Being an inspiring leader means understanding what it takes for your colleagues to be a daughter or a son, a sister or a brother, a spouse or a companion, and so much more outside of work, as well as their professional métier.
The HR Digest: You have stated several times that “leaders should connect with employees personally, even if it means sacrificing the company’s productivity time.” Why do you believe this is important as a CHRO?
Claire Isnard: I trust that personal connection powers people’s engagement with each other, fueling their productivity as a result. At Chanel, we see each other as individuals, not just co-workers. We nurture a culture that believes in the power of human interaction. We are better collaborators, managers, and colleagues when we can appreciate the goals, ambitions, and challenges of the people we work with in and out of the office. Listening to each other is a basic condition for people to thrive, to be happy, and to perform. From my own experience, personally connecting with my teams has made me a better leader and has helped me develop stronger, more effective teams. Being an inspiring leader means understanding what it takes for your colleagues to be a daughter or a son, a sister or a brother, a spouse or a companion, and so much more outside of work, as well as their professional métier. Empowering people to work in ways that suits their full lives, not just their work lives, will bring the best out of them and will allow them to get the best out of you as a leader.
Being Chanel’s CHRO for 14 years, what is your take on transparency for employee rights? And how can you bring that into an organization?
Our people are our most important resource, and we take seriously our position as a responsible employer to protect our people and the people we work with. We deliver this commitment through five key areas: ensuring fair and equitable opportunities for our people; supporting learning and development in and outside the House; building an environment of trust through transparent communication to our people globally and within their métier or market; accountable leadership; and health, wellness and safety for all, from psychological safety to flexible working.
What was the most challenging yet rewarding decision you had to take in your career?
The decision to come to Chanel. Before Chanel I had never worked in HR or the luxury sector and came from consulting. But I have always been driven by working with progressive leaders who want to have a positive impact on people and business, and who give others a chance to learn and try new things. I wanted to be part of extending that philosophy across Chanel, an independent company that is committed to human potential. The past 14 years have been an honour and a joy: Chanel has opened my eyes to the warmth, inclusivity, progressiveness, and excellence of people working across the House. The biggest reward has been developing a culture and experience inside that is as beautiful as the brand people see on the outside. This is what guides our People mission every day. We continue to be grounded and progressive on that mission, and personally I want to always feel that I’m challenging myself to keep delivering that experience to our people now and in the future.
What according to you is the most effective non-cash motivator?
Dynamic and visionary leadership that everyone can feel inspired by and trust. At Chanel, this has created an atmosphere of genuine openness, thoughtfulness, and excellence. We are proud of a culture that has been nourished by the magnificent brand for over 100 years. Everyone at Chanel – regardless of whether they work in a boutique, creation studio, or office, or regardless of what métier or geography they work in – plays a valuable role in elevating the brand. Since the beginning of the company, our people have nurtured the dream around the Chanel brand and they will continue to propel us forward. This ranges from the creative teams constantly reinventing the Chanel codes in our creations, to the people in our boutiques curating client experiences unlike anywhere else, to the people in Foundation CHANEL doing essential work to create the conditions for women and girls to be free to shape their own destinies. Everyone at Chanel is part of building the dream for the brand. It is our leadership and our culture that creates the conditions for everyone to contribute, individually and collectively. We are proud of bespoke internal programs like [email protected] that encourage people to develop with their managers and leaders career paths that allow them to maximize their strengths and passions.
Many people believe that their company is diverse, but they still don’t feel included. What according to you a company can do to make sure that both D&I are followed and that all employees feel that they belong?
The sense of belonging is critical to personal growth. I believe in the power of bringing people together who aren’t alike: different backgrounds, different perspectives, different personalities, and different lifestyles. To nurture a sense of belonging, at Chanel we are committed to creating the conditions for everyone, at every level, to feel respected, trusted, have a voice, and be exposed to new opportunities. For example, our progressive hiring and sourcing techniques have been designed to proactively reach people who may never have worked in luxury before. Some of the best people who have joined our team in London in recent months have brought completely new skills and ways of thinking that we wouldn’t have been able to find by looking inwardly at the luxury sector alone. We will continue to champion women across the business and in executive roles. Today we have 64% of our senior positions which are filled by women and 45% of our executive leadership team are female.
Global Chief People & Organisation Officer, Chanel
Claire Isnard is the Global Chief People & Organisation Officer at Chanel. She is committed to fostering a culture that promotes diversity and inclusion and has built a global HR organization that supports the company’s 28,000 employees. Claire is a member of Chanel’s Executive Leadership Team and sits on the Nomination and Remuneration Committee of the Chanel Board and the Board of Foundation CHANEL. Before joining Chanel, Claire spent 20 years in management roles in consulting, advising global clients and providing thought leadership on business and people strategies. She was also President of ORSE, a non-profit corporate social responsibility firm and was awarded the honor of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the French government for her distinguished civil service.
This profile was published in the January 2023 issue of The HR Digest.