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Interview with Arnaud Weiss

On the theme of People & Tech, the CEO and Co-founder of Hey Axel gets to the heart of what the Covid-19 pandemic means for keeping a team working together.

Arnaud weiss rond

people & tech

About Arnaud

Arnaud Weiss is one of the Co-founders and CEO of Hey Axel. He build this company in 2018. Hey Axel is an HR-tech startup helping companies to improve their onboarding and management practices.

On the other hand, Arnaud also teaches introduction to data science for public policies at Sciences Po Paris, for a master of public affairs. Thanks to data visualization and by theoretical and technical courses he teaches students how to leverage data to make evidence-based decisions. 

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My name is Arnaud Weiss, I am one of the three co-founders of Axel. We are an HR startup that works on two topics: the integration of new employees and management, particularly with use cases around remote management and first-time managers. I am also a lecturer at Sciences Po Paris where I teach Data Center for Public Policies, which is data science applied to public decision-making.

Pandemic, Management & Team cohesion

There were three major challenges linked to the crisis and remote work. The first was to circulate information since we no longer have this convivial moment where information circulates spontaneously. We had to structure all this. The second challenge was to develop the autonomy of remote work employees, a little more micro-manager. It's a basic trend, but we need to give employees much more autonomy and room to maneuver. More trust. Indeed, the third subject is commitment. What is a commitment? It's a somewhat ethereal term. I like to define it by taking the extremes. On the one hand, a highly committed employee is someone who will over-perform, who will go beyond expectations, and an employee who is under-committed is someone who will perform less well, who will be behind on his tasks, and will quit rather quickly.

Remote work, Employees, and Managers

So you have to know that we are not all equal when it comes to working remotely. The HEC professor Olivier Sibony theorized this very well. On the one hand, there are "digital robust", and on the other hand, there are "digital fragile". And so many parameters come into play. For example, typically the job: a developer is more used to working from home, he only needs his computer to work. So it's perfect. Whereas a salesperson is more complicated, he's not used to it, he needs to have contact with the customer. And even often, he is used to working in a team, having a lot of human contacts, so it's more complicated. That's one parameter, another parameter is seniority. Young graduates are particularly vulnerable, especially because they often come from the provinces and live alone in small apartments when they arrived in the city. They come from an environment, they were very accompanied. So these profiles will have to be accompanied even more. The conclusion is, indeed that there are real inequalities in remote work, and that managers have to work on a case-by-case basis.

Business, Practices & Standardisation

For the moment, nothing is set in stone, as we are still in a phase where HR departments, especially in large groups, are looking at each other with a straight face, waiting to see what the others are doing before making a decision. But for me, there is one certainty: there is no turning back. For a very simple reason, it is because employees have developed a taste for remote work. When we look at the Malakoff Humanis barometer, 86% of employees want to continue working but not in full remote, what they want is a hybrid. When asked how many days they would ideally remote work, the answer is an average of two. Again, this covers disparities as developers want much more. But let's not go into detail. In addition, Covid, the crisis, has raised the two barriers that made telecommuting impossible in many companies until now, which are on the one hand the adoption of collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. It makes start-ups laugh, but in many large groups, we were far from having adopted it, deployed it: often, but adopted it: we were far away. And the second barrier is the fact that business leaders no longer have the conviction that working remotely means less work, less good work. Because here too, several studies have come out. I am thinking in particular of the Sapiens Institute study, published in 2021, which showed that there is a 22% increase in productivity during the first confinement. So we have these two barriers there that have been lifted. We have a real desire from employees to work more remotely. And for me, there is no going back.

Perspectives, Methods & Sustainability

If I have one piece of advice to give, it is to focus on managers because we believe that managers are the keystone of the company. They have a considerable impact on the commitment and productivity of employees. So, for us, we have to focus on managers. We need to create a plan for managers and with managers, and see how we can equip them, and how we can train them. But we have to include them in the reflection. We have to include them from the design of the workshops. With them, it's very important. Otherwise, we end up with great processes that are disconnected from reality and that are not applied. So if I have one piece of advice, it's this. Build a policy for your managers and with your managers.

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