The Startup Studio: HR innovation to ensure internal cohesion at Ardian

  • 04 May 2020

  • Talent

Reading time: 5 minutes

Whereas commitment by French employees has dropped (6% in 2019), Ardian is one step ahead! In 2018, the HR team launched a major internal event: the Startup Studio. Fifty-four hours devoted to inno-vation projects introduced by the employees themselves. The challenge? Generate new ideas, promote internal cohesion and pool employees from various departments around common interests.
The results from the first two events were outstanding and the human and HR objectives were met. To shed light on this project led by the HR team, Flavie Jean and Maria Stasse, Co-Heads of Human Re-sources, and Maxime Letissier, Human Resources Manager, answered our questions.


How did the idea of a Startup Studio come about within the HR team?

It all began during an HR team brainstorming four years ago. The aim was to consider collectively our HR strategy within Ardian for the next three years. We worked to find ground-breaking initiatives that could give meaning to employees and create value for them on a daily basis. And that is how the idea of the StartUp Studio emerged. It was supported by our Millennial Executive Committee before being ap-proved by the Executive Committee. The first event took place in 2018 at our Paris offices; the follow-ing year, we expanded it by inviting non-French employees. In total, around 80 employees took part!

What were your goals behind such a project?

Our first goal was above all human: mobilize employees around common projects outside of their usual context. In recent years, the company has developed considerably. There are over 650 employees to-day compared to 230 in 2013. It is therefore essential that we organize more events so that employees can get together and share ideas and opinions.
Another key goal was to develop new expertise by introducing employees to other working methods and environments. With the help of the coaches present, mainly entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, em-ployees came away from these fifty-four hours with real techniques and a new understanding of agile working, design thinking or even how to pitch a project.

Were these goals achieved?

There was excellent feedback on the “cohesion” aspect. Several employees told us they got the oppor-tunity to speak with people they did not know... regardless of seniority. It really allowed employees to link up: even those who did not attend reaped the benefits as the winning teams went on to test their project internally.
In terms of training, the participants appreciated being able to leave their comfort zone and develop new entrepreneurial skills. The projects chosen during the Startup Studio were launched in full within Ardian. The winning teams received guidance and support from external coaches specializing in intra-preneurship over a 6-month period.

Did you notice any other HR and human benefits after the first two events?

Yes we did. We received a lot of feedback from employees that this experience helped new recruits integrate more easily. It is actually an excellent onboarding tool to better understand the company and its culture. And as the employees came up with the project ideas, we were able to take on board their concerns (social, ecological, food, cohesion, etc.) and respond by letting them innovate internally.
Certain projects were very rewarding for the HR team. For example, the internal “Talent” app, which facilitates the sharing of job offers internally and co-option. Launched in France and the UK for the moment, it now simplifies our recruitment process. These employee initiatives also foster our corpo-rate culture: one of the winning projects, the “Green challenge”, has enabled us to become more aware, as a group, of our ecological impact and to better control it. It is now part of Ardian’s internal culture.

Is this event going to continue?

The Startup Studio is much appreciated due to its disruptive and unifying format. According to the em-ployee survey conducted in December 2019, 89% of participants said that they enjoyed the experience. The idea is therefore for this event to continue, as it boosts the sense of belonging and demonstrates entrepreneurial values both internally and externally. We are currently looking at the next steps and the ambition we wish to give to such events.


Example of a Startup Studio winning project

Project name: Ardian Green challenge
Project goal: change our consumer habits individually and the environmental impact of our offices collectively
Co-creators: Tamara Krzisch, Hadia Kebe, Jonathan Baldzuhn, Johan Coffart
Project achievements:

  • “Challenge  No Cup”: 90% reduction in annual cup consumption, i.e. 90,000 cups per year
  • “Challenge Zéro bouteille”: 95% reduction in plastic bottles, i.e. more than one ton per year
  • Employee awareness: organization of a World Clean Up Day in 2019

When we won the Start Up Studio competition for our “Ardian Green Challenge” project, we knew that it was only the start of the challenge. Changing consumer habits is not easy, but we were pleasantly surprised by how quickly people took to the project. The Ardian Paris office quickly joined in and took up the challenge by reducing its annual consumption of plastic cups and bottles by more than 90%. It has been a real success demonstrating how employees are eager to deal with environmental issues. It’s very promising for the challenge's next phase in which we plan to get Ardian’s international offices on board.

The “Ardian Green Challenge” winning team

Ardian Start-Up Studio 2019

Ardian Startup Studio is our intrapreneurial challenge. Open to everyone, it brings together teams from across the company to develop ideas that are good for Ardian and all who work here