Sociocracy: Seeing FDJ employees become more autonomous

Written by Luc Bretones, on 31 January 2022

In 2018, the Human Relations Department was renamed the Employee Experience and Transformation Department (DECT). Within this department, Virginie Guibout-Pironneau took the reins of the Transformation team as the Head of Transformation, with the goal of placing the employee at the center of the decision-making process.

Virginie Guibout-Pironneau aims to demonstrate that employee autonomy can be a vector of performance, thereby inspiring other departments within the company.

Enthralled by the promises of sociocracy, a shared governance model, the Transformation team and its twenty or so employees decided to take the plunge.

A genuine revolution initiated two years ago, its gradual deployment has been successful.

Elections without candidates, rotating facilitators at each meeting, groups of employees formed according to needs: sociocracy represents an organic, evolving, particularly flexible, and participatory governance model, with the aim of empowering and autonomizing.

Implementing such a governance model in a company, where decision-making power and responsibilities are not dependent on a hierarchical status, can be a challenge.

Flexibility in implementing the sociocracy principle remains crucial. A flexibility of mind that also invites Virginie Guibout-Pironneau to acknowledge that, for some, autonomy may rhyme with insecurity.

This new way of functioning has allowed, through consensus, a quick decision-making process on the choice, for example, of a provider to supply the company's intranet.

"In an hour, we were aligned," rejoices Virginie Guibout-Pironneau. Sociocracy accelerates decision-making while tending to eliminate "tensions."

Employees feel more empowered and more supportive of each other; they claim to "work better together."

Virginie Guibout-Pironneau's role is to provide everyone with the means to do their job well, relying on trust, but also reassuring and paying special attention to the quality of work life.

For such a method to be successfully deployed, first in one department and then more widely, several essential levers prove to be crucial.

First and foremost, the manager must set aside their ego. Virginie Guibout-Pironneau acknowledges that this self-work is not the simplest to achieve. "I had to learn to hold my tongue," she smiles.

For example, since recruitment is now done collaboratively, she does not have - alone - the say in choosing candidates. "I don't see anyone alone," she assures, "and my voice is no more important than anyone else's. When it came to hiring our intern, I shared a CV with my team that I had received internally. The team was interested, so I asked who wanted to accompany me for the interview. The team decided who would interview the candidate and defined, based on its needs, the desired internship period."

Gaining the trust of top management is also crucial before initiating such a transformation. Renewing it is just as important to maintain the existence of this sociocratic drop in a pyramidal ocean and ultimately hope to snowball. This support from the General Management is indeed fundamental, and it is necessary to regularly provide evidence that this initiative durably increases performance, the achievement of individual and collective objectives, or the commitment of the transformation team's employees.

Finally, it is essential to be accompanied by coaches or experts in the field. Virginie Guibout-Pironneau advises starting with light coaching. "Our first coaching sessions collectively set us in motion and proved to be particularly essential," she judges. This is before implementing more structured support that will extend over a longer period.

Virginie Guibout-Pironneau now hopes to spread this approach within FDJ, integrating interested employees to turn them into ambassadors in their original departments.