« I have the firm desire to start a new professional challenge! » : interview with Hugo Colignon, HR Business Partner Group

Le 06/04/2023, par Rayene Imane Chikhi

Rayene Chikhi: Can you introduce yourself

Hugo: I'm Hugo Colignon, I'm 33 years old and I joined Smile Group as Group HRBP on March 13th. I currently have more than 9 years of experience in the HR function, where I have held both transversal and generalist positions as well as operational positions. I'm recently back from 4 years of expatriation in Taiwan, and after a few small reverse culture shocks (Parisian transports... 🙂 ), I rediscovered with pleasure (and without irony) the joys of being back home.

Rayene: A few words about your career path?

Hugo: I first held a position as a HR Project Manager at Orange Business Services, with missions related to employee relations, talent and career management, HR data controlling, and issues related to health and safety at work, on a multi-subsidiary scope of 1500 people mainly in France. I then had the chance to join Fime, a former Orange subsidiary, where I discovered the richness of an international environment. I started as an HR Project Manager in charge of the deployment and management of projects and processes related to HR data, evaluation and mobility, sometimes in France, sometimes at group level. In 2016, I officially took on cross-functional group functions, working with the HR, Finance and IT departments and teams of the various subsidiaries in France, Canada, the USA, the UAE, India, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China. For the past 6 years, I have been a Business Partner, reporting to the Group HR Director, responsible for the coordination and deployment of HR policy and the harmonization of practices, tools and processes in the areas identified as strategic. In particular, I worked on international HR development and the deployment of processes around compensation and talent management. At the same time, I also held the position of HRBP for the MEA region (Dubai), but also for the APAC region (Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China) in interim management. 

Rayene: So you're no stranger to the digital sector! Can you tell us a little more about it?

Hugo: Indeed, I would even say that joining Smile is a sort of return to my roots, since the environment I knew at OBS was essentially IT Services, and also multi-subsidiary, resulting exclusively from external growth. It is still in the field of IT engineering, but in the electronic payment sector, where I spent most of my career, in a matrix, international and multicultural context.

Rayene: Why did you come back to France?

Hugo: At the risk of shocking some of my fellow French people, it's not for the cheese 😅. It's first of all the firm desire to start a new professional challenge! And then there are more personal factors. Taiwan was a sort of "out of this world" universe during the pandemic since the measures in place, including very strict quarantines at the entrance, preserved the island from covid for almost two and a half years. So we were very privileged, life never really stopped, we didn't have any lock downs. But the counterpart was the isolation from the rest of the world since it was difficult to get in and out. So coming back to France would of course allow me to be closer to my family and friends.

Rayene: How did you get to Smile? 

Hugo: First and foremost, it was Smile's context and future projects that made me want to join Smile. It's a mature group from a business point of view, a leader in Europe in the field of Open Source, present in 9 countries, and increasingly turned towards the international market. Although I am a pure HR generalist, I nevertheless recognize myself in a specialty that is the deployment of international HR projects, and through this, the cross-functional collaboration with all departments, but also and above all, collaboration between countries and between subsidiaries which, although part of a group, are rich in their culture and history. This obviously heralds exciting projects and partnerships! I also recognize myself very much in the spirit of a service company. Every employee and every manager is an internal customer for whom I am committed to developing the most satisfactory and optimal solutions to address their needs.

Rayene: What are your main missions at Smile

Hugo: As the Group HRBP, reporting to Luc Fayet, Group HR Director, my mission is to deploy global and transversal HR initiatives in line with the Group's strategic objectives in terms of management, development, and retention of our human capital. In other words, to deploy new processes and tools with the aim of growing talent within the Group, via career paths, skills development and internal and international mobility, but also to reinforce Smile Group's attractiveness to future Smilians through the employer brand. To fulfill my mission, I will leverage the support and expertise of all HRBPs, recruitment and communication teams, as well as  the managers and operational staff in the various subsidiaries and Business Units.

Finally, I will be supporting the European subsidiaries (especially Benelux and Switzerland) as an HR Business Partner, in order to assist managers and help structure an emerging HR function, while of course including them in all the rollouts of new Group processes.

Rayene: Quels sont les enjeux de ton poste ? 

Hugo: The Group HR function was created at the end of 2022 in order to serve Smile's strategic ambitions at the level of all the subsidiaries, in order to get the best out of the men and women who are our strongest asset. Luc Fayet, Group HR Director to whom I report, has identified the main challenges, that are our attractiveness (making Smile attractive to talent in a context of high tension), retention (building loyalty among our Talents, helping them to grow, and offering them the best possible employee experience) and finally the development of these Talents within the Group. The degree of maturity of the HR function and tools varies greatly from one subsidiary to another, and some are eager to leverage on any existing tools that could benefit their teams and the growth of their people. In the current context of expansion in Europe, it has become essential to give a group-wide coherence to human resources management, through the harmonization of certain processes, and the creation of bridges between skills, professions and also geographies. Each employee must be able to understand and visualize all the possibilities and how they will be able to accomplish and continue to grow within the Group, what career development possibilities they have, what skills they should develop to achieve this objective, and to be aware of open positions in order to have the opportunity to apply internally. In a way, I aim to be the spearhead of the Group HR function, to coordinate and implement the various initiatives. In this perspective, each entity, from the most historical like Smile France, to those that joined us more recently like Synotis or creativestyle, will be able to contribute, as we will rely on the strengths of each branch to offer global HR solutions that will bring out the best in our people.