471 Pages
English

You can change the print size of this book

Managing Careers at Michelin

-

Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more

Description

At a time of increasing debate over the advantages of careers in big companies, here is a view from the inside of what takes place at Michelin. This legendary company, renowned throughout the world but still with a strong family grass-roots identity, is a career management model.

More than a book about a company, this is an outstanding example of career management in practice, with its methods and tools, its successes as well as its disappointments. This approach to career management goes far beyond short term operational needs. It gives pride of place to each person’s individual qualities and potential to develop, including internationally.



In addition to an explanation of the “Michelin model”, the authors give their personal, often humorous angles on essential questions facing senior management and HR directors in large and mid-size companies:



• How to attract and retain the best people?



• How to share company values?



How to encourage employees to express and develop all their potential?...




And every employee will find advice on a wide range of career issues and personal concerns:



• To get on, should I change companies or stick with one?

• How to change career direction, how to construct an international career path?

• How to progress at the right pace, to reach my personal peak, and preserve my work-life balance?...

Subjects

Informations

Published by
Reads 4
EAN13 9782847694055
Language English

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0150€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

MANAGING CAREERS
AT MICHELIN

For our wives without whom none of this would have been possible.

Our thanks to all those who appear in this book, anonymously or
otherwise, and to the thousands of Michelin employees the world over who do
not, but have equally fascinating stories to tell. We are especially grateful
to Catherine van den Nieuwenhuyzen, Jean-Christophe Guérin,
Jean-Michel Guillon and René Zingraff for their advice and encouragement, to
François Blanc for opening the door and to Sylvie Gillet for pushing us
through it.

COLLECTION « PRATIQUES D’ENTREPRISES »

DIRECTED BY LUC BOYER

MANAGING CAREERS
AT MICHELIN

A Three Star*** Career Guide

ALAN DUKE and DANIEL BOULANGER

17, rue des Métiers
14123 CORMELLES-LE-ROYAL - FRANCE

er
Le code de la propriété intellectuelle du 1juillet 1992 interdit expressément la
photocopie à usage collectif sans autorisation des ayants droit. Or, cette pratique
s’est généralisée dans les établissements d’enseignement supérieur, provoquant
une baisse brutale des achats de livres, au point que la possibilité même pour
les auteurs de créer des œuvres nouvelles et de les faire éditer correctement est
aujourd’hui menacée.

© Éditions EMS, 2011

Nous rappelons donc qu’il est interdit de reproduire intégralement ou
partiellement sur quelque support que ce soit le présent ouvrage sans autorisation de
l’auteur, de son éditeur ou du Centre français d’exploitation du droit de copie
(CFC) 3, rue Hautefeuille, 75006 Paris (Code de la propriété intellectuelle, articles
L.122-4, L.122-5 et L.335-2).

ISBN : 978-2-84769-301-0

CO

NT

E

NT

S

Introduction ...........................................................................
French-English Glossary........................................................

I - The need for a career management policy........................
1. Company short term needs..................................................
2. Company long term needs....................................................
3. People’s needs ....................................................................

II - What is a career? .............................................................
1. Definitions ...........................................................................
2. Career ingredients................................................................
3. Shapes and Sizes ................................................................
4. The Four Stages of Career Management................................
5. Success Factors...................................................................

III - Bibendum’s Exemplary Career........................................
1. Origins: from Nemetum to Bibendum ....................................
2. Educational background .......................................................
3. Career Path .........................................................................
4. Values................................................................................
5. Bibendum’s Personality Profile.............................................
6. Bibendum’s Views on career management.............................

IV - Methods and Tools ..........................................................
1. Responsibility levels .............................................................
2. Pay structure .......................................................................
3. Manpower planning..............................................................
4. Performance appraisal .........................................................
5. Assessment of potential........................................................
6. Succession Plans .................................................................
7. Career Paths........................................................................

V - Recruitment .....................................................................
1. Who is recruited? .................................................................

9
19

27
30
34
41

49
51
54
64
67
80

91
94
96
99
118
120
121

127
129
134
137
147
163
177
182

189
191

6

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

2. What makes Michelin attractive?...........................................
3. Who recruits? ......................................................................
4. How to recruit? ....................................................................
5. Does the method work?........................................................

VI - Integration.......................................................................
1. History and traditions of SGP Stage......................................
2. Aims ...................................................................................
3. Target Populations................................................................
4. The management of SGP Stage.............................................
5. The Stage Programme..........................................................
6. The Stage’s merits ...............................................................
7. … and some weaker points..................................................

VII - Training...........................................................................
1. The importance of training...................................................
2. Three types of training…......................................................
3. … and three timeframes......................................................
4. The Training Organization .....................................................
5. Technical training .................................................................
6. General and managerial training ...........................................
7. Developmental training.........................................................

VIII - The Career Management Triangle..................................
1. Introducing the Career Management Triangle .........................
2. The employee population ......................................................
3. Management partners ..........................................................
4. The Career Management Triangle at work ..............................

IX - The Career Manager’s Mission........................................
1. Employee movements: pull mode ..........................................
2. Employee movements: push mode ........................................
3. The right person in the right post...........................................
4. Global dynamic solutions ......................................................
5. Close encounters .................................................................

X - The International Dimension ............................................
1. The four stages of internationalization....................................
2. Michelin’s worldwide growth.................................................

196
198
201
222

231
236
240
241
244
252
259
261

265
268
269
270
271
271
274
277

283
287
290
300
308

325
327
337
344
348
353

371
373
379

CONTENTS

3. Attitudes and opportunities ...................................................
4. Clermont revisited...............................................................
5. Cultural awareness...............................................................
6. Expatriation..........................................................................
7. The international career management network.......................

XI - Profiles and Practical Hints.............................................
1. Who can be a career manager?...........................................
2. How to get started................................................................
3. How to keep going ...............................................................
4. How to appraise the career manager’s performance...............
5. How to get out....................................................................

What now?.............................................................................

The authors............................................................................

7

381
386
388
394
420

425
428
438
441
455
463

465

471

INTRODUCTION

We decided to write a book on career management at Michelin because
it has never been done before. Authors have tackled different aspects of
what is a truly fascinating story: the company’s history, its technological
and sporting achievements, its industrial relations record, the Michelin
family, the hotel and restaurant guides, and its world famous logo,
Bibendum or the Michelin Man, but never to our knowledge, its approach to
career management. This is surprising, because Michelin’s career
management model, tried, tested and still as fresh as ever, provides answers
to many questions facing employers and employees in their search for a
more successful, more rewarding relationship. How, for example, can a
company harness all the good will, talent, and creativity of its employees
to improve business results, and how can employees, at the same time,
experience a greater sense of fulfilment, passion for their work and
respect for management and their colleagues while pursuing their own
career goals? It is time to end the silence. Here is an example to be followed,
not a secret to be carefully tucked away!

Michelin is the world’s leading tyre company, universally renowned for
its record of innovation, the consistent excellence of its products and the
strength of its unique corporate culture. While regularly criticized in the
past, in its French heartland, for its obsession with secrecy and its
controversial approach to union relations, it is admired the world over as an
organization which combines high performance with realism, discretion
and strict moral standards, and puts people at the centre of its thinking.

Michelin has an all-encompassing, Group-wide approach to career
management in which each person’s capacity to grow takes precedence over
the company’s immediate operational requirements. Managers have a

12

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

duty to develop their employees but accept that no-one is their property.
The Personnel function has a specific, clearly defined mission with
dedicated resources to find the best possible match between management’s
needs and opportunities on the one hand, and individual personalities,
competencies and aspirations on the other. Everyone at Michelin has an
identified career manager, independent from line management, to help
him realize his maximum potential over the long term, and in the company
as a whole, not just in the confines of a given department, skill set or
1
geographical location.

“Managing Careers at Michelin” looks at the company from the inside.
With thirty five years of service each, we are pure products of the
Michelin system (which does not mean we are round and full of air!). But as
international career managers for the Group, it was our job to make the
system work and help it move forward with the times. We will present the
policies and the thinking behind them. We will also give our personal
description and interpretation of their day-to-day application: methods, tools,
best practices and winning attitudes, with illustrations and real examples,
and a selection of our own experiences, both good and bad. Hopefully, as
“young” retirees, we are still close enough to remember but far enough
away to be (just a shade) independent in our views. Let us start with some
live action:

A few years ago, we were talking to S, a young man who had recently
joined Michelin UK as an accounting manager. He was impressive to say
the least: square jaw, closely shaven head, vice-like handshake, and
muscular frame straining to be released from his impeccable navy blue
pinstripe. Not quite the traditional image of his much maligned profession.
His speech was spontaneous, his manner direct, and he told a fascinating
story:

Having gained a degree in law at a respectable university, S had simply
run away and joined the French Foreign Legion, in pursuit of a boyhood
dream. His commanding officer was convinced he had committed
mur

1 - We use the masculine form, as opposed to the more correct “he and she” to lighten
the text throughout the book. We hope this practice does not cause offense. It is certainly
not our intention to do so.

INTRODUCTION

13

der or some other dastardly crime, but S assured him, and us, this was
not true. After six years of action in the deserts of North Africa and the
jungles of South America, he returned home, worked as an accountant
for three years then joined a medium-sized company as credit manager.
It turned out to be a high-tension, high-turnover outfit, and a year or so
later, because of his good results and in spite of his lack of management
experience, he was promoted to European credit manager, supervising
his ex-colleagues in a dozen different countries. He managed a year of
ferocious pressure and constant travelling before deciding there must be
a better way.

The reason for telling S’s story here is not to show that accountants can be
interesting characters (although this one certainly is). It is to explain why
he left his previous company and decided to join ours. He described how
every manager was assigned a monthly financial target to achieve, each
one more ambitious than the previous one. If a manager failed to hit the
target three months running, he was automatically and unceremoniously
fired. He explained that as European credit manager he had been obliged
to apply this rule to several members of his country-level team. In the
beginning this was done in the presence of his boss who, when confronted
by the victim with perfectly reasonable and sometimes touching excuses,
would systematically reply: “I’m not interested. You know the rules. You
failed. You’re out. ”This apparently was the only management system in
operation. There was no time out for personal considerations, help for
people in solving problems or straightforward listening. The money was
good, but words like coaching, training and personal development were
absent from the corporate vocabulary. Even if you could put up with all
that, there did not seem to be much of a future except by riding
roughshod over other people in the organization, awaiting your turn to fill a dead
man’s shoes, or being dead yourself.

So S was looking for a company with a future, one that would take an
interest in its people for who they are and not just what they can do, and one
that would offer opportunities for long term growth. He was not interested
in the soft option, civil service style, where security was guaranteed and a
cosy future mapped out even for the least deserving. He sought a serious
professional challenge but in an environment where a certain number of

14

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

basic human principles were stated and applied, and above all shared. He
wanted to develop at the right pace, and as a manager, help his people to
do likewise. He chose Michelin because that is just the sort of atmosphere
he had perceived during recruitment interviews. After a few months he
had no reason to believe he had made a bad choice.

S’s case may be an extreme example, and he was sufficiently intelligent
to tell it in a way he knew would appeal to his audience, but we have
heard any number of similar stories over the years and probably never
as many as now. How many people, especially young graduates, in spite
of the challenging, high reward possibilities offered by many companies,
feel there is something missing? We hear complaints that managers are
distant and unavailable for personal discussions, leaving their employees,
often working extraordinary hours, to get on with it. More significantly,
managers are rarely in a position to coach them on development
opportunities, and yet wield considerable power over their futures. In classic
hierarchical structures, they decide everything unilaterally, including
appointments and promotions, and there is no possibility of recourse to
another, less partial authority, even if it may have a better solution to propose.
In more complex matrix-type organizations, conflict can arise between
two or more managers on these same issues, and in the absence of any
form of credible arbitration, the outcome ranges from unsatisfactory
compromise to plain stalemate. Hopefully a good decision will be forthcoming
eventually, but after how many wasteful arguments and at what cost to
relationships and personal pride, not to mention delays in business
opportunities and the loss of hard cash? In the meantime, the people most
concerned are left hanging, frustrated by the apparent lack of action and
justice. In a final act of exasperation, they may end up voting with their
feet and walk out the door to seek their fortune elsewhere. Or, perhaps
worse in the long run, they elect to hang around, but firmly disillusioned,
only contribute the minimum necessary in order to survive.

In a world of fierce competition, where recruiting and retaining the right
people are often the keys to success, it seems worthwhile to explore a
concept of career management that is clearly diametrically opposed to
those described above. We are not going to expound on a new set of
theories and pious hopes which have very little chance of ever seeing the

INTRODUCTION

15

light of day in the real business world. The system we describe has not only
proved successful, but also stood the test of time over a period of several
decades in this company which has gone from provincial status to being an
undisputed world leader, and which enjoys an outstanding and fully
deserved reputation for the quality and loyalty of its people throughout the world.

Michelin is different from many companies in that its products still bear
the name of the founders, and until recently, the President of the company.
The family presence and the company’s roots in the historically remote
Auvergne region of France, where the newly-refurbished corporate
headquarters are still to be found, account for some of its characteristics and,
some would say, eccentricities. Its bosses have all been exceptional men,
audacious yet down-to-earth, approachable, ambitious for the company
but not for themselves, modest in their behaviour, and with a pronounced
sense of duty towards customers and employees alike. According to
2
French philosopher, Alain Etchegoyen, Michelin is a company with a soul.

We did not put “A Three Star*** Career Guide” on the title page by
accident or just to catch your eye. There are at least two good reasons for it.
The first and most obvious is a less-than-subtle allusion to the well known
rating system used by Michelin in its famous travel guides, for hotels and
restaurants (the Red Guide) and for tourist attractions (the Green Guides).
Three stars represent the highest possible compliment, as laconic as it is
unambiguous: “Worth a journey”. The career of a typical Michelin
manager, a succession of different challenges on a choice of five continents,
can indeed be likened to a journey of exception, filled with fabulous
experiences and mouth-watering discoveries, and giving the willing traveller
every opportunity to express his talent and satisfy all his tastes. But these
same three stars are also a reference to the way Michelin’s career
management policy works in practice, in the everyday world. They represent
the three principal actors --- the person concerned, his manager and his
career manager --- in what we call the Career Management Triangle,
each one of whom can legitimately claim to have star billing.

2 - Alain Etchegoyen, 1951-2007, intellectual and consultant to government and
business, author of several works on corporate ethics including “Les Entreprises ont-t-elles
une âme?” (“Do companies have souls?”) ed. F. Bourin, Paris 1990.

16

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

It would be wrong however to consider this book only as an exposé on the
Michelin system by two, admittedly fervent, admirers. It is also a practical
guide on how to implement an integrated global policy of career
management in any large or medium-size organization, private or public, that
understands the importance of investing in people, and it offers advice
to managers and professionals everywhere on how to manage their own
3
careers.

Career management is not an exact science, and it is difficult to do
well. But patterns emerge of what to do and what not to do in certain
circumstances: how to conduct different types of interviews, how to
create partnerships with difficult senior managers, how to tell someone
nicely that his vision of a future career does not necessarily correspond
with the company’s, etc. We are not brilliant academics or high-powered
consultants with offices in London, Paris and New York. We can only tell
you what we have seen and done ourselves, and the lessons we have
learned, often the hard way, over the years. We are not in the game of
selling buzz words, flavour-of-the-month theories, or quick-fix solutions.

Our aim is to share our experience, interlaced with a minimum of
theory, some homespun wisdom and a few funny stories, but against
the permanent backdrop of describing how a well planned, fully
integrated career management system can work, and what benefits it
can bring. We are lucid enough to recognize that this is one model
among many others, and that there are some down sides and
question marks in what we are about to tell. Nothing ever has been or will
be perfect and beyond reproach. But above all we are convinced that
the concepts we describe and the spirit in which they are put into
practice bring significant competitive advantages. This conviction is
not just based on blind faith, self congratulation or some form of
afterthe-event corporate devotion to duty, but on the fact that many other
practitioners, managers and human resources professionals, came to
look at what we were doing and usually left expressing admiration and
a fair amount of envy. We also have the direct evidence of thousands

3 - We fully appreciate that the model cannot be applied lock, stock and barrel in every
organization. Size, geography and the ability to invest in the necessary resources are some
of the more obvious limiting factors. But the principles behind it are universal.

INTRODUCTION

17

of Michelin employees and managers who love to criticize what we
did but would not trade the fundamental concepts for anything else
in the world.

FRENCH-ENGLISH GLOSSARY

We have written this book in two languages at the same time. We shared
out the chapters between us, then each one wrote his part in his native
tongue, Daniel in French and Alan in English. Then we swapped texts for
criticism, revision and translation. This method of working had a certain
number of advantages. Top of the list was the need for each of us to pay
close attention to what the other had written. We questioned style, the
choice of words, but more importantly, we checked the contents for
accuracy and added ideas the author had not thought of. We could also ask for
a passage to be removed or significantly modified. If the author accepted
suggestions from the translator, he was responsible for rewriting his
original text and the process started all over again. This constant interaction
certainly made the writing more fun, and the fact we rarely clashed says
something for our level of mutual understanding and complicity. But all
these comings and goings also proved to be our ruin, for the process was
unwieldy and agonizingly slow. Our only solace is that the result, however
severely you judge it, is undoubtedly far better than anything either one of
us could have produced on his own.

The translation is not word for word. Of course we tried to be as faithful as
possible to the original, but we preferred to grasp the spirit of what was
being said and express it our own way rather than produce a
word-perfect conversion which does not hang together well in the other language.
Humour is particularly difficult to translate because it is both cultural and
personal. If a joke did not work in the other language and we could not
find an equivalent, we dropped it. (This is probably not a bad thing since
most of our jokes are pretty awful anyway.) We made a special effort to
use the same idioms and style in our translations as we used naturally in
our original texts, in the hope you would not be able to tell one from the

22

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

other. We are a long way from that level of perfection, but we are not going
to make life easy for you by telling you which is which!

The translation from French to English poses some unique problems which
do not necessarily occur the other way round, because France in general
and Michelin in particular use words in personnel management which
have no English equivalents. Inside the company, it is so much easier to
stick to the French words because they are part of a corporate language
that everyone understands, even if nowadays the company is almost
entirely bilingual. Unfortunately, that does not help outsiders. You would be
understandably confused and justifiably upset if we were to rattle on in a
strange mixture ofFranglaisand pidgin Michelin.

We struggled to find English counterparts for several words and phrases
in this category, and the result is not always inspired. At best, the English
version is long and awkward, like “managers and professionals”
forcadres. Or there are several different translations of the same word because
no one English equivalent fits all the French applications of it.Métieris a
good illustration. In some cases we admitted defeat and kept the French
word because nothing exists in English to convey the precise meaning.
Les Grandes Ecolesfor example, not to be confused with the less
prestigiousuniversités,are unique to France.

The upshot is not all negative however. You who are reading the English
version of the book are getting this French-English glossary by way of
a free supplement! We give our definitions, but also our personal
interpretations of what lies behind the words, for some of them can arouse
passions.

Cadre:Acadrea manager or specialist who has, or is destined to is
have senior responsibilities, and enjoys a legally-binding separate status
from other salaried people. The actual level of responsibilities can vary
from one company to another (Michelin’s definition is more restrictive than
many), but is rarely below what we would call middle management. For
example, in a typical factory, the factory manager and his direct reports
(head of production, engineering, quality, etc.) would normally becadres,
but line supervision and technical and administrative employees are not.

FRENCH-ENGLISH GLOSSARY

23

So in a factory of say 1,000 employees, there are probably no more than
seven or eightcadresin total.

There are two ways of achieving cadre status: by educational qualifications
or by promotion. In the first case, a graduate with four or five years’ higher
education from a good university would normally be recruitedcadre(for
a graduate from aGrande Ecole, it is automatic) even if at the beginning
of his career he exercises responsibilities at a junior level. Promotion to
cadrewith experience, achieving senior responsibilities through comes
merit, and exemplary behaviour. The central idea is that acadreis a
devoted servant of the company, exemplifies its values and represents top
management. He enjoys certain advantages, but in return is expected to
be loyal, self-reliant and available to carry out his mission at all times.

We cannot translatecadre“manager” by,because manycadres, in
research, administration etc. are specialists and have no management
responsibilities in the English sense of managing people. Nor can we use
the word “senior” because the status (and this is the aspect which ruffles
Anglo-Saxon feathers the most) is awarded straight out of school to first
job graduates in very junior positions. The phrase “managers and
professionals”is about as close as we can get, but as often as not we stick to the
original French word for convenience and to lighten the text.

In French companies the distinction betweencadresand the rest of the
salaried population is formal and public. Some argue this is yet another
example of privilege in what is already an overly status-conscious
corporate mentality. Others extol the merits of being able to identify a dedicated
élite that the company can count on to defend its interests at all times. The
fact is the classification exists and is not likely to go away.

Métier:This is a far more difficult word to describe because it is used
in many different circumstances. Its first meaning is a trade or
profession requiring specialized training or an apprenticeship. But it is less
restrictive than the English word “profession” which is usually reserved for
intellectual occupations like law, medicine or teaching. Even the English
words “trade” and “craft” are subject to tighter controls, for in France,
serving tables, cleaning gutters and selling used cars are all “métiers”. The

24

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

Larousse dictionary definition goes so far as “any activity which allows
one to make a living”. In this context, the best general equivalent is
probably “line” or “type of work” as in “What line is he in?” or “What type of
work do you do? The word is used liberally and not always happily. Being
a parent has become amétier, and it is not uncommon nowadays to hear
fruit growers, cheese makers, wine merchants and restaurateurs being
referred to collectively asles métiers de bouche (“themouth trades”!).
Surprisingly, dentists, stand-up comics and politicians are not included in
the definition.

In spite of this increasing laxity, the idea of a bond between members of
the same professionalmétierstill exists, with common codes and rules,
and tribal instincts for self-preservation reminiscent of the old guilds and
corporations. A good example is Michelin’s sales force. Educated in the
sameEcoles de Commerce, recruited according the same strict criteria,
trained at length and managed day to day by area sales managers cast in
the same mould, technically competent and proud of the same products
they sell, they can be rallied behind a common objective and marshalled
into battle formation in a flash, as soon as a their supremacy is threatened.
We have translatedmétierin several places, very lamely, by “professional
discipline”, our only excuse being that it was a less abysmal expression
than all the others we could think of.

Unfortunately our problems are not over. By extension, the wordmétier
has become synonymous with the characteristics that members of a given
profession are supposed to acquire through tenure: know-how, expertise,
technical skills. Consequently, we must not confuseavoir un métier(to
have a trade) withavoir du métier(to have practical experience, to be
skilled). Finally, we are forced to acknowledge total defeat over one of our
ex-colleague’s pet expressions. Whenever we rushed to congratulate J-C
for pulling off another career management master stroke, a move of rare
brilliance, he would just grin coyly and say:“Ah, c’est un métier!”

Stage:Nothing to do with theatricals,stagemeans a period of (usually
practical) training or work experience. In some professions astageis part
of the certification process during or after studies. Many companies in
France offerstagesto undergraduates to give them work experience but

FRENCH-ENGLISH GLOSSARY

25

also to observe them closely, with an eye to recruitment after graduation.
Michelin is well known for the quality of its studentstages,offering work
experience at home or abroad. The most famousstageat Michelin
however is the integration programme for newcadrerecruits to the company,
called SGP Stage (see Chapter VI).

Gestion:Another difficult word. In many cases it can be translated by
“management”, but not always. It comes from the verbgérer:to
administer, to run (an organization) or to handle (a situation). In Michelin for
many years the commercial organization was in two parts, with sales and
marketing on one side and sales administration orGestion, in charge of
logistics, financial control, information systems etc., on the other. As far
as our subject is concerned, lagestion du personnelis the straightforward
equivalent of “personnel management” andla gestion de carrièremeans
“career management”. Agestionnaire de carrièreis responsible for
managing people’s careers. He is not necessarily a manager in the strict
hierarchical, man management sense of the word.

If you think this is confusing, spare a thought for the poor French. They have
no one word for “management” or “manager”. In familiar language, the boss
isle cheforle patron. More formally, a manager is calledun responsable
or more preciselyun responsable hiérarchique, often shortened, inelegantly,
to plainhiérarchique. In fact, more often than not, and much to the purists’
mortification,le manageris used to get round the problem, as isle
managementand even the verbmanag-er,to manage.Expressions like“c’est un
bon manager” or “il manage bien son équipe”have entered the language.

Gérant:Another word derived from the verbgérerand also often
translated by “manager”, it really means “managing agent” or someone who
runs an establishment on behalf of someone else or a group of people.
The owner of several stores for example might put agérantin charge of
each one. Michelin’s bosses are calledGérantsbecause they are
appointed by the shareholders to look after their interests. There may be one, two
or moreGérantsat any one time, but one is the senior partner, the
equivalent of President or Chief Executive in a “normal” company. We use the
title “President” when referring to the latter, and the accepted in-house
translation “Managing Partners” when referring to theGérantscollectively.

26

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

Michelin’s Gérants have a legal status and special responsibilities which
set them apart from the vast majority of French bosses. (See chapter III).

Les Grandes Écoles:These institutions are recognized asla crème de
la crèmeof higher education.Unlike universities, they are very difficult to
get into. After high school, students spend two years at special cramming
schools(classes préparatoires)which “prepare” them to sit the tough
entrance exams. Degree courses generally last three years, making a total
of five years tuition. Some schools were founded as military academies:
officer schools like Saint Cyr (equivalent to Sandhurst in UK and Westpoint
in USA) of course, but also the engineering school Polytechnique whose
students take part in the military parade in Paris on Bastille Day wearing
full dress uniform. Each year league tables are published to rank the best
schools. Polytechnique, Centrale Paris, Ponts et Chaussées and l’Ecole
des Mines regularly top the polls for engineering, while HEC and ESSEC
score highest in business administration (marketing, finance, etc.). All
these schools are in Paris.

AllGrande Écolegraduates are automatically and immediately entitled to
cadrestatus upon recruitment. Major companies jostle to attract the best
ones. Graduates fromles Grandes Écolesform an élite in French
corporate life. Old boys’ networks are powerful, and the name of the school an
employee attended sticks to him throughout his career.

So now you are armed to tackle the main text. If you run into passages
where the English is awkward, perhaps you will recognize the language as
“translationese” and show tolerance. If it is the original, we have no such
excuses.Bonne lecture!

I

THE NEED FOR A CAREER
MANAGEMENT POLICY

Before we plunge headlong into our experiences and recommendations
on career management, it seems only right and proper to explain why
companies should have a career management policy at all, and what that
policy should set out to achieve. For simplicity’s sake, and at the risk
of teaching grandmother to suck eggs, we can summarize the principal
reasons for implementing a career management policy in three
sentences:

• For the company in the short term, ensure that jobs are filled at the
appropriate level, at all times, wherever they are.

• For the company in the long term, create and maintain the best
possible reservoir of talent, capable of anticipating and rising to meet
future, often unknown challenges.

• Forthe people involved, provide opportunities for growth, through
continuous professional and personal development, so they can
achieve their maximum potential, at the right speed.

That is textbook stuff and in fact it is almost word for word what we wrote
1
a few years ago in an official policy document.Similar statements can
almost certainly be found in any “idiot’s guide” to HR management. But a
closer look at each one reveals they are loaded with implications.

1 - This was at the request of our comrades in Quality Assurance, for in those days we
were never ones for writing too much down, through lack of time or the fear that it might
come back and bite us.

30

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

1. Company short term needs

Nothing new here. This is the bread and butter of every personnel
function. All sorts of formulae exist for expressing the same idea. “The right
person in the right job at the right time” rolls off the tongue nicely and is
probably the easiest to remember. Vacancies occur in several ways. They
may be the result of a new mission being created or as a replacement
for someone vacating his post. The need for someone new is usually
expressed by the manager who wants to ensure an uninterrupted service,
seize an immediate opportunity for more or better business, or resolve a
problem by throwing additional resources at it.

The question is how to meet his requirements in the most effective
manner. Of course, the manager can go out and hire someone. But he rarely
has the time or expertise to do this unaided. So, if one exists, he asks
the recruitment function to do the job for him. A certain amount of time
elapses before candidates are presented for his validation, and when the
offer is eventually made, the chosen person may accept, or politely refuse.
If he says yes, then there may be a question of notice to work, holidays to
take and other delays more or less anticipated. When he finally arrives, he
invariably needs time and training to adjust to the company’s way of doing
things, and at worst, may even prove to be quite unsuitable. So, this
seemingly simple and direct approach, the one that frequently comes to mind
first, “Just go out and hire!” can in fact be fraught with danger. Moreover,
it can turn out to be very expensive. Over and above the direct recruitment
and supplementary training costs, the inherent delays in the system can
result in lost opportunities, reduced output or interrupted service, and a
very unhappy manager.

What if, in a large company, there are a hundred managers like the one
above, all formulating uncoordinated requests for outside hires and all
awaiting new recruits with baited breath in order to carry on the business?
No need to describe the resultant cacophony in the recruitment offices or
the acute (and totally unproductive) pressures on all concerned: phones
ringing off the hook, tables being thumped on, necks being wrung. Picture
the wholesale disruption to operations, the escalation of costs and the
disastrous effects on the company’s image.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

31

So let us imagine for a moment the existence of another player on stage:
someone who is close to the manager yet independent, knows the nature
of the job to be filled, has his finger on the pulse of the wider employment
context both inside and outside the company, and above all, has
knowledge of and access to all the potential internal candidates to fill the vacancy.
This person can help the manager weigh up all the pro’s and con’s of the
situation before deciding to go the recruitment route.

For instance, an alternative scenario to looking outside is to appoint
someone already in the manager’s department, someone he knows and in
whom he has confidence, even if the person does not have all the
characteristics set out in the ideal profile. Perhaps he can acquire them in a
reasonable time and be operational more quickly and with less heartache
and expense than the external hire. In addition, it could represent a good
career move for the employee concerned, and open up new horizons. Of
course, he will have to be replaced in his current job, and the manager
may put this up as a counter-argument, claiming the solution will be
unsettling and, in the final analysis, just as long to achieve as going outside.
In our experience however this is rarely the case. Managers of reasonable
sized teams, worth their salt, frequently have their own in-house solution,
and have already identified their preferred candidate. But the manager’s
choice may not be the best one available in the company as a whole.

Our independent advisor has an even clearer, value-adding contribution
to make in this situation. With his access to a wider cross-section of the
company, he can open up the list of possible candidates to include people
from other departments. In so doing he may be in a position to offer a less
disruptive solution to the manager and a more logical and coherent career
step to the person or persons involved. His presence can also contribute
to a smoother running of the transition phase, acting as a broker between
the provider and the receiver to negotiate mutually acceptable dates etc.
Furthermore, while we are somewhat loathe to mention it, he is also in a
position to prevent occasional acts of piracy. Some less-than-scrupulous
managers have been known to approach people from other departments
on the quiet and sound them out over a possible move without even
bothering to consult the employee’s current manager. Airport lounges are
relatively propitious places for this type of felony, but some may stoop

32

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

to doing it quite blatantly in the office or in the canteen queue. This is a
heinous crime, punishable by death (commutable to life imprisonment in
the more permissive regimes). But the very presence of our independent
advisor in the circuit usually has a preventive effect. With him around,
such conduct is culturally unacceptable and quite unnecessary.

We can only recall two acts of piracy or poaching by managers, and both
concerned very talented women. The first, H, was being considered
without her formal knowledge for a senior management position in another
department. She had already worked in the environment and knew the
manager well. The latter simply decided one day to jump the gun and
conducted what he described as just a friendly, off-the-record sounding
out of her willingness to return. In fact he talked about job content,
training, dates for the handover, etc. In anybody else’s language, he made her
a job offer. But H was sufficiently mature, worldly wise and familiar with
the manager’s little vices to detect what was going on and did not attach
too much importance to the incident. A little bit of complicity maybe, but
no harm done. The career manager did not to have to engage in damage
limitation. But imagine the mayhem if the lady had been someone with
less experience, had interpreted the interview as a commitment, and had
to be told later that the manager was out of line and her name was not
being retained for the position. As it turned out, H got the job. She was
unanimously considered to be the best candidate. The manager was not
made to walk the plank.

In our second example, the manager (not the same one!) summoned C,
a lady from another department, to his office and asked her point blank
to come and work for him. He did not describe a precise job, but made
a number of promises about future growth opportunities which he was
not entitled to make. His approach came totally out of the blue, and she
was extremely upset, all the more so because both she and her husband
were in discussions with the company at that time about opportunities
overseas. C had the courage to tell the manager he was off-limits and
immediately went to see her career manager. She asked whether the
company was backtracking on their previous discussions. She said she
could no longer recognize the company she had joined in the
manager’s conduct and asked if she should start looking outside. The career

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

33

manager soon got things back on track, and again maturity won the
day. But it could have been a close call. In the end the overseas
mission did not work out for a number of professional reasons, mainly on
her husband’s side. C was promoted very soon afterwards to a senior
management position in her own department and is clearly destined for
greater things in the future. The manager was hanged by the yardarm
(but survived).

So far we have mainly talked about filling vacancies, or “plugging holes” if
we want to be vulgar (but who needs career management to be vulgar?).
Sometimes the reverse occurs. A manager might need to remove
someone from his team for a whole variety of reasons: the person’s mission has
come to an end; the manager needs to reduce headcount to cut costs;
the employee has been doing the same thing for a long time and needs
a fresh challenge; he is a square peg in a round hole and would function
better elsewhere (be careful with this one for “squareness” may be the
outward manifestation of other, more enduring problems); he is unable
to keep up with ever-increasing demands; or he is just too good for his
current post and is worthy of a promotion which the manager is unable
2
to provide.Then again, the manager may just want to demonstrate to
his whole workforce that he cares for their future growth, in which case
one example of a deserving employee moving on is worth a thousand
speeches.

What does a manager do in such a situation? Does he make the rounds
of his friends and colleagues to see if they might have a slot for the
employee concerned? Does he simply show the employee the door, with a
more or less encouraging, ‘Look, sonny, I can’t help you, you’re on your
own’? Of course not, but he needs access to someone who can help him
find the best possible solutions and use his knowledge of vacancies in
other departments to manage the affair to advantage and find the most


2 - Experienced career managers soon detect when a manager is being sincere about an
employee having outgrown his post. Unfortunately, a small minority of managers are not
above saying this is the case when in fact what they want to do is unload an
unsatisfactory employee on to someone else, without having the courage to confront the problem
themselves.

34

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

appropriate placement for the employee. If, in the final analysis, there is
no alternative to leaving the company, the manager invariably needs
expert help to manage the process, establish a suitable compensation
package and accompany the employee practically and morally in the search
for an outside solution. So, whether the move is upwards, downwards,
sideways or out the door, our independent advisor, through his knowledge
and contacts, and through his impartiality, can be a precious ally to both
manager and employee alike.

It is time to make a more formal introduction of our independent advisor.
As you have guessed, he is a career manager whose job, in the short
term, is to find the best possible fit between the company’s needs and
all possible internal candidates, from the manager’s own department
and elsewhere. He knows the posts and he knows the people. At any
time a vacancy occurs or an employee move is being planned, he is
in the best position to recommend replacement candidates in light of
their aptitudes, readiness and motivation for the position. He is also
responsible for making the move happen, acting as an intermediary
between the releasing manager and the receiving one, as and when
necessary. If, in the final analysis, no internal solution is available or
appropriate, he will accompany the manager in his external recruitment
request and actively participate in the search process, or alternatively,
and fortunately in a small minority of cases, in easing the employee out
of the company.

2. Company long term needs

It is true that the career manager spends much of his time responding
to short term needs, replacing one employee with another in a given
position. This is because most management and professional employees
change jobs every three to four years or so, or in other words, nearly
one third of the whole population moves every year. Moreover moves are
seldom isolated operations. They come in cascades or chains, each move
triggering several others in its wake. This would normally be enough to
keep any self-respecting career manager busy all day and lying awake
most of the night.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

35

But the reasons for having a career management function go way beyond
this fairly prosaic routine. Company needs change with time, and the skill
profiles required to carry on the business must evolve too. Change can
come in many different guises. The most tangible kind is often
technological change, the development of new products and processes in
response to market demands for innovation or new quality standards. There
are all too many examples of companies going to the wall because they
were unable to anticipate and engineer technical advancement, or adopt
it when it came from elsewhere. We all know that not going forward in fact
means going backwards, and a company that stands still cannot survive.
The makers of radio valves who did not react fast enough to the arrival
of the transistor, or sales by correspondence companies that did not
anticipate the internet revolution, are among the most eloquent cases in
point, but they are far from being the only ones. Closer to home, we can
cite the American tyre industry. In the 1960’s, the major league players
in Akron, Ohio, did everything they could to resist the introduction of the
radial. They attempted to deprive their customers of a far superior product
because of the cost of converting their manufacturing process from the
old bias-ply technology. When they finally caved in to market pressure,
it was almost too late and the damage was done. Some brands have
disappeared and others have been eaten up by overseas competition
(Firestone by Bridgestone, Uniroyal-Goodrich by Michelin). Of the big boys,
only Goodyear had the means to finally adapt and survive. Michelin, on the
other hand, has been at the forefront of technological advancement ever
since its beginnings and boasts an extraordinary catalogue of
revolutionary breakthroughs in tyre technology, including of course the invention of
the radial. The important point is that these phenomenal advances have
all been the fruit of in-house inventions, by Michelin people many of whom
joined the company virtually straight out of school, and who progressively
learned their trade in the workshops, laboratories and testing facilities of
the company’s vast research facilities. Above all, they were encouraged
to use their imagination and express their originality at all times, even if it
went against the grain, because top management has always had a long
term vision, an investment strategy to back it up, and a personnel policy
to support it. This policy is based on nurturing in-house talent, urging
people to define their own limits in each successive mission, and offering
them the freedom to change direction several times in the course of their

36

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

careers. All this is part of a managed process, in which the career
manager has a proactive, central role.

It would be misleading to suggest that Michelin has never had a problem
with managing technological change. Of course there have been times
when a new product turned out to be unreasonably difficult to
manufacture in an industrial setting, or was too complicated or forward-looking
to be immediately acceptable to motor manufacturers. There have been
times when a new machine did not immediately hit target in terms of
output, reliability or cost reduction. But what counts is Michelin’s
extraordinary capacity for generating innovation from within, because it knows
how to retain the right people and liberate all their creative energy. Too
bad if some ideas do not always live up to expectations. That is the price
to pay.

It would also be absurd to suggest that Michelin has never been faced with
a deficit of technical competencies. In the recent past, Michelin has had to
go outside and recruit significant numbers of experts in ‘new’ disciplines
such as information technology and even marketing, and to a lesser
degree, in supply chain, communications and financial control. The internal
reservoir did not contain enough talent to cope with an explosion of
demand in these areas to beef up the business acumen of the organization.
One sometimes wonders how the company survived for so long without
them! But without for one second undermining their importance in today’s
business world, these disciplines are still, culturally speaking, ‘non-core’
and relatively easy to import. In the bowels of what is still fundamentally a
product/technology-driven company, future leaders in research and
development, manufacturing and even sales, continue to be raised in the nest.
3
Capturing fully grown eagles in full flight remains an exception.

The second and probably most significant form of change in companies
today is the change in organizations. This may be through a desire to
re-focus priorities, stimulate progress or reduce costs, or a whole host
of other reasons (including, dare we say it, diverting attention from other
problems). Growth, grasping new business opportunities at home and

3 - Birds of prey, however majestic, with wingspans of 2 metres or more, have difficulty
getting through Michelin’s notoriously narrow doors.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

37

especially overseas, constitutes a third major category. Whether
technological, organizational, expansion driven, or stemming from other, more
mundane motives, change projects all have one thing in common: they
are rarely successful if left to chance. Well managed companies
formulate strategies and time-based objectives to achieve their aims. Decisions
to proceed and at what speed are taken after comparing the resources
required with those currently available, and above all the company’s
ability to make up any shortfall on time, at the right cost and with the least
possible disruption to current business. The resources can be technical,
4
financial and of course, human.How many companies fail to achieve
their change-driven goals because they are unable to find enough people
with the right skills in the time allowed? Failure invariably stems from their
inability to predict the numbers and the skill profiles required and above
all, the inability to make them available as and when they are needed.
This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to do,
particularly, as in nine cases out of ten, there is not just one change
project to manage but several at the same time, all competing for the same
talent! How to determine priorities, how to arbitrate in face of managers’
simultaneous and often conflicting demands? Let us look at one or two
examples to illustrate the point.

The first is the now classic case of industrial expansion through
acquisition in a foreign country. Negotiations and the initial planning phases,
usually conducted in the strictest secrecy, take a long time and are subject
to a whole series of ups and downs before the green light is given to staff
the project. In acquisitions the numbers and profiles required are far fewer
than for green field sites, but impossible to determine until a thorough
inventory has been carried out of the existing on-site talent pool. And of
course, once the list of additional requirements has been drawn up, we
are already running late because the project is instantly live. Add to this
the difficulty of finding competent and willing volunteers to expatriate to
remote and often uninviting foreign locations, and the project is already
in trouble before it starts. The estimated ramp-up time, upon which the
commercial and financial forecasts have been made, seems more like a
pipe dream than a realistic target.


4 - Theterm “Human Resources” is taboo at Michelin and gives every good Personnel
man at Michelin the shivers. The reasons for this affliction will be explained in chapter III.

38

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

How to avoid or at least attenuate these difficulties? For a start, it is
important to involve the career management function in the project way
upstream, in the planning and inventory phases. But even before that,
it is necessary to have a career management function that is capable of
identifying all the individual potentialities in the home company, by
competency, by availability and by willingness to participate in this type of
project even before the project is born. In other words the candidates are
already identified before the need is expressed, like a baby having a name
while still just a twinkle in its mother’s eye.

Our second example concerns organizational change. In the mid-1990s,
the company decided to launch a massive re-engineering exercise to better
align the organization with the needs of the market, a high profile change
measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale. The pyramidal structure by specialty,
(product development, manufacturing and commerce, etc) was to be
replaced by an organization in product lines. The formerly separatemétierswould
merge into customer driven autonomous business units with one general
business manager in charge of each. This was a brand new profile for the
company, and the career management team at the time had to come up
with not one, but fifteen or so staffing propositions all at once. No-one had
the ideal track record of experience in all the main competency areas.
Engineers in production management would have to understand the intricacies
of marketing overnight, commercial managers come to grips with the rigid
constraints of manufacturing and finance specialists manage large
multidisciplined teams who were not used to working together. The only solution
was to go for the highest potentials already identified amongst existing
senior managers, almost regardless of their dominant skill base. That meant
the company was confident in their ability to make a leap into space in the
shortest time possible, with no run-up and no safety net. And that in turn
meant their strengths, and their capacity to develop at the speed of light,
were already recorded. The stakes could not have been higher. As is turned
out, and in spite of the inherent risks, not one of the selected candidates
failed to assume his new responsibilities. Lucky, you may say. No, the
‘system’ proved once again that it works, even at this level.

We recently heard of a different approach to major organizational
change. The source of the information was a senior manager in a

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

39

multinational petroleum company who was personally concerned by
what occurred. He described his intense suffering during the ordeal.
Having decided the new structure, with twenty percent fewer posts,
the company distributed the new organization chart, with no names, to
all its senior managers. They were invited to apply for the job or jobs
they felt most qualified for. It was an open race, a wholesale internal
recruitment campaign, where a manager’s closest friends and
colleagues became his bitterest rivals overnight as they vied for the same
jobs. Nobody was given a guarantee of staying in the company until
they had been selected for one of the posts on the chart, an exercise
which, as you can guess, took a certain amount of time to accomplish.
We can understand our man’s suffering. Just imagine the pressure
exerted on each and every person until the unlucky twenty percent
5
were shown the door.

What do these examples have in common, and what lessons can we learn
from them? Here is a list, not of the Ten Commandments (divine
intervention is a rarity in personnel management, although some of us do
hear voices now and again), but at least some strong recommendations
acquired through experience:

• Change is going to happen, for stagnation is death. So, be positive
about it.

• There are likely to be several change projects happening at the same
time, and whatever happens in one will have repercussions on the
others. Nothing happens in isolation.

• Theexact nature of change is rarely, if ever, known a long time in
advance. The unexpected will occur along the way, so flexibility and
rapid access to alternative solutions are essential.

5 - Any comment from us would be superfluous, but the following thought from Pierre
Dumayet, a pioneer of French TV journalism, is a reasonable parallel: “I once knew a
woman who had the bad habit of painting her children blue before throwing them out of
the window. It was this obsession which effectively removed all semblance of spontaneity
from her action that made her appear evil”.

40

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

• The company’s capacity to have the right people in the right place
at the right time is one of, if notthe mostimportant criterion for
success.

• Making people available when they are needed does not happen by
chance. It is a planned exercise, which starts as far upstream in the
change process as possible, and continues throughout.

• In order to staff a specific change project, there needs to be a much
broader system already in place, a full inventory of existing talent,
which gives the decision makers instant access to all the potential
candidates within the company, and subsequently determine if and
how many more will have to be brought in from outside.

• To set up such an inventory requires a detailed and intimate knowledge
of all the people, their strengths and weaknesses, their growth potential,
their aspirations and their constraints. It is not just a list, but an
ency6
clopedia, a Who’s Who, and an almanac of predictions, all in one.

• It is necessary to keep the inventory up to date at all times so that
no-one is missed out, the information about them is correct, and
estimations about their future possibilities, however subjective, are
pertinent.

• The information in the inventory needs to be as full and as
consensual as possible, therefore multi-input. But for consolidation and
confidentiality reasons (some information is dynamite in the wrong
hands), there needs to be a keeper of the keys, one central authority,
clearly identified, to set it up and manage it.

• Thisauthority should be in a position to reconcile people’s
potentialities with future company needs, known and unknown, across
organizational and geographical boundaries, impartially and
independently. A centralized career management function is best placed
to assume this responsibility.

6 - Proof, if it were needed, that career managers need to be well educated, move in the
best circles, and be able to read tea leaves.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

3. People’s needs

41

This is not a treatise on motivation. Studies already abound. One subject
that seems to get the ink flowing more than most nowadays is what young
graduates seek in their first employment and what determines their choice
of one company over another. As society evolves, and the employment
market continues to experience its usual ups and downs, so naturally, the
criteria on which they base their choices evolve too. Consequently a whole
industry has grown up around the theme of how employers need to adapt
their recruitment and retention policies, almost on a yearly basis, in order
to attract young people. “Handle with care” is our advice.

There are however certain well tested, almost universal observations which
apply to young and old alike. When times are hard, job security tends to
rocket up the list of priorities. When times are better and the employment
market gets tighter, pay tends to rear its ugly head again as a determinant
factor. This is still as true today as it was forty years ago. But who would
have dreamt in the 1960s and 70s that people would evaluate potential
employers on their trading practices with third world dictatorships, their
commitment to responsible waste recycling, or their willingness to offer
stock options? Nowadays, all these things, and many others, have their
rightful place in the reasoning process. But their relative importance when
it comes down to the wire is a matter for each individual to decide.

More relevant to our theme is the question of how people feel about the
concept of career and its importance on the attractiveness scale. In the
various reports and studies on this precise subject, we find a fairly mixed
bag, not to say a jungle of conflicting ideas. To simplify matters and avoid
too much hair-splitting sophistication, we will take a brief look at two
opposing trends and test them against what we have consistently heard
from the horse’s mouth, what thousands of employees and recruitment
candidates have told us since we started in this business.

The first trend (some might call it the modern or Anglo-Saxon trend, but to
avoid sterile debate over words, we will simply call it trend A) comes from
what is taught in certain business schools. “If you have not changed jobs
(for jobs, read employers) at least three times by the time you are thirty,

42

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

you will never get to the top”. Allied to this, and hopefully based on some
form of serious research, is a school of thought which says that young
people today want to decide for themselves what careers they should
carve out. In the quest for individual freedom and in the pursuit of personal
ambition, the employer is merely a rung on the ladder. His role is to
provide a profound yet fleeting work experience which will look good on the
curriculum vitae. He is just a bargaining tool for a better future somewhere
else. The employee/employer relationship stops there. It is a cold business
transaction. There is no affection, no sharing of concerns or values, no
building together of what comes next. The employee wants to be given
challenges and opportunities for development, but he must choose which
ones, for only he is master of his career plan. He certainly does not need
the employer’s recipes, nor even his advice and counsel. In a sense, this
is a noble attitude because the employee expects nothing more than what
is in the contract, and is totally self-sufficient. It is not the employer’s
problem, for example, if his performance is suffering because of a difficult
situation at home, or he cannot sleep at nights because he is in the wrong
job. Being solely responsible, he alone must find the solutions.

Unfortunately, the corollary to this attitude is often a parallel, but less
noble one from the employer. “We do not want to know who you are, what
you think and what you feel. We are only interested in what you can do,
and the day you can no longer do it, on your bike!” We are back to S! If the
company can accept the inconvenience and cost of high turnover, it will
almost certainly profit from the vibrancy and short-haul thrust of a hungry
workforce in constant renewal, but for how long? Imagine a football match
where the substitutes on the bench are all new signings and have never
played in the team before. If the coach brings on all the subs in the second
half, they are fresh and raring to go, but team play and tactics are sure
to fall apart.

The second trend (again to avoid emotive adjectives like old-fashioned or
Latin, we will call it trend B) consists of looking for a place where
everything happens in a calmer and more orderly atmosphere. It is a
comfortable, almost cosy arrangement between the two parties. Job satisfaction is
important, as are work environment and personal relationships. The
employer takes an interest in the employee as a person, not just a resource.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

43

In terms of career, the employer provides everything and decides
everything. The employee is carried along with the tide. The important thing is
to stay afloat, and the career will design itself over time, as long as the
combination of capability and opportunity continues to exist. This does not
mean promotion is automatic. There is still competition for advancement,
based on merit, however that is defined. But since the employer feels
ultimately responsible, he will provide a maximum of support to ensure
success: adequate training, coaching, and even the luxury of time for regular,
continual development. There is none of the cutthroat selfishness that
can arise in the previous scenario. The result is often a loyal workforce,
which translates into less turnover and therefore considerable economies
in recruitment and training. There is often a good communal, if not family
spirit, because people get used to one another, and do not feel in open
competition with their colleagues and neighbours. For the company,
because values are not questioned, there is greater homogeny in thought
and an enhanced capacity to mobilize employees in pursuit of common
goals. The team predominates over the individual. The downside however
may well be a tendency towards self-satisfaction, insufficient challenge
to traditional ways of thinking and a certain handicap when it comes to
producing strong, emblematic leaders for tomorrow.

Now let us pit our own experience against these two trends. What have
people told us? First of all people are attracted by a name, a product and
an image. They would rather work for a company that makes
high-performance cars or luxury cosmetics than sewage pipes or condoms. The
image factor is a whole amalgam of perceptions, covering the reputation
for quality and innovation, consistency in financial performance, presence
through sponsorship and responsible advertising, management ethics and
corporate citizenship. They do not want to have to apologize for their
employer. They want to be proud of working for him.

On a more practical level, they seek first and foremost an interesting job,
something that makes use of their knowledge and talent, but also gives
them a buzz of excitement. They want to give free rein to their passions, to
love what they do, and have a ball doing it. They want their contribution to
be evaluated fairly and correctly. Criticism is fine as long as it is justified
and comes directly, and from a legitimate source. They also want to be in

44

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

a learning environment, where they can continually experiment,
consolidate and improve. They expect their boss to be competent, and an expert
trainer and coach. They want to be at ease with the people around them,
free from friction and petty rivalry if at all possible. Above all they want to
be recognized for who they are, as individuals, listened to, and know what
they say will be taken into account. If the environment is clean, and the
conditions are modern and free from the most obvious health hazards,
then, so much the better, that helps with morale.

Finally, they want to have some kind of perspective. That is not
necessarily a career path all ready mapped out or a timetable for promotion.
They want to know that growth opportunities, vertical, horizontal or
diagonal, exist and will continue to do so in the future. They want to know
that they have as much chance as anybody else to be considered for
them. They accept healthy competition, but they tend not to appreciate
the collective good being destroyed by individual ambition. They want
to have confidence that the company cares about their future and will
push them as far as they can go. At the same time the vast majority of
employees are realistic in their ambitions and aware of their own limits.
They do not want to be put into a job they cannot do or be subjected
to pressures they cannot take. Similarly, they accept that not everyone
can progress at the same speed. What counts is that each person is
given the opportunity to advance, but not too far or too fast that they
break their necks doing it. There is nothing worse than failure...except
two failures.

So, when they see that the career management policy embodies all these
concerns, and is not just an abstract concept, but that there is a career
manager nominated to deal individually with their own particular case,
their prayers are answered. Of course they quickly become impatient to
discover what this same dedicated career manager is going to do for
them. But the fact that they have someone to talk to, personally and
confidentially, about their career and this person has sufficient clout to act on
their behalf is already a major selling point. As a result, they can
concentrate on being successful in their job, and not spend too much time and
energy worrying about the next one, and that of course suits the company
right down to the ground.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

45

While recruiting in the United States some years ago, we were mildly
flabbergasted to hear the following tale recounted by an experienced
production management candidate. He had arrived at what he described as
the number 2 position in the plant of a household name, multinational
automotive corporation. He could go no further up the ladder because his
boss was the same age as he and had just been appointed. The company
had another plant directly across the street, but this plant belonged to a
different division. He could not apply for a transfer from one to the other
even if there was an opportunity which suited him. He would have to
resign from his division then submit an application form to the other plant
as if he were just any other old Joe Blow walking in off the street. Net
result, he decided to change companies altogether. Not exactly a win-win
situation, and for us it sounded like something that could only happen on
planet Mars.

Our experience suggests that employee attitudes towards career
management are generally more in tune with trend B than trend A. We hasten
to add, in case you retained the adjectives we tried to avoid earlier, that
the employees concerned are neither old-fashioned nor exclusively Latin.
Our findings are based on contacts with people young and old, from many
different countries, including Anglo-Saxon ones, and they were expressing
what they felt, in today’s modern world. However, we must immediately
flag up two qualifying statements before you do it for us. First, a large
majority of people we have listened to were either Michelin employees or
were making an effort to become so. Their motivations might demonstrate
a certain cultural bias even if they did come from the four corners of the
globe. Second, companies who tend towards model A continue
nevertheless to recruit and retain people at least long enough for the business
to survive, and in some cases flourish. They therefore appeal to other
motivations which their employees consider just as important.

Our experience also confirms that companies which tend towards model
B reap a certain number of rewards over and above the fairly practical
issues of attractiveness and staffing. The first is undoubtedly employee
loyalty. This is not an abstract concept. It can be measured in retention or
turnover statistics, depending on which way you want to look at it. And it
translates directly into reduced recruitment and training costs. Michelin

46

MANAGING CAREERS AT MICHELIN

has traditionally had one of the highest retention rates for employees of
all levels, including management and professional, in comparable
companies. Some would even say too high, so limiting the influx of new ideas
and the questioning of old ones. And maybe there is some truth in the idea
that Michelin has attached too much importance to loyalty, and failed to
deal adequately with a small minority of people who have forgotten how
to perform satisfactorily. Again, it is important to see both sides of the
picture, but we feel the benefits of loyalty far outweigh the drawbacks. It
is a question of balance.

We have witnessed the power that loyalty brings to the organization.
Employees are at ease with each other and with the values of the company.
So teamwork is natural, and people often achieve outstanding collective
results, well in excess of what was originally planned or hoped for. This
is never more evident than when the chips are down, for people rally to
the flag, automatically and instantaneously. We do not mean to infer that
there are no internal squabbles or criticisms. Of course there are. But if
ever there is an attack from outside, Michelin people immediately man the
barricades and fight tooth and nail in the company’s defence. What price
do you put on that?

François Michelin used to tell this story:

On a building site teeming with activity, an inquisitive visitor was asking
the mason’s apprentices what they were doing.

“Can’t you see?” replied the first one. “I’m cutting stones and sticking
them together with mortar, just like my boss told me to do”.
A few steps further along, the second apprentice answered:
“I’m putting up a wall according to the architect’s design, and I’m really
enjoying it!”
Finally he got to the third apprentice, who had a huge smile on his face:
“You see, sir, I’m building a cathedral!”

Perhaps the religious connotations are a little overdone, even for Michelin,
but it is a nice story, and a fine illustration of how lofty ambitions can
motivate employees and bond them together like stones in a cathedral wall.

THE NEED FOR A CAREER MANAGEMENT POLICY

47

Allied to this collective solidarity, and perhaps as a more direct
consequence of Michelin’s approach to career management, is another
immense benefit: individual flexibility. Employees regularly move around the
organization, they frequently change not only from one post to another but
also from one discipline to another. From manufacturing to sales, from
quality to personnel, from tyre design to finance, nothing is taboo, in fact it
is encouraged. Just one little example to prove the point: our friend S has
now left accounting to be a production manager. We have found that this
environment creates a special mindset when it comes to flexibility. People
not only accept change, they request it. They want to have something
different to do. They are eminently adaptable. They go where they are
needed at the drop of a hat. In this way the company makes progress and
solves problems quickly. Moreover, the constant circulation of blood
encourages renewal and new ideas, thus limiting the costly and hazardous
business of transfusions.

Last but not least on our list of benefits, and again palpable but difficult to
measure scientifically, is what we can only call “Atmosphere”. Of course
people work hard at Michelin, put in unreasonably long hours and are
under pressure to produce results. Do you know a business today where
it is not the case? But in spite of all that, there still pervades a climate of
confidence and trust, respect for others, modesty, and willingness to make
sacrifices for the common good that make life a whole lot more pleasant
than in some other pressure cooker institutions we hear about. No knives
in the back, no guns to the head, no dirty tricks. Serenity is probably too
strong a word, but people get on with the job because they know they can
count on the company to look after their future. The rat race is a
non-starter. Outside observers comment on the positive atmosphere at Michelin.
Employee surveys regularly confirm it. And, privileged as we were to travel
extensively and meet as many people as we did, we felt it, day in day out,
all around the world. That is Michelin’s force.

In conclusion, let us return to the three simple reasons for implementing
a structured career management policy: company short term, company
long term and employee needs. There are no prizes for spotting that the
separation between them is entirely artificial, a device to give
structure to our thoughts. Short term considerations on the company side are