Q&A with Bernard Coulaty , Vice-President Human Resources Pernod Ricard Asia

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QYou recently published the book ‘New Deal of Employee Engagement: A Sustainable Body-and-Mind Engagement Model’. What motivated you to write the book now and what is the key novelty you are proposing in your work?

All along my professional HR practice in multiple contexts I always felt the power of engagement or disengagement was far superior to any other HR discipline, so I wanted to bring my own brick in the wall through an “engagement model” for 3 main reasons :

– First, there is an abundant literature around employee engagement, however most publications have a sole focus on organisations, not individuals. They give rules, tips and guidelines on how to engage staff with a corporate view. I wished to address individuals first, current and future employees, deep diving into the mechanisms of their engagement and inviting individuals to monitor it, rather than waiting to be “engaged” by their manager of the organisation.

– Second, I really believe there is a failure of the vision to maximise engagement through “carrots and incentives”. Engagement drivers are truly diverse among individuals and I wanted to explore a holistic view of the “body and mind” of the individual through a specific model: what dimension (physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual) does he engage, with what intensity and for what purpose.

– Last, unlike personality which has limitations in its evolution, engagement can genuinely change over time, this is why the body-and-mind model led me to define “engagement profiles” allowing individuals, managers and organisations to manage, invest in and sustain engagement over time.

QBernard, after more than 25 years in the HR business what in your view is the single biggest challenge HR faces ?

Clearly, understanding what is driving some employees to be fully motivated and engaged or others to “check-out” and become disengaged is at the heart of the HR function but also of the whole organisational performance.

Engagement in all its shapes (within organisations, the family, the city…) seems to be in crisis. In the western world there is a real disruption between employees and employers. In this context, creating “naturally engaged and self-motivated employees” is the real challenge for HR, I would even qualify employee engagement as the “new frontier” for HR, much beyond the currently acclaimed “business partner” concept.

After all, while other HR disciplines like performance management or talent management can be easily modelised in tools and processes, this is not the same for engaging employees which is a much more complex “alchemy” that does not rely only on the manager or even the HR policies.

QYour keynote at HR Vision is one of the most anticipated talks at the event. What can our audience expect from your visionary session on the future of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a too serious matter to be left to HR alone! So I would be happy to raise the awareness of our HR colleagues in the audience on 3 top priorities for the future of employee engagement :

– Help individual employees monitor their own body-and-mind engagement to reach wellness and full employability over time.

– Support managers and team leaders to better manage the diversity of individual engagement and address the team’s “Self”.

– Design an exciting “employer branding” platform to sustain organisational engagement internally and attract future engaged employees.

Employee engagement today has more to do with a “quest for the holy grail”, often leading to pain and disappointment. It is time to invent a new paradigm, a “new deal” based on “sustainable engagement” with a full imbrication of work and life, space and time, body and mind. This “alchemy” can help bridging the gap and reconciling individuals and organisations tomorrow.


HR Vision is the elite, boutique style event, where HR leaders gather to discuss core business strategy. Learn more and download the brochure here.

HR Vision London, 18-19 November 2015

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