1 year to hire 70 internal tech experts! “Join the Retail Revolution” is one of the most ambitious recruitment campaigns launched at Carrefour Belgium. But it’s also much more than a recruitment plan! The challenge? Get the best tech talents out there to drive the tech-transformation with a people-first approach and turn Carrefour into a digital retail company.
IT organisations have moved up from their historical basements to reach the clouds. They now play a central role in their companies with tech and data being at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution enablement; pushing innovation, automation and intelligence.
Tech and data offer tremendous opportunities to revolutionise Carrefour’s traditional retail activities. Think about e-commerce activities, data & retail media activities, digitization of financial services and so on!
Tech embraces, drives and promotes Carrefour Belgium’s digital and cultural transformation. In this journey, our people are the key driver for success. Therefore we worked out a workforce strategy that resulted in the ambitious recruitment plan to hire 70 employees in 2021. Its name: “Join the Retail Revolution”. A bit provoking, a bit challenging. That’s exactly what we needed to recruit new people to take the lead in this transformation.
Today we are very proud that more than 60 tech experts have joined us and that a few more talents are in the starting blocks to start in the coming days and weeks! The quest for digital talent continues. Have a look at our job site to discover our open positions.
A big step upward in digitization
Ahead of the recent announcement of Carrefour’s digital retail 2026 strategy, Carrefour Belgium started its tech transformation in 2020, with the appointment of Olivier Luxon as CIO and the formation of a new IT Direction Committee. In their first year, this new team built the “GearUp” transformation program to modernise the IT organisation in order to better serve internal clients and consumers, colleagues and partners.
This task is immense as the different services required by a large retailer are far broader than what one may imagine! Addressing the legacy from the past, while delivering the present services and, at the same time, looking forward to innovating for the future is an immense undertaking. One that requires massive expertise, passion and commitment from our people.
“Join the Retail Revolution” is a deep culture shift which includes a recruitment campaign. We will present it to you in 3 main sections: “How to build a workforce strategy for a high-performing IT”, “How to lead the revolution: lesson learned and key takeaways”, and “How to prepare for the next steps!”.
How to build a workforce strategy for a high-performing IT
Make our organisation greater than ever!
The recruitment ambitions to hire 70 tech experts were the result of a carefully thought-through workforce strategy. This was quite a challenge for an IT organisation with over 200 positions, and numerous outsourcing partners.
Back in early 2020, contractors represented more than 60% of the total IT workforce in Carrefour Belgium. Although external resources prove to be a powerful way to employ expertise or quickly scale to ongoing challenges, the volatility of the workforce was too high with the risks of losing traction. As you draw a disruptive vision for the future you must rely on a certain level of stability to convey it in the future leadership and management functions.
Therefore we decided to invest significantly in enlarging the internal talents pool as a foundation for its digital transformation. Before you may see this internalisation as a crusade of internals against externals, stop there immediately as internal collaborators and consultants are the two faces of the same coin. Both are complementary. A lack of internal resources creates bottle-necks and slows down the decision-making process… which impact the consultants and the suppliers themselves.
Identify top priorities
With a limited share of internal collaborators also comes the limited collaboration with key partners in the organisation like your HR business partners. A tremendous job was performed by both IT and HR teams to get to know each other, catch-up on the basics and build a secure context for the magic to happen. It was the start of a very fruitful collaboration that keeps on generating new synergies every day.
As 2020 started, it meant identifying who was doing what in the different teams. Starting the rebuild of the entire organisational chart with a clear structure and well defined roles per team. Then, the central question to be answered was how to get the right number of people, with the right skills, at the right place at the right time to deliver the organisation’s business goals? Where do we put the cursor? What is the minimum requirement? How much is too much?
Internalise core functions
Since time to market and risk mitigation are essentials in the retail sector, we went for a phased approach. The first year, we mostly hired senior to medior profiles, then we leveraged on them to build the next generation with medior to junior profiles the following year. The internalisation schemes were drafted in collaboration with the IT Direction Committee, and the organisation chart was updated and aligned along the way with the different stakeholders.
We first empowered our directors and their team managers, so they can lead the retail revolution, expand the numbers of ambassadors, and transform together everything that needed to be.
Besides leadership, a special focus was given to rebuild the know-how and reinforce the proximity with our internal/external clients. For that, critical positions such as business analysts, system engineers, or our entire helpdesks have been highly prioritised to allow us to get a better understanding of the daily hurdles and accelerate their resolutions.
We target a broad range of profiles such as IT security officers, support agents, business analysts, system engineers, network engineers, IT architects, technical designers, data engineers and so on…
Tame the black swans
Everything was going smoothly until a black swan event occurred: the Covid-19 pandemic and the first lockdowns. Fortunately, we managed to keep on leveraging from the pre-covid booster period to materialize our vision, as the fundamental prequel to the “GearUp” transformation program.
Even through the pandemic, we were able to test our strengths and weaknesses with the recruitment campaign of 2020. We aimed to optimise administrative processes, to sidestep working in silos, to capture the needs, to streamline job titles, organisation changes, reporting line and the financials.
We were also able to rely on a broad event hosted at the end of February 2020 to share our vision, emphasise our strategic vision with the bigger picture from Carrefour Group and the presence of Miguel Gonzalez (global chief technology and data officer) and his team.
Secure core knowledge and decision-making integrity
To strengthen our role as a strategic partner, we didn’t only recruit. We also paid attention to secure our core knowledge; especially after a long history of outsourcing and past reorganisation which increased the dependency towards key suppliers… as the knowledge shattered in turnover. Our main purpose was to gain autonomy, so we can really reinvent our organisation.
With a clear role and mission per team, comes a better segregation of duties. With a clear split between “controllers” and “doers” comes a more healthy challenge of the services delivered. With a leadership and a management mostly internalised, the risk of conflicting interest and collusion naturally decreases.
At all costs we wished to avoid situations where the chain of command was putting one of our business partners in a situation where he would be forced to rely on the advice of a cascade of consultants without an owner from Carrefour IT.
Future-proof our structure
With the right structure, the right people and the right level of collaboration with your HR partners you can build performing career paths for top talents and lower the turnovers. Whether a collaborator wishes to explore new opportunities or simply retire and handover the relay to a younger generation. When it cannot be avoided you can at very least mitigate the risks with a better anticipation.
As we mention retirement and dedication, we always have a thought for Michel Fastré who’s left us this year after half a century of dedication to Carrefour (49 years!), to its IT organisation and to the successive generation and evolutions that made it.
Rare enough to broadly inspire his peers, it’s a perfect example of the importance of being able to rely on the people who once built their future with a state of the art datacenter, who passed it through generations until it became the legacy that we inherited, and who now relayed their experience to modernise it once again and bring it to the cloud.
How to lead the revolution: lesson learned and key takeaways
Gather stakeholders to transform together
Making the revolution alone has little chance of success: a cornerstone of our success was the embodiment of a strong alliance at every level of the company bringing all of us together through a common goal.
Once the workforce strategy was in place, a joint task force was created with HR to start the execution of the workforce plan. The IT-HR task force consisted of Olivier Luxon (CIO), Loïc Wydouw (IT Governance & Transversal Services Director), Karla De Smet (HR-business partner director – headquarters), Lina Timmermans (recruitment & mobility manager) and their teams.
Their role was to centralize all needs and make fast decisions. This included many actions such as creating job descriptions, weighing roles, updating processes in our HR platform, defining ways of hunting and many more!
All of this would not have been possible without the Executive Committee (ExComm) taking up its sponsorship role to the fullest while giving active support to the IT-HR task force. Of course, other important stakeholders such as Communication, Marketing, Total Rewards, HR Business Partners, IT Governance and our sponsors were very closely involved throughout the whole process.
Slice the elephant and anticipate challenges
By multiplying the usual amount of recruitments, you’ll stretch every person and process to its very limit. You could then find your colleagues and yourself disheartened if you do not know where to start. Hopefully, it did not happen to us as we did slice the elephant!
We chose to cluster these vacancies and when applicable to process them in bulk. Not only did it bring maximum efficiency, but it was also more motivating for the recruitment team to advance by phase and celebrate the completion of each milestone!
Anticipation helps a lot to reduce the number of challenges, but it doesn’t remove them all. We faced a lot of challenges in our journey. The key was to anticipate as many of them as possible, to keep the time and the energy to focus on real emergencies.
Here are a few tips: always have an open conversation upfront to not only align on goals but also on fears, mitigate them. Prioritise and invest on the most impactful tracks first, see the first results quickly and build on it. Keep an active monitoring with clear KPI’s and challenge them regularly. Adopt an agile and dynamic approach to tackle things and adjust, do not overthink it!
As a concrete example, we considered the HR processes in place to ensure equity and have evaluated measures to speed up their validation. With a clear plan we reviewed the availability of all job descriptions, the importance of each function for the organisation, and their documentation in the various tools. We also aligned with our assessment centres to plan for the upcoming activities. As some were ready faster than others we paralleled the tracks and immediately started on what was ready.
Make it buzz, make it viral!
The great thing about the “Join the Retail Revolution” campaign is that we were able to create massive traction without any help from external marketing agencies. With a good mix of our internal skills and talents and the help of an employer brand manager, we buzzed the bytes out of social media channels and generated broad press coverage.
Our CIO, Olivier Luxon, and our CTO, Stijn Stabel, even took the stage on television to explain our recruitment plans. In fact and figures this translates to a total of 2 millions impressions on social media, 75.000 video views and 10.000 clicks to the website.
Define ways of hunting
To hunt for tech profiles with efficiency, it is important to maximize the usage of our network and communication channels as described above. That’s what we did on LinkedIn, company jobsite, specialised television, radio spot in stores, specialised and mainstream press, promotion at the bottom of customers’ tickets, local TV screen in commerce…
We runned two kinds of hunting booster: some very generalist and some specific to our needs at the time. For the vacancy with a low level of applicant, we conducted an active search and broader communication. On the contrary, we involved the hiring managers early in the screening process when our HR team was drawing under a tsunami of resumés.
We also use internal promotion by promoting a referral bonus, organising an internal webinar and distributing newsletters to spread the word to the maximum and enthuse our colleagues to activate their network.
One piece of advice: be opportunistic! A candidate may not know where he/she could bring value to your organisation. So don’t hesitate to route them where you think they could fit best!
Make financials one of your best buddy
When it comes to financials, the first advice we could give is to use it to your own advantage. With a clear plan and financial estimates, we received strong support from all parties involved. With clear measurements of our accomplishment, we reassured everyone that it was happening for real!
The second is surely to get yourself ready to talk about money, a lot! Challenge yourself on your remuneration package, run a market benchmark, listen to your applicant and learn in the process. This allows you to be coherent in the negotiation process and show respect and understanding. This also allows you to make pragmatic decisions when candidates show themselves unreasonable.
How to prepare for the next steps
As the last section of this article will unveil, to hire new collaborators is only the beginning of a whole new venture.
Recruiting talents is nice… but retaining them is even better!
Once they are onboard, all focus is on retaining those people by stimulating them to learn and grow. So shows the case of several directors who were trained and grown into leadership roles by carrefour over the last years. The latest to date, Clément Pecheur, became IT director for ecommerce & digital after 5 years in different roles as expert and team manager.
Knowledge sharing and expert training are also key elements in enhancing the employee experience and making sure that our workforce stays on track with the latest tech developments.
Looking ahead, we also work on getting the next generation on board. Therefore we strengthen our partnership with schools and partners in order to offer internships to youngsters and offer expert training on the newest technologies; for example thanks to Google Labs.
Remaining attractive and finding a good balance
People stay with a company when they are excited about what they do and feel valued. On the one hand, the work atmosphere must be good, the challenges must be exciting and the company culture must match their personality. On the other hand, the salary must correspond to their profile and their investment: in short, to their value.
Fulfilled internal collaborators also have a positive influence on contractors. Indeed, an internal study recently highlighted that contractors like working at Carrefour. A positive employer brand can therefore attract contractors for expert roles that are difficult to bring in-house.
So, being a great place to work is a win-win situation! Wanna join us? Take a look at our job offers!