In Action

Interngration: a refugee recruitment programme and One Young World project

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Olivier Algoud

Olivier Algoud is Global Marketing Director at L’Oréal Men Expert. He and three other One Young World delegates recently founded Interngration, a refugee recruitment programme. One year on from the 2016 One Young World summit, and with the programme now being gradually rolled out at L’Oréal, he describes his experience and how his team set up the project within the Group.

One Young World is a unique experience, offering the chance to be part of leading change

For several months now, the Interngration programme has been giving refugees from all over the world the opportunity of a six-month internship with L’Oréal. This bold project was developed by a team of four people from totally different parts of the company, namely Olivier from marketing, Pauline Avenel-Lam from communications, Tony Cocoual from HR and Benjamin Askenazi from research. They came together within the framework of One Young World, an annual global summit meeting for young leaders that L’Oréal has been taking part in for five years. “L’Oréal sent us to the summit so that we could think about solutions to current challenges that could be applied within the Group. That experience was the starting point for the entire project”, says Olivier.

Olivier, Pauline, Tony and Benjamin were selected and co-opted by their HR managers. “HR knew I was attuned to the issues because I had worked on the Ushuaïa brand and set up a sustainable sourcing programme for it. They really encouraged me to take part in the 2016 One Young World conference in Ottawa”, explains Olivier. Once he was there, along with about 40 other colleagues from the firm, Olivier had a unique experience. After an orientation day for L’Oréal representatives, the delegates were immersed into the heady atmosphere of the summit meeting. “The pace was intense. Every day, we had eight hours of testimonials, roundtables, workshops and talks by famous personalities like Mohammed Yunus and Kofi Annan, who spoke about an incredible array of fascinating issues, from tackling global warming to eradicating poverty. It was a real coming to awareness moment. By the end of the summit, we really wanted to be involved in making changes.”

Interngration: a matchmaker for big companies and refugees

The real work began after the summit. “We had to come up with a project and set up a team. L’Oréal helped us enormously with that”, says Olivier.

At the end of One Young World, a brainstorming and debriefing session was held to assist the delegates in choosing their project. Returning delegates drew on their experiences at the summit to make individual presentations about the topics they wanted to work on. This helped to flesh out the broad issues. “That was the turning point. We had discussed things during the summit without getting into details and real-life solutions. The post-summit session helped identify the people we saw eye to eye with, which in turn allowed us to build our team.” Olivier, Pauline, Tony and Benjamin assembled their team around the theme of welcoming refugees, an issue that is dear to each of the teammates: “We all shared the same belief that there were refugees out there with amazing academic qualifications but no plans to apply to big companies, while on the flip side there were big companies with substantial resources but no plans to hire refugees. We saw the need for a matchmaker”. This was the basic idea behind Interngration.

Find a partner, identify the best potential recruits… Getting the project up and running

Once the project was selected, the four teammates needed to develop it for use within the Group. “We had to get it operational and get the green light from L’Oréal, which took some time.”

For several months, the team members met regularly within the Group and during their free time to set up Interngration. Priority number-one was to find a partner to help them identify the best potential recruits. This in itself was no easy task as most associations and NGOs have neither the time nor the resources to process refugees and their qualifications on an individual basis. Ultimately, the team joined forces with Wintegreat, a social start-up that specialises in identifying and training high-potential refugees. “Wintegreat was the perfect choice. Every year, it helps refugees to integrate by offering courses in French, history, economics and social studies, but they needed a big-name partner to promote access to employment. We soon signed a partnership agreement”, says Olivier. This enabled the team to meet quickly with around 30 qualified and highly motivated individuals, which saved a lot of time and also provided a solid basis for recruitment.

“Change the world, as well as your own corporate environment” – Olivier’s goal

Interngration was officially launched in July 2017, a matter of months after getting the go-ahead from L’Oréal. “Everything happened very quickly. We pitched the idea to L’Oréal Chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon and proposed a turnkey project to him. Our sponsor, Jérôme Tixier, Head of Group HR and advisor to Mr Agon, advised us and enabled us to meet ahead of time with the HR management committee, which really helped to accelerate the project”, says Olivier. To date, five recruits from Sudan and Syria have begun L’Oréal internships and are being monitored closely by the Interngration team. “We hold regular updates with them and their managers. The initial feedback has been very positive.” What has impressed him most? “All the new recruits have the right mindset and have fitted seamlessly into their teams. It just goes to show that you can help people in great need while at the same time bringing new talent to the company,” says Olivier.

Heartened by the initial success, Olivier and his team want to push on. The Interngration team has big plans and hopes to inspire a major movement in the long run. “We are already planning to double our numbers for the next round of interns, and we’d like to replicate our model in another Western European country. The aim is for Interngration to reach beyond France and L’Oréal’s own borders!” He says in conclusion: “We want this project to be self-sustaining. After all, the idea behind One Young World is to try to change the world, as well as your own corporate environment”.

Human capital | October 2017