“The iterative design approach for The Dunes, a co-creation process centred on user experience, is symbolic of the Group’s digital transformation. This connected and innovative space is a fantastic laboratory for inventing an agile, collaborative and open working environment that will help the Group to enhance its performance for the benefit of its customers. It’s more than a major building project, it’s a strategic project,” explains Françoise Mercadal-Delasalles, Head of Resources and Innovation at Société Générale.
A building that combines architectural vision with a strategic and managerial approach
Based in Val-de-Fontenay since 1992, Societe Generale decided to expand its presence there with the aim of rebalancing and optimising its location strategy in the Ile-de-France area between the east and west of Paris.
The project gave rise to a competition, which was won by the architect Anne Démians in 2011. While adhering to the financial constraints, the architect wanted to take an alternative approach to the building, with a space designed FOR the occupants.
A low-rise construction, open and horizontal, the complex comprises five buildings within three structures, and is linked by a road on a mezzanine level where all the services for the occupants are located. Very few companies have a building project of this scale constructed for themselves, especially with such ambitious objectives in terms of technological innovation and environmental certification (HQE and LEED).
The building is also intended to include and nurture the technological developments that have transformed habits through greater mobility and created new ways of interacting. For Societe Generale, digital technology represents an opportunity to transform and enrich relationships with customers and employees. Faster digital transformation is a strategic priority for the Group, which is mainly based on collective intelligence. It means giving employees the tools and resources to foster creativity, so that we can offer the best services to our customers.
A building and tools to enhance collective intelligence and the working environment
Taking inspiration from the world’s most innovative companies such as the web giants and start-ups, and in line with the principles that reflect the Group’s culture, The Dunes is a technology hub where two-thirds of the occupants work in technology, particularly on infrastructure and applications for Societe Generale’s businesses and central departments.
The building has been designed as a cross-functional technology hub, a place to develop synergies and generate innovation between the DATA, IT security and IT systems architecture teams and the departments that work closely with these tech teams, and where Agile and Fast IT methodologies can be deployed.
As a fully connected building, The Dunes offers employees a wide variety of spaces in which to work and experiment. Employees no longer have to stay in the same place; they can choose where to work depending on their needs, in one of the different areas of the building, or in another building, or at home.
Located at the mezzanine level and linking the five buildings, La Vallée offers a lively place to meet, along with a broad range of services over an area of 14,000 m². It has cafes, health and fitness facilities, a technical assistance stand and a bank branch, as well as a games room and places for listening to music. La Vallée leads out to several tree-lined and landscaped patios where people can take a break or do some work. Le Plateau, a space measuring 1,000 m2, hosts internal and external start-ups and enables employees to immerse themselves in an innovative environment.
From a building project to a mission statement, in the hands of employees
One of the distinguishing features of this building project lies in the fact that its design and construction were simultaneous, in order to involve its future occupants.
The project team was structured in an innovative, collaborative and cross-functional way, with the User Committee, comprising employees - the key drivers of the Group’s digital transformation - at its heart. The User Committee worked closely with the other committees (change management, HR-labour relations, communications and construction) on the layout, technologies and uses for The Dunes and on rethinking working and management methods.
For example, the User Committee suggested flexible working based on desk-sharing to facilitate and encourage mobile and independent working and teleworking to improve the working environment. Flexible working heightens collective performance by promoting the circulation of information, the generation and sharing of ideas, and the reconfiguration of different areas depending on the activity and type of project working required. In the spirit of Test and Learn, 500 pioneers tried out flexible working in the la Défense buildings prior to the move to The Dunes.
The building project thus became a kind of mission statement, with a digital focus for working and management methods, in line with our company’s development and our employees’ aspirations.
The role of HR: supporting the change
These new building attributes and digital tools are creating new ways of interacting that are impacting the way we work. Ways of working on the move and working together are emerging and revolutionising our habits to help the Group advance its digital transformation. They are encouraging the creation of hybrid teams with greater mobility and independence, in a flatter organisation.
These developments are prompting more general reflections in order to help employees and managers to adopt this new working environment. The Human Resources teams are putting in place a three-stage system to support the change.
The first stage is the questioning phase, as the new concepts of autonomy, mobility and empowerment raise questions over the methods for organising work or managing a team. The Group is therefore working on how to adapt to this cultural change, specifically for managers, with the aim of creating a framework together for these new working methods.
The second stage involves a Test & Learn exercise, for example, using pioneer employees, focus groups for considering alternative ways of working, or test areas. A mobile app that can be used to provide regular feedback is currently being tested.
In the last stage, the sharing and analysis of feedback and good practice will enable these new ways of working to be integrated more widely into the management culture and to improve collective performance.
The Dunes: open spaces and art...
To complete the design for the car park at The Dunes, the Group sought out the creativity and talent of eight street artists following a call for project proposals: TAKT and SUEB from the 3HC Collective, Romain Froquet, the OnOff Collective, TETAR, Goddog, Mr. XXX and STOUL. The artists painted huge frescos in the building complex’s 5,000 m2 car park, which reinvented the area’s design. This initiative comes under the Group’s sponsorship policy for the arts, in particular, the Société Générale contemporary art collection.
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