Transforming Conservative Organizational Culture

Interview with Celina Pagani-Tousignant

Q: What problem did you need to solve?  What was the burning platform?

The HR lead championing next generation initiatives of a major global retailer was tasked to bolster the flexible work practices in one of its most conservative business units located in Mexico and five Central American (CA) countries.

Q:  What was your scope of work?

There was a need to build a framework of inclusive work practices for these units. I had the pleasure of liaising between Home Office and the Human Resources (HR) project lead in CA, providing tactical support to help the retailer create a more collaborative and flexible organization, and be more competitive in the labor market, especially among millennials. I acculturated all materials from Home office to the context in Mexico and CA, reviewed documents in Spanish provided by the HR lead from CA to ensure alignment with the framework developed by Home Office, and wrote a report in English and Spanish with recommendations. Additionally, I designed/conducted a webinar in Spanish for close to 200 HR Advisors from Mexico and CA to inform and empower them on how to implement inclusive work styles and practices, their benefits and impact within companies.

Q: What was the biggest ‘aha’ you had during this project?

My biggest "aha' came after speaking with Home Office about their general approach to flexibility as well as their philosophy for jobs that are suitable for telecommuting. I realized this approach would not work in Central America because of the difference in organizational culture. There are no policies at Home Office; they keep everything at a high level. They give managers tools and leave it up to them to make decisions. This encourages an environment of open communication, no closed doors and trust.   

The solution for the client in CA was not about translating the Home Office materials. It was about developing an approach that would be successful in their context. We developed a two-prong strategy that consisted of a) the creation of a flexibility policy that followed the Home Office direction, but with specific guidelines for managers and b) the implementation of a train the trainer webinar for key HR staff that work with managers on a day-to-day basis, so they could be equipped to help managers apply the policy and motivate them to change their mindsets.

I acted as a bridge between cultures. Both organizations wanted the same outcome, but the road to achieving the goal for CA had to be appropriate to their own reality.

Q:  What was your proudest moment?

My proudest moment was at the end of the Train the Trainer webinar when positive and inspiring comments came in that showed people felt empowered to tackle the challenges ahead. 

Q: How do you know the work was a success…that you made a difference and had an impact?

I know the work was a success because: 1) the flexibility policy was accepted by the CA senior management and Home Office; and the implementation process began shortly after; 2) a much higher number of HR staff (200 people) attended the webinar than what was expected (50 people) which indicated a huge interest in the topic.

Meet Celina Pagani-Tousignant