From December 2017 to February 2018, 11,500 employees at Société Générale in Africa, spread across 18 subsidiaries, were invited to take part in an internal strategic debate – SAFARI, for Société Générale AFricA Rise – via the Assembl platform, powered by bluenove.
Let’s take a closer look at this innovative adventure in collective intelligence.
1) THE STAKES
The ambition behind SAFARI is wide-reaching: co-build a 10-year strategic plan for Société Générale in Africa. Via this online platform, available in 103 languages, employees across the continent could share their ideas and help write the group’s story in Africa for the coming decade. For top management, the main objective was to nourish strategic reflections by drawing on grassroots input and as such involve employees in defining the strategy. According to Alexandre Maymat, International Bank Network Manager for Africa, the Mediterranean and French Overseas Départements, as the ground agents are in direct contact with clients on a daily basis they are well-placed to understand their needs and expectations and enrich the debate based on their experiences. In addition to this main objective, the debate is also a way to increase the sense of belonging felt by Société Générale employees. The collective dialogue therefore has a key role to play in developing a Pan-African identity and making Société Générale a truly African bank with its own clearly identified culture.
This debate is part of a wider change in the Group’s managerial culture. Société Générale is committed to building dialogue and giving everyone the chance to have their say, regardless of role, profession and grade. Managers are encouraged to motivate teams to participate and freely express their opinions.
2) THE RESULTS
“The collaborative SAFARI platform represents a powerful advantage (…) It has to be said, we don’t often give Africa the opportunity to express itself. Some banks set up in Africa without giving those involved (the employees) the chance to take part in the dialogue. This is a distinguishing feature for Société Générale and its employer brand!” Sara, SAFARI contributor
From very early on, SAFARI received positive feedback. Just four weeks after the launch, 2,000 messages and 2,000 reactions had already been posted via the SAFARI platform. The debate fully mobilised employees and the initial input was rich, thorough and relevant. Employees were questioned in relation to three major themes: Société Générale today, development framework and inspiration for the future. Digital disruption, innovation, new consumers usages, the informal sector, amongst other topics, were all discussed, compared and contrasted.
During a second phase in the debate, employees were invited to express their views on different strategic options and their implementation. This step produced an abundance of actionable ideas and multi-dimensional analysis (e.g. economy, demographics, culture & CSR). A final phase of voting and setting priorities concluded the debate. Nearly half of the people who signed up to SAFARI gave their views on the 27 convictions they felt were most important to consider for the 2028 Société Générale strategy.
Throughout the debate, the group’s management teams were fully involved – twelve managers filmed videos of encouragement and provided an overall vision for this consultation including Frédéric Oudéa, Société Générale CEO:
«I know that our past, and above all future, developments rely on your unwavering commitment, creativity and the team spirit that unites you across an entire continent and beyond, as well as the shared values that underpin Société Générale’s culture and your sense of belonging to our group.”
In total, since being launched, 11,000 unique visitors have logged onto the platform – 30% via mobile – and posted 5,500 messages.
3) THE EVALUATION
Creating an engaged community that goes beyond borders
The success of SAFARI relied heavily on the mobilisation of influencer communities, including the community of Pan-African talents co-created 4 years ago with bluenove. These communities played a key role in feeding the debate on the ground in a context of inter-subsidiary and inter-profession emulation that brought together employees of different grades. This has gone a long way to forging the foundations of a large Pan-African community.
Reinforcing a sense of belonging
“I’ve always been proud of belonging to Société Générale, and thanks to SAFARI, I am now proud to belong to Société Générale Africa,” Fadela, top SAFARI contributor.
Employees viewed this consultation as a symbol of trust and confidence from the group and an opportunity to share their opinions and ideas with colleagues from other countries. They were proud to be involved in tackling problems and solutions for Africa, and express their views on topics that really matter. As Alexandre Maymat explained in his video, “This collective intelligence is a way to generate a great sense of belonging to the group and show how proud the we are to have them (our team members) among us.”
Putting top contributors in the spotlight
“It made us feel that we belong to Société Générale and that our opinions matter. Being treated as partners for strategic topics marks a major shift,” Mamadou, top SAFARI contributor.
10 contributors stood out from the crowd for their passionate involvement in the debate. They come from Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco and even Guinea. They are risk assessors and agency directors. They published, on average, 122 messages! To thank them for their involvement, they were invited to the Société Générale headquarters in Paris in March 2018 for the annual African Managers Meeting.
Sharing their experiences of SAFARI, they praised a powerful and enriching human experience that made them feel closer to their colleagues in other African countries:
“Safari is a hyphen that enable us to bring together all the geographical entities around a common objective. We reduced geographical space to virtual space
“Thank you Société Générale for having the courage to open this door and allow us to learn from and share with each other.”
“You can actively propose solutions; good ideas can come from the bottom up.”
“Such an important topic doesn’t only concern of top managers, but everyone in the group.”
To conclude, the SAFARI debate enabled the group to meet its strategic challenges by mobilising a large number of employees to co-create a new form of understanding in short space of time and a final deliverable that everyone can appropriate, while also detecting new talents.
In addition to opening the path for new ways of working together, the management teams made the following 3 commitments
- The top debate contributors will join the work group for the Business Unit strategy (comprising internal and external experts)
- The projects put forward will all, without exception, receive a response from management
- Countries wishing to implement similar consultations will be supported and encouraged