Charise Le is the Chief Human Resource Officer of Schneider Electric and a member of the Executive Committee since April first, 2020. Charise Le started her career in 1995 and began at Siemens as an HR specialist. Then, she found her way at Schneider Electric in 2007 and kept growing there ever since. Charise Le grew with the HR team at Schneider at such a critical time. During covid, Charise Le has led her team and implemented new ways of communication to ensure the best result and well-being of her team.
We sat down with Charise to know more!
Having a role on such a global scale must have been challenging, how has that been during the pandemic?
I was already in a global role but not at this level. I was very much supported by the organization, my team, and my colleagues. Thanks to the 17 years of experience I had with the company because I know the organization, and people. Which really helped me.
Of course, there are two key learnings for me during this time; one is there is no one size fits all solution. Each country is different. The wave of covid affects the culture, the locals, and the speed. So, that’s why empowerment is really key.
It is important to empower local.
It’s what we did quite well. Thanks to our operating model; we are the most local of global companies.
We provide a lot of empowerment to the local teams. We make sure to do things that are relevant to the country and to our people. So for me, this really is a key success factor that how we manage.
The value of the company drives the decisions that we make. During those difficult times, we made those tough decisions; to protect the employee, to always protect the employee’s safety. We made sure to protect the job of our people.
What do you think the younger generation needs in a work environment?
Flexibility, empowerment, and compensation. That’s a no-brainer. But, I think more flexibility. When I ask that question to early careers and people from universities, the first thing they say is sustainability, their purpose, and the value of the company. Also, really knowing that the people that manage the company support their career.
Also, empowerment meaning to give them space to do their thing.
It’s important to speak of expectations rather than demands. Empowerment also comes with accountability.
What are the special programs offered for Egyptian youth to help them in their careers?
We have vocational training, and we’re working very closely with all the engineering faculties across Egypt. We have our own labs inside Helwan university, Ein shams university, and Alexandria university in the engineering faculties. In addition to that, we have a program at Schneider for electricians to support them in their journey to be technicians. If they didn’t have the level of education to become an engineer, that doesn’t mean we don’t support them. We have Attaba, which is the electrical market, and we have a house, called Schneider educational house where we host workshops on a daily basis to educate those technicians on how to become better and to understand how to use Schneider products.
We currently have around 8000 electricians that we are connected with through a mobile application to enhance their level of digital competency in order to facilitate their life. So they can have access to distributors and how to use our products. The vocational as well as the labs, we have a very strong plan that is currently in place with most ministers not only the minister of education so that we can enhance the level of the people of the poor villages for example. So, we have accessibility not only in Cairo and Alex but also across all governorates.
Being a woman, have you faced any discrimination in your field?
I have been thinking about that, but I concluded that no, I haven’t. Maybe two reasons behind that; one is that I’m in HR, and HR probably is a world where you have a lot of women. Secondly, I’m Chinese, and in China, it’s not a big topic from a cultural perspective. It’s all about noticing the moments of any intrusive behaviors and acting upon them. But overall for me, I don’t feel it. Being a woman, I’m privileged to work for a company, that truly walks the talk on diversity. We put a lot of focus on continually exposing women to leadership, supporting them, and accelerating their careers.
A total of one-third of our employee population are women. Country by country is very different but the overall is one third. And then we made this commitment in our sustainability strategy, we want 50/40/30. This means that we want to hire 50 percent women, 40 percent in middle management, and 30 percent in top leadership. Our goal is to fulfill that strategy by 2025.
We are also addressing the pay gap as an initiative to address the gap between women and men.
Even in our factory here in Badr city, we have a lot of women blue collar. Which is not very common to find and they represent a very good percentage. They’re very well qualified.
What have been the most significant challenges when it comes to addressing stuff like the pay gap and bias against women?
Sometimes the bias is unconscious so I think the bias should be addressed more and more. You have to address this in the total process, not just the salary review. It’s also when you hire people. It’s important to notice there’s a pay gap between women and men.
The same in the promotion and hiring process. So we can have a clear strategy on how to get there. You have to have a dedicated budget with every cycle to say this budget is dedicated to closing the pay gap.
We have a dashboard that is available to all the HRs across the world and you go there and review everything; the pay gap, the percentage, the budget you require. So you use data to make decisions and also to influence.
How can corporates follow in the footsteps of SE towards diversity, equity, and equal pay?
I think for us we learned to be radical to move the needle, sometimes very radical. We will not move if you have only men. You have to have women. So being radical, even in the way we communicate things is important. You also have to respect local. We talk about women but at Schneider, we talk about the diversity of all.
It’s not only women, it’s racial and generational. There are so many aspects.
How did Covid-19 enforce most companies to use technology? Did you have any challenges within this period?
At Schneider, even before covid, we have always had good tools. We used teams, you know, to connect, meetings. We have learning platforms so employees can go there. There are learning offers, e-learning. We were quite lucky to have everything in place when the pandemic started. So we were able to move very quickly and connect in a virtual way anytime anywhere. But of course, we deployed our Open Talent Market during the pandemic, which is an AI-driven platform to empower employees to manage their careers, development, and learning. These are the things that we are doing. But still, there’s always technology evolving so fast. and the other day, I was in Brazil, and I visited the training center there. I saw how we use VR to help to equip our field services engineers because during covid they can’t so we are able to support our employees even if we’re not necessarily physically there. They are always tools that can make our employees work more effectively.
What are some of the innovative ways that Schneider Electric uses to ensure the well-being of their employees?
I think there are a couple of things that we do. One is awareness, we need to drive the awareness of our employees on this topic. I’m quite proud that we started the journey not just because of the covid, we started the journey probably 5 or 6 years ago.
We knew, with all these trends that we see, we think it’s an important topic. Not only physical, but it’s also mental. It’s a combination of the well-being of our employees. So, it’s important to draw awareness, there is a lot of training material that is available on the learning platform that we have.
Employees can go there, search, and get the material that they need. We also train our leaders. We start with the leadership team. Because sometimes, leaders need to be cautious, in terms of the pressure they are creating, for their teams. So, it’s important to be aware, of how you manage your energy, and how you manage the energy of your team. This year we did mandatory training on mental health as well. Just to provide some tips to employees, and how they can manage. So that’s about training and awareness. Then two, it’s about the ritual. You have to practice some of the small things. So for example, in my team meetings, I always start the meeting with a well-being check-in. I ask how everyone feels. You can get a kind of rating to understand each of our energy level at that day and then.
Schneider Electric is heading in all the right directions, and true leaders like Charise are those who make a true change to how healthy a workplace can truly be!