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The Champion of Transformation

The Champion of Transformation

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

June 26, 2019

The meaningful impact of HR across Havas' global network

"Every day when I go to work I smile. It’s not because every day is fantastic, it’s just because every day I am happy. I feel lucky that I have a job in an industry which is very exciting and is at the intersection of every business through our brands."

Céline Merle-Béral, Chief Human Resources Officer of Havas Media Groupand Havas Creative Network, shares how she went from the legal department to human resources, what her new role means to her, and what everyone gets wrong about HR. 

 

Tell us about what drives you.

I’ve been part of this company since 1997. I love this group and I love the people. What I like is to be a part of innovation, to learn, and make new things happen. I think for HR it’s important to be able to support the business and support this kind of growth mindset. 

How did you start your career? 

I joined Bolloré in 1997 as a lawyer in the legal department. It was very boring, so after one year I asked my boss to work in a venture capitalist initiative. We invested in startups, and I started to learn that it’s about people not about finances. Then I was asked to move from VC to television and I launched TV, radio, and movies. I was in charge of the antennas and was a commentator on a poker show. The channel was running 17 hours of live TV a day, and I learned what it is to launch something. In that process, you accept not being ready and you just do it. You accept the pressure of being criticized and looking ridiculous, and after time you improve. Once you learn this, you can apply it to anything. After doing this a while and after some changes in the global media scope at Havas, I asked to come back to HR which I had studied before law. I had to refresh my memory and train, and now I’m responsible for our Creative Global Network as well as our Media Group.

What have been your biggest career challenges and your biggest accomplishments, so far?

One of the biggest challenges is to learn to adjust to any culture. When your responsibilities become global, you have to communicate across cultures. When you address key challenges and personal challenges with people across cultures, you have to communicate with a level of quality. This is a challenge every day, but it is a very exciting challenge. I think I’m doing OK even though I am always learning, which is a component of the role.

I like to receive a pitch and then I just do it. Project Mode is something I enjoy. One of my biggest accomplishments is TalentSpace. It is a tool for HR, but really it helps us manage people. It’s like an internal LinkedIn, which is good for us, for the people, and for the clients because it helps us build the best teams.  

Why Havas?

Every day when I go to work I smile. It’s not because every day is fantastic, it’s just because every day I am happy. I feel lucky that I have a job in an industry that is very exciting and is at the intersection of every business through our brands. It’s challenging and you have to be part of a value chain. It’s fantastic to work with great people, and it’s an honor to connect with smart people as we try to improve situations and ourselves. 

"When you lead something and you are in charge you have to know why you are doing everything you’re doing."

In addition to heading up HR for the Media Group, you’re also taking on the new role of Chief HR Officer for the Creative Network. What excites you about this new opportunity?

We build Villages. If we cannot connect in all directions and through all the layers it’s difficult for this to become a reality. I want to build consistency within the HR strategy. What we do for Media cannot be undermined by what we do for Creative or vice versa. We must build the best for all sides and spread it throughout the company. 

What’s something everyone gets wrong about HR?

That it’s administrative work. To be in HR you need to understand the business, you need to support transformation, and you need to be able to justify for your clients what you’re doing for your people. Especially at Havas, what we provide is people to work for our clients. So what we do for our people and how we treat them is a strength or a weakness. More and more, prospective clients are requiring us to demonstrate what we do for our people. Happy people, happy clients, and happy people do good work. 

What are you really good at?

Convincing people to join Havas. 

What do you hope to get better at?

Organization. 

How do you inspire others?

I try to be an example. I’m not perfect, but it’s difficult to expect something from your team if you yourself don’t do it. The meaningfulness that is now a strategy now for the group is something I’ve always pushed. If you can’t express the meaning behind what you do—don’t do it. When you lead something and you are in charge, you have to know why you are doing everything you’re doing. 

What inspires you?

Other people. I am inspired by listening to our leadership team, by the fact that everything is possible and we believe in something. We’re not trying to make people spend money on things they don’t need—I wouldn’t want to be part of that. The impact of a media and creative agency on a brand can be huge for people, but you need the brand to do something other than sell.  

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

My role is more business oriented; transformational. Client pitches, benefits packages, and tools are my focus, and I’m always working on how we modernize HR and how we attract people and convince them to join the business. 

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that 80% of the problems you are asked to solve, will solve themselves. Don’t react, don’t be the hero. If you just do nothing, wait, and wait and think about how you are going to solve the problem, 80% of the time it will solve itself during that period. 

What’s the last piece of content you binged?

Misty! I’m sure you haven’t seen it—no one has. It’s on Netflix and it’s about a woman who is making a news show in Seoul, Korea. She’s very smart and dealing with traditional high society in Korea. You dive into the Korean culture, but there’s only one season. It’s great, it’s fantastic! 

"Every day when I go to work I smile. It’s not because every day is fantastic, it’s just because every day I am happy. I feel lucky that I have a job in an industry which is very exciting and is at the intersection of every business through our brands."

Céline Merle-Béral, Chief Human Resources Officer of Havas Media Groupand Havas Creative Network, shares how she went from the legal department to human resources, what her new role means to her, and what everyone gets wrong about HR. 

 

Tell us about what drives you.

I’ve been part of this company since 1997. I love this group and I love the people. What I like is to be a part of innovation, to learn, and make new things happen. I think for HR it’s important to be able to support the business and support this kind of growth mindset. 

How did you start your career? 

I joined Bolloré in 1997 as a lawyer in the legal department. It was very boring, so after one year I asked my boss to work in a venture capitalist initiative. We invested in startups, and I started to learn that it’s about people not about finances. Then I was asked to move from VC to television and I launched TV, radio, and movies. I was in charge of the antennas and was a commentator on a poker show. The channel was running 17 hours of live TV a day, and I learned what it is to launch something. In that process, you accept not being ready and you just do it. You accept the pressure of being criticized and looking ridiculous, and after time you improve. Once you learn this, you can apply it to anything. After doing this a while and after some changes in the global media scope at Havas, I asked to come back to HR which I had studied before law. I had to refresh my memory and train, and now I’m responsible for our Creative Global Network as well as our Media Group.

What have been your biggest career challenges and your biggest accomplishments, so far?

One of the biggest challenges is to learn to adjust to any culture. When your responsibilities become global, you have to communicate across cultures. When you address key challenges and personal challenges with people across cultures, you have to communicate with a level of quality. This is a challenge every day, but it is a very exciting challenge. I think I’m doing OK even though I am always learning, which is a component of the role.

I like to receive a pitch and then I just do it. Project Mode is something I enjoy. One of my biggest accomplishments is TalentSpace. It is a tool for HR, but really it helps us manage people. It’s like an internal LinkedIn, which is good for us, for the people, and for the clients because it helps us build the best teams.  

Why Havas?

Every day when I go to work I smile. It’s not because every day is fantastic, it’s just because every day I am happy. I feel lucky that I have a job in an industry that is very exciting and is at the intersection of every business through our brands. It’s challenging and you have to be part of a value chain. It’s fantastic to work with great people, and it’s an honor to connect with smart people as we try to improve situations and ourselves. 

"When you lead something and you are in charge you have to know why you are doing everything you’re doing."

In addition to heading up HR for the Media Group, you’re also taking on the new role of Chief HR Officer for the Creative Network. What excites you about this new opportunity?

We build Villages. If we cannot connect in all directions and through all the layers it’s difficult for this to become a reality. I want to build consistency within the HR strategy. What we do for Media cannot be undermined by what we do for Creative or vice versa. We must build the best for all sides and spread it throughout the company. 

What’s something everyone gets wrong about HR?

That it’s administrative work. To be in HR you need to understand the business, you need to support transformation, and you need to be able to justify for your clients what you’re doing for your people. Especially at Havas, what we provide is people to work for our clients. So what we do for our people and how we treat them is a strength or a weakness. More and more, prospective clients are requiring us to demonstrate what we do for our people. Happy people, happy clients, and happy people do good work. 

What are you really good at?

Convincing people to join Havas. 

What do you hope to get better at?

Organization. 

How do you inspire others?

I try to be an example. I’m not perfect, but it’s difficult to expect something from your team if you yourself don’t do it. The meaningfulness that is now a strategy now for the group is something I’ve always pushed. If you can’t express the meaning behind what you do—don’t do it. When you lead something and you are in charge, you have to know why you are doing everything you’re doing. 

What inspires you?

Other people. I am inspired by listening to our leadership team, by the fact that everything is possible and we believe in something. We’re not trying to make people spend money on things they don’t need—I wouldn’t want to be part of that. The impact of a media and creative agency on a brand can be huge for people, but you need the brand to do something other than sell.  

When people outside of the industry ask about your role, how do you describe your position?

My role is more business oriented; transformational. Client pitches, benefits packages, and tools are my focus, and I’m always working on how we modernize HR and how we attract people and convince them to join the business. 

Tell us the best advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that 80% of the problems you are asked to solve, will solve themselves. Don’t react, don’t be the hero. If you just do nothing, wait, and wait and think about how you are going to solve the problem, 80% of the time it will solve itself during that period. 

What’s the last piece of content you binged?

Misty! I’m sure you haven’t seen it—no one has. It’s on Netflix and it’s about a woman who is making a news show in Seoul, Korea. She’s very smart and dealing with traditional high society in Korea. You dive into the Korean culture, but there’s only one season. It’s great, it’s fantastic! 

Danielle Smith is the Communications Manager of Havas Group. She’s believes every meal can be tacos if you have tortillas and the heart to try.

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