-Jacques Chabanis, president of La Boîte à Outils, and Marie Georges, an associate Deloitte Développement Durable, will discuss the advantages of combining well-being at work and profitability. The conference is open to the public and will be led by Alexandre Schabel, a radio/TV personality.

Registration is free but required

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