We virtually sat down with Charise Le, Schneider Electric’s newly appointed CHRO to discuss her career, what she hopes to see in Schneider’s future and what it takes to be a part of the Schneider Electric family.
Isabel Barbosa: Tell us about your 15-year journey at Schneider Electric.
Charise Le: I joined Schneider Electric 15 years ago with, what was then, Clipsal. It was a great 2 years’ experience, where we turned the business around, after which we were integrated with the big Schneider Electric family. After that, I moved to Hong Kong where I led HR for Asia/Pacific in the Life Space business. It was my first time in a regional role and I remember that was a big risk that the company was taking on me. I learned a lot from this experience and after 2.5 years, I got a call asking if I was willing to lead China’s HR function. It was a big role and of course, I said “let me try it out”. I spent almost 6 years as the country HR leader in China, after which I moved to lead global HR Services and Strategy for 5 years and that lead me to becoming the CHRO of the company earlier this year.
IB: Why do you think you were chosen for this role? To be honest, I never dreamed of becoming the CHRO, but I’m always willing to take on new challenges. If I were to summarize why I was asked to take on this role, I’d say there were three main reasons:
- The company made an investment in me and took a chance on me by continuously stretching me in different roles. This made me acquire different experiences such as new company acquisitions, commercial knowledge, leading a country, R&D, transformation, people strategy, influence leadership, and more. That gave me a rounded profile which helped me get into the position I am in today.
- Schneider Electric as a company truly believes in Diversity & Inclusion. As a company, we walk the talk on our multi-hub strategy and promoting women in leadership roles.
- My mentors. I’ve continuously had mentors during my 15-year career at Schneider. They give me feedback, coach me, and advise me on how I can continue to improve.
IB: How does it feel to become CHRO in such challenging times?
CL: Stressed is the first word that comes to mind. When I received the call from Jean-Pascal, our CEO, saying that he wanted me to be CHRO of the company, I was of course flattered to have been considered. I started to feel very excited and then, soon after, this feeling changed to stress. This was back in February when the COVID-19 pandemic had already taken over China, but wasn’t global yet. I was still excited because it’s a great role and an opportunity to learn and I knew that I had the support of our top-notch HR community. Our model enabled us to make quick and agile decisions, although not always seamless. Even though it still is a very stressful time, I feel privileged to count on the support of so many people.
IB: How has Schneider changed and evolved since you first started your career here?
CL: Schneider has changed and evolved in many aspects especially from a business and company culture perspective.
From a business perspective, 15 years ago we were purely a products company. Now we’ve complemented these great products with solutions, services, software, and more and more digital. We’ve made a huge transformation in our business.
From a cultural perspective, our commitment to diversity is certainly something that we not only put on paper but is very visible in every corner of our organization. That has changed the face and core of our culture.
IB: What for you is the most important piece of Schneider’s EVP (Employer Value Proposition)? What pillar do you connect with most?
CL: I can only choose one?!
All three pillars of our EVP, ‘Meaningful’, ‘Inclusive’, and ‘Empowered’ are at the heart of what makes us a great company. If I were to choose only one with which I connect most, I would say ‘Empowered’. We’re going to continue facing this new normal, where every country’s situation is different, and I truly believe that what makes us resilient and able to cope with this crisis is empowerment. Globally and locally, we are empowered to make decisions. And this pandemic has been a real test of trust within the organization and it has shown that empowerment is part of our DNA and we need to continue to strengthen it.
IB: How can we move the needle on the empowerment of every employee at Schneider, whether in a leadership role or not?
CL: When I say empowerment, that doesn’t mean that anyone can do whatever they want. Every company tries to balance empowerment and governance. We must evaluate the impact of our decisions. We must trust people to use their judgment. After all, ‘Use your judgment’ is one of our leadership expectations. As a company, we also need to continuously revisit some of our processes, protocols, and governance. This crisis has shown us that we cannot predict every possible future scenario, but what we can do is learn, reflect, and simplify processes. This will certainly empower our field and customer-facing colleagues to make well-balanced decisions. And it will push more people to become more comfortable with being empowered to make these decisions.
IB: What’s your outlook on the future for Schneider?
CL: We are in a great industry where we can truly solve the energy paradox by helping our customers be more efficient, while respecting sustainability and our environment. From a business perspective, I see us continuing to evolve in driving digital transformation and leveraging technology to be more innovative for our customers.
The world is becoming more digital and I believe we are in a business where we can continue to enable our customers. There is a lot of uncertainty of course, but that is why we must do it right and continue to improve our model.
IB: What are your goals for Schneider during your tenure as CHRO?
CL: For me, it’s all about culture and talent. From a cultural perspective, I want to continue our focus on building a culture at Schneider Electric that is innovative and inclusive. Championing a culture of diversity and high performance is crucial – if we do so, Schneider wins and we all do. We are always working to strengthen this.
When it comes to talent, we need to strengthen our multi-hub strategy and achieve empowerment for all. People need to know the business, know the market, and use their knowledge and experience to make decisions. We need to take more risks on people because the workforce of the future is likely to look different. We must take more risks and build the future. We are in an open talent market where expectations of employees may change but the need to make one’s own career choices will not. As a company, we will continue to support an environment where working from home, remote working, empowering our people to be innovative, and delivering high performance is key.
IB: What is some advice you have for people interested in working at Schneider Electric?
CL: If you are interested in joining a high performing team and if our core values are aligned to yours, you should join us!
We want to build Schneider’s future with colleagues who feel comfortable with being empowered and using their best judgment. Colleagues who continue to #LearnEveryDay, dare to disrupt and be innovative.
IB: What’s been your proudest moment at Schneider Electric?
CL: There are many! But the proudest moment was at the very beginning of my tenure at Schneider. In the first month that I joined the company, we had to make many tough decisions, including right-sizing the business, in order to protect it and turn it around. Within 3 months, we rebuilt the strategy and reimagined the future, and after 2 years, we celebrated doubling the business in size. That was one of my proudest moments at Schneider with a lot of recognition and celebration of the team’s collective success. It’s great to embark on a transformation and see successes in the short and long runs. There are many other proud moments, but we’ll leave these for the next time we speak!