[CONTENU PARTENAIRE] Interview with Philippe Ferry, president of ACT-ON GROUP, IS&HR consulting firm. The latter returns to the challenges and expectations on the economic level, within and outside his sector, on the eve of the 2022 presidential elections and at a time when the consequences of the war in Ukraine could have serious repercussions on the euro zone.
At a time of a possible return of COVID, can we say that the necessary modernization and digitalization of HR functions has been initiated early enough by organizations?
Human resources departments (HRD) did not wait for COVID to begin their transformation. In recent years, the HR function has been transformed to fulfill new missions, far from just managing payroll and legal administration, as was the case before.
It is now a lever for accelerating performance in the organization. It is also an actor who accompanies companies in their transformation, by managing employee commitment, by helping to create a new corporate culture, by implementing new processes to improve recruitment, etc.
As a result, the HR departments had to equip themselves with IT, technological and digital tools to enable them to address these new missions. The COVID has, for its part, played a role of catalyst, of accelerator of these transformations, in particular by the massive recourse to telework. We can also be pleased that this digital shift was initiated before COVID, otherwise economic activity (especially in the service sector) would have come to a much harsher halt.
How do you concretely respond to the requests expressed today by your customers?
The current requests from HRDs to ACT-ON GROUP cover three main families. These concern, first of all, the regulatory and legal aspects. The increasing demands around these issues (social data, CSR, GDPR, parity, etc.) mean that they are becoming increasingly important in budgets.
The second family includes requests related to the performance of the company, a subject on which the HRD is increasingly solicited. Hence the importance of equipping oneself with tools to meet these challenges. However, many HR departments are not yet equipped with information systems and digital applications that will allow them to manage careers, training, recruitment or even give the company the means to bring the employee experience to life.
Finally, the third family of requests is specifically technological. It consists, among other things, in giving the organization the keys to optimize the use of data, in order to make predictions, anticipate needs, and propose specific actions according to the desired effects.
But that’s not all. Today, we see the HR departments of CAC 40 companies equipping themselves with RPA, automation and robotization (with chatbots, for example). This makes it possible to delegate a first-level support function and to give HR teams the possibility of concentrating on tasks with real added value.
Can the current fears of stagflation, propelled in particular by the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia, represent a brake on business investment in these areas?
The economic risks are real. Even if the war does not drag on, it is clear that Europe remains very dependent on Russia and particularly exposed (unlike the United States or Asia). In this sense, the sanctions taken against him will also have a cost for our companies, with the risk of seriously straining their budgets. Because I remind you that the basis of the whole economy is energy… and that everything that relates to energy therefore affects our economy.
In such a context, transformation projects could be impacted. Especially since the HR department is one of the support functions for which, during crises, budgets are often frozen. It is a fear that we have, with all the repercussions that this could have for our group, as for the entire sector of consulting and business services.
On the other hand, certain strong trends on which ACT-ON GROUP is positioned will continue, economic tensions or not. I am thinking, for example, of the major challenges of recruitment (the famous talent war) or of legal obligations, with the need for organizations to respond to them, by putting in place processes that will improve their performance in the field.
The presidential elections will take place in this complicated context. What do you want for the next five years?
Before talking about the future, let’s dwell for a moment on the previous five-year term. It has undergone numerous reforms (tax at source, calculation of social security contributions, short-time work due to COVID, teleworking agreements, etc.) which have impacted the regulatory and legal domain, and consequently “shook up” the work of HRDs.
We have also witnessed the modernization of the State, in particular through the digitization of the public service (State WeTransfer, online registration on the electoral lists, servicepublic.fr, various and varied apps, online taxes, etc).
We expect from the next five-year term, regardless of the candidate elected, that there will be no turning back. There is nothing worse than undoing to redo, then redoing. Hence the importance of setting a clear vision, a long-term trajectory and ensuring real continuity in the actions undertaken.
In short, we must set a visible and reassuring course. This is all the more important as the “COVID + war” context maintains real economic uncertainty.
This content was produced with SCRIBEO. The BFMBUSINESS editorial staff did not participate in the production of this content.