In this Corner Office article, Cyndy Trivella, Events Manager with TalentCulture, spoke with Regis Mulot, Executive VP Global Human Resources at Staples. They talked about the state of the workplace and how mentoring, innovation and multi-generations are impacting the progress of business. As with past interviews, this article will highlight the perspective and experience of someone who has made the move to the “corner office.”
Cyndy: I had a great conversation, recently, with Regis Mulot at Staples. Regis has an impressive HR background. Before joining Staples, he was the VP of HR, Community and Corporate Citizenship for Levi Strauss, based in Brussels, Belgium, supporting employees in 24 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Earlier in his career, he held senior HR leadership roles at Broadnet Europe, GTECH EMEA, and Chronopost.
Cyndy: Regis, because of your global experience, I’m interested in knowing about your point of view on innovation. First, do you believe it keeps companies relevant and timely, and if so, why do many companies still fall into the trap of “we’ve always done it that way?”
Regis: As we all know, change and risk-taking are challenging for individuals and organizations. We often see companies such as start-ups that are known to be innovative, struggle to maintain this core value over the long-term because it’s difficult and does not come naturally. Successful companies have institutionalized innovation within their organizations, making it part of the culture and leadership mindset. They put processes in place that enable associates to “work on something new” during their workday and innovate so that the company will ultimately prosper.
Cyndy: True. Being innovative means allowing change and does require a particular focus and shared long-term vision that must be culturally accepted to be enduring. Staying on the topic of innovation, I know the modern-day workplace and how it’s shaping the future workforce is an area of interest for you. One of the more important conversations we’ve been hearing about is mentoring. Why is it so important for there to be multi-directional mentoring in today’s workplace?
Regis: Mentoring programs have always been a “win-win” solution when mentees and mentors learn from each other. With the increased pace of our current business environment, change is constant and it is very difficult to stay at the forefront of new customer behaviors. Multi-directional (or Omni-directional) mentoring is a great way to address this, as it facilitates knowledge sharing and reinforces the need to break the functional or hierarchical silos. Good ideas and best practices don’t always come from the experienced leader, in many cases innovation, including the technological knowhow, is best taught by more junior associates. If this type of mentoring is done effectively, both sides will benefit from the experience.
Cyndy: I know many people who would agree with what you’ve said. Everyone has something to learn from another person and age shouldn’t be a factor. In line with what you just said, do you believe there are generational differences in the workplace or is this a perception cooked up by the media and others?
Regis: I don’t buy into the idea that Millennials are fundamentally different from Generation X or even Baby-boomers. However, the younger generation has a learning aptitude that is different, as they leverage social media, work across multiple platforms simultaneously, and prefer an environment that is almost paperless. The more experienced members of the workforce seem to express a little more caution when experiencing change, as was highlighted by our recent move [at Staples] to an open, collaborative space and away from the more traditional private work areas. So, even though learning is different between generations, there is no fundamental difference between the two. We are all looking for human interaction, consistent feedback, and better work life balance in a world that is accessible 24/7.
Cyndy: You bring up a good point here about people capitalizing on different ways of learning and you mention social media. Tell us more about how this venue lends itself to increased learning for employees.
Regis: Learning is about accessing relevant information in an environment where associates can be challenged, get insights, test concepts and retain. Social media provides a perfect venue where people can easily find pertinent materials, benchmark competitors and reference best practices at various companies. Personally, I use Twitter and LinkedIn to educate myself, as inspirational teachers and leaders often utilize these forums to share their knowledge with the masses. The combination of social media coupled with the emergence and popularity of mobile devices has created an environment for associates to be in a continuous learning mode with access to content anytime or anywhere.
Cyndy: Yes, social really is a wonderful up-to-the-minute venue for knowledge gathering. And with the advent of smart phones, learning can be done on the fly and anywhere companies have remote workers, which increases connectivity and communications for team building… a good thing.
Regis: Yes, the workplace is no longer comprised of people working together in one building. Business is global, and with that companies need to rise to the challenges of managing, training and communicating with remote workers.
Cyndy: Regis, we’re out of time. Thank you for speaking with me and sharing your perspective with our audience.
Regis: Thank you; I enjoyed it.