HR Tech Interview with Laure Rudelle Arnaud, Chief People and Impact Officer at Sendinblue

Journey into Tech

Hi Laure, welcome to HRTech Interview. Please tell us a little bit about your journey in People Management and how you arrived at Sendinblue?

I started my career as a consultant in strategy, and very quickly, it became apparent that I was interested in topics related to people and change management, which is why I decided to switch to HR. I joined Sodexo in 2011 as HR Project Manager, where I was in charge of employee engagement and quality of life for 40,000 employees. I then took on different HR responsibilities related to talent management and HR development at a global level but also supported big business transformation cycles from an HR perspective. At my last position, I was the SVP HR for Group Senior Executives, namely for the top 200 Sodexo Senior Executives, supporting them in their career choices, crafting succession plans and performance and potential assessment. I loved the company and the challenges, but felt a strong appetite for tech, product profiles and new challenges. After a couple of months supporting an early stage startup in NFT and art called LaCollection.io, my desire to stay in a fast-growing tech environment became more clear. I felt a strong cultural and value fit with Sendinblue’s founder and CEO, Armand Thiberge, and with the different people that I met within the organization. The further I went into the interview process, it was clear Sendinblue was the right choice for me.

What is the most contemporary definition of a People and Impact Officer? How has the role evolved in the last 3-4 years, particularly since the onset of the pandemic?

My conviction is that these two words “People” and “Impact,” should be associated with each other in HR. They feed off each other, of course, but combined, they reflect an organization’s role to differentiate itself economically but mainly socially and ecologically in a virtuous circle. 

The more a company mobilizes its employees on their personal convictions in civic matters (environmental and social in particular), the more an organization allows them to explain these convictions, to formalize them, and to assume certain choices on a personal and professional basis. These commitments will then feed the project of the long-term undertaking, but in a very practical way. With the “great resignation” combined with the alarming IPCC 2022 report, the thirst for mobilization and the need to align our commitments and our way of life with our professional and personal daily life, is in strong demand.

Shaping a better world for tomorrow begins with our practices today namely:

  • Calculation and management of its carbon impact on an individual and collective basis
  • Respect for others
  • Non-violent communication
  • Inclusion of the greatest number
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Mobilization of a collective
  • Dare to challenge

In the last 3-4 years, the strategic and critical role of HR has been thrusted into the spotlight due to the Covid crisis and several lockdowns and with the need to manage our employees’ safety, to maintain connection, to restructure workplace initiatives, and to cope with the “great resignation.” For me, the part of the role which consists of connecting the dots and being the “glue” of an organization is the most relevant and critical in order for an organization to succeed. 

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Please tell us a little about your HR Technology stack and how you use HR Technologies to communicate with your team and measure performance.

I am fully convinced that the more we can automate, rely on AI and on employees’ centric digital solutions, the stronger and more impactful HR will be. I don’t believe in a “one-stop shop” HR solution but rather in a fruitful and efficient HR solutions ecosystem with the best of each technology to answer each of our needs: talent acquisition, onboarding, learning, coaching approach, potential and performance assessment, compensation benchmarking, benefits, health insurance, diversity and inclusion best practices and education, workplace and leadership development. 

At Sendinblue, the question of knowledge management and knowledge sharing is critical: we really want the best experience and to maintain fluidity for everyone. While nothing is written in stone, today I communicate with my team through Slack, Google environment, and Notion, and we definitely maximize time together both virtually and also physically. For example, I will be organizing an HR leadership retreat in a couple of months to work on our HR Strategic Roadmap and on critical projects. It is important to reflect together and to onboard the team on strategic projects. I am a strong supporter of collective intelligence and real-time sessions are really a big game-changer for that. 

Organizations, despite having a strong culture and effective HR policies, see tremendous attrition. What are the major factors contributing to this trend?

3 points on that: 

  • Employees in 2022 need visibility on the impact they can have and need to be reassured about the consistency between their personal values and impacts, and the ones from the company they join. It can be verified on social and environment impact but also on transparency and fairness in the individuals treatment within the organization.
  • In addition to that, they clearly express a need to be valued as specific persons with their own needs and personality but also personal constraints that they don’t want anyone to put aside: How much as an organization are we agile enough to address and adapt to each and every talent? Practicing part-time, flexible working hours, remote office, and cultural events internally is absolutely key. 
  • The third point, which explains this attrition, is the appetite for employees to grow, to develop new skills, to be stretched professionally. People want to be challenged. If a company is not able to trust and bet on its employees, it runs the risk of letting the best person go.

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What is your opinion about using learning and training tools for employee development and workplace culture? Which tools are you keenly following for employee engagement and development?

Having been in charge during more than five years of HR Development within Sodexo, I am definitely a strong advocate for employee development and I am convinced that it is a great way to reinforce the connection to the organization. A couple of key success factors for that:

  • A 100% training approach is not enough to learn, especially when it is fully virtual and when we want to address soft skills. I am a strong supporter of peer-to-peer coaching and all the internal network approaches to grow internally, such as sponsorship by Executive Committee Members, reverse mentoring, and a group of peers coaching approach by an external facilitator combined with self-awareness exercises. As long as the objective is well-defined and the target clearly identified, the impact can be terrific.
  • Learning journeys and programs can be amazing to reinforce workplace culture when it is done in the long run instead of four intensive days. I prefer a blended approach with change management tools to change behaviors.

DEI programs are transforming the way employees and customers look at any company. What are the key things the HR Team should do to successfully implement DEI across an organization, particularly, in high-growth startups that have an aggressive sales approach?

Our obsession as an HR team should be that each and every employee feels fully respected and proud of who they are with their specificities, their disabilities, their sexual orientation, their origins, their personalities and their personal situations. As soon as managers and leaders understand that, they will also understand that diversity in the organization is a fantastic opportunity to be more performant collectively and will inform an organization of their clients’ needs. All the studies show it, and we need to put it into practice. At Sendinblue, we are lucky enough to have 68 nationalities in the seven global offices that we have. That’s a fantastic way to experience diversity. Women are highly represented, but we need to go further and be more intentional about the way we promote and recruit genuine female leaders in top positions, especially in tech and product departments. We also need to assess, in a more robust way, how people can be themselves and how diversity is valued in order to reveal blindspots. Today, disability is not really a topic which is addressed or even measured. Regarding diversity of profiles in the Executive Committee, this is something we still need to work on to encourage more female diversity in origins to reflect the variety of our businesses and our teams. 

The stronger we will be in those areas, the more vocal we can be externally towards our employees, clients and candidates…. 

Tell us a little bit about your plans for 2022 and how you intend to implement your plans as part of the impact strategy at Sendinblue?

I built my HR Roadmap around six pillars that I shared with the organization during our five-day off-site:

Talent acquisition: how we source, identify and onboard in the best way our talents, in alignment with our values, is absolutely essential.

Working Environment will also be critical: our physical and mental wellbeing, our working environment including social and team interactions in one of the offices or at home is something that we will pay special attention to.

Total Rewards is important too: What we do to recognize our talents with:

  • A fair pay and fair treatments including benefits, the best health protection, but also equity for each and every employee. That’s something very special at Sendinblue that reinforces the belonging spirit for each employee.
  • The ability to recognize extra miles, efforts, and strong  performance.

Diversity and Inclusion philosophy: how we make sure that each employee feels fully respected and proud of who they are with their specificities, their disability, their sexual orientation, their origin, their personality, their personal situation.

Internal communication: how we make sure that the communication is fluid across the organization at each level, that it is a source of innovation and continuous improvement, that feedback can be given and that we are proud of what we do externally and internally.

Talent management and talent organization: That’s probably the area where I feel that we can still grow with Sendinblue and bring a clearer value proposition. How we identify the competencies in the room and the needs for tomorrow; how we make sure that career journey and internal mobility is possible within Sendinblue; and how we develop the competencies of individual contributors but also develop managers’ skills through training and leadership programs. 

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Your take on the role of AI and Automation in taking organizations forward in their DEI and Employee development efforts:

The more robust tools we have to help us work and focus our DEI and Employee Development efforts, the better we will be. First of all, we need to be clearer and stronger on HR and people data to make sure we make relevant decisions based on the insights that we have. The more objective we are about the needs, the better we will address them. In parallel, keeping in mind the unconscious biases that we all have, leveraging AI especially is the best way to prevent any mistakes and misjudgment. 

A fruitful dialogue is required between HR professionals and HR tech players to help us to make greater progress for our employees and for the business.

Thank you, Laure! That was fun and hope to see you back on HR Tech Series soon.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com

Laure Rudelle Arnaud is the Chief People and Impact Officer of Sendinblue. She Previously worked at LaCollection.io as a Head of People. Laure Rudelle Arnau attended ESSEC Business School.

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Sendinblue is the only all-in-one digital marketing platform empowering B2B and B2C businesses, e-commerce sellers and agencies to build customer relationships through end-to-end digital marketing campaigns, transactional messaging, and marketing automation. Unlike other marketing solutions built for enterprise-level budgets and expertise, Sendinblue tailors its all-in-one suite to suit the marketing needs of growing SMBs in tough markets. Sendinblue was founded in 2012 by Armand Thiberge with a mission to make the most effective marketing channels accessible to all businesses. Headquartered in Paris with offices in Seattle, Berlin, Bangalore, Sofia, Noida, and Toronto, Sendinblue supports more than 300,000 active users across 160 countries.