This year, three women from ENGIE took part in the 66 Miles programme, led by the open innovation consultancy firm Five by Five and the women’s incubator, Willa (formerly Paris Pionnières). After four months of intensive work, the year group from 2018 completed the programme on Tuesday 12 June with a big oral exam in front of an audience of ENGIE teams, personalities from outside the company, including Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for digital, and the press. Three women, each responsible for a very different project, inspirational and inspired, all of whom have adopted Isabelle Kocher’s motto, "the company is part of the solution... and not the problem".
Almost two years ago, over a shared coffee, Virginie Verdière discovered a group accountant’s passion for programming and gaming. A few months later, she succeeded in putting the developer-accountant in touch with an ENGIE manager with a one-off programming requirement. The idea for Skill'Lib was born. Since then, the project has grown and Virginie is planning to open it up to other companies. Encounter with an intrapreneur who is passionate about human relations.
What’s Skill’Lib, in a nutshell?
It’s a skills exchange platform between the company which has an occasional requirement, from 1 day to 12 months, and employees wanting to put their skills to good use, whether these are acquired from past experiences or their passions, and contextualized in the business activities of ENGIE.
It’s an alternative to temping staff or consultants, who represent a certain budget and need time to get acclimatised to the group. It’s also a way of exploiting the time of certain employees, to allow them to invest in projects that interest them and to participate in the growth and performance of the Group by exercising the skills they consider to have.
Some employees are 100% busy, but it doesn’t bother them to be at 130-140% capacity for 2 or 3 months because there’s this nice project, a bit different, which they want to participate in. It gives visibility to employees while providing managers with someone who knows ENGIE, who already has their own network, who knows the ENGIE culture and has the ability to cross-fertilize, to capitalise on knowledge.
It’s a tool for motivation and efficiency, and a source of savings for the Group.
How did you have the idea for the project?
I spent three years in the purchasing department and then joined the ENGIE Digital team a year and a half ago. Before that, I spent several years in the IT department of the group Thales, where I was responsible for the applications of the group. The starting point for Energy Bay is a study by ENGIE Digital of the digitalisation of the Group's industrial assets. The need to reduce the costs of our inventories by selling them emerged at that time. After that study, I took up this project, and my experience and my sales network were very useful to me. By talking to the operational entities, I discovered entities that needed to sell stocks that did not necessarily correspond with the needs of other entities. For example, in Latin America, there are parts of a coal plant for sale that ENGIE is not going to buy. Hence the idea of opening up the stock to other industrials and taking the opportunity to create a new service, a new profession.
Your project has already existed for a while. What are the figures of Skill’Lib today?
We launched a pilot almost 2 years ago. Today we count more than 570 employees who have voluntarily created their profile. More than 3,500 man-days of mission were exchanged, which represents the equivalent of 1.6 million euros that didn’t go outside ENGIE. Skill'Lib is also more than 200 missions posted by managers. In total, the 25 BUs are represented, either by missions or by employees.
What’s your professional background?
I trained as a lawyer, and then I went to a management school, EM Lyon. Then I had an interesting encounter, because my life is a story of encounters: I joined EDF-GDF in distribution 20 years ago, I arrived for an internship and 2 weeks later I was offered a management position in human resources. My task was to take over teams to transform them, to manage them. I also played an important role with a thermal maintenance agency. But I always had a flair for understanding and seeing how my work could be used to serve the business, strategy and operational teams to avoid wasting money or time, to really accompany them and be a driving force. Today, I’m in charge of the leadership development strategy at the Human Resources department.
Where does the name Skill’Lib come from?
It’s a combination of the words Skill and Liberty, the freedom to allow yourself certain things, the audacity of being in a transparent world, to make yourself visible in terms of skills which are unknown to others. In a way, it means: being free to display your skills!
Coming back to your intrapreneurial experience, what particular challenges need to be addressed when you decide to develop a project within your company?
I’ve realised that this is what I have always done since I’ve been at ENGIE: to step outside my job description, allow myself to get involved in other things to take the business further. I decided to change things from the inside. As an intrapreneur, you have the comfort of a salary and resources, but you don’t have the time; you have a job and a manager who’s waiting for results. You need to find the time to work, to brief the manager so that he or she trusts you to organise your days in the best way possible. You have to make it clear that it’s not a personal ambition you’re promoting, to convince the detractors that you’re working for collective intelligence, for human progress.
Apart from that, it also takes up a lot of free time. I often say that I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe Skill'Lib!
Now if you don’t believe in your problem and its solution, you won’t have the energy. This project carries me through all the difficulties I’ve experienced. I don’t do it for myself, but for the community. That helps to overcome things.
How did the 66 Miles programme go?
It all started at the People Lab organised by Valérie Gaudart and Anne Courouau. Then I did 2 days at the Possible Camp organised by Paris Pionnières – Willa in December, and my project was finally selected for 66 Miles. I found out on 8 March, women's day! The kick-off was at the office of the Secretary of State for Digital. We had 4 three-day sprints and intersessions after 6pm. Between these, we were still exchanging, we had work to do between sprints to move forward and arrive at the pitch demo day with a value proposition, a business model, the whole map of the project. I did lots of interviews, worked on prototypes using a start-up methodology, very quick loops and learning "on the go” which was very stimulating.
I didn’t know Annelise or Sophie, and that too was incredibly enriching. It’s important for there to be lots of us, from a variety of fields, to move forward. The support was important in helping us bounce back because it's a bit like a roller coaster this programme!
I would like to devote myself to Skill'Lib. We talk a lot about business solutions to illustrate the Harmony Projects; it's the social side that interests me. I would like to open it up to a whole ecosystem of SMEs, start-ups, and even institutions. We’re looking for new ways to work, by doing a spin off, outside ENGIE but with ENGIE capital and other partners. It will still be a product made in partnership, but it will also be a laboratory for organisations of the future. I was able to announce in my pitch that Salesforce was the first big partner to join us. I have start-ups who want to sign up, I have big groups too, this is just the beginning. What's important for me is to have people who get on board and who have same vision.
What puts a smile on your face in the morning?
Human progress, imagining a more harmonious world.
A few words of conclusion about the programme?
66 Miles gave me ideas, methodologies, it allowed me to take stock of some of the things I was doing. It's a chance to raise Skill'Lib even higher, to make it even stronger, to open up new possibilities. I was doing some things based on common sense or force of habit, and now I have a wide range of tools and methods to do things like an entrepreneur. Finally, it's a great source of pride; I went all the way to the end. That’s very rewarding.