Consultant Emmanuelle Duez and her firm The Boson Project argue that corporate transformation relies first and foremost on employee autonomy and empowerment.
“As the practice of working from home during the health crisis became widespread, we sometimes overlooked the fact that offices also provided a forum for social justice, enabling each employee to enjoy good working conditions.” Founder in 2012 of The Boson Project, a consulting firm that supports business transformation, Emmanuelle Duez highlights the impact of office closures on employees.
“There are two main risks related to the period we’re living through at the moment,” she adds. “The first is disengagement, and the second isolation. The way to respond to these issues is to focus on management excellence, and by that I mean the ability to care for others in the company.”
She continues: “Unfortunately, I think most businesses failed to grasp the extent to which the role of managers would be crucial in getting human capital engaged again at the end of the crisis.”
Together with her team of consultants, called “Bosons” in reference to the elementary particles of the same name that serve as the “glue” holding matter together, Emmanuelle Duez aims to “create the conditions in which human potential can be fully expressed, both individually and collectively.”
“Businesses must not delay in giving serious consideration as to what justification there is for people to leave home to go and work in the office.”
In order to pave the way for the cultural and organisational transformation of the company of the future, “we must have the courage to open Pandora’s box, involving those most directly concerned – in other words employees. Rather than presenting a risk, this ensures the sustainability of ongoing changes,” she says.
Looking for impact
At 34, Emmanuelle Duez already has the self-assurance of an old hand in the corporate world. This bothers some people. “Once when I was speaking at a conference about the report we’re currently working on, a man in the audience, who doubted my legitimacy to talk about the issue so confidently, asked the speaker sitting next to me, an admiral in charge of staff in the French Navy, what he thought. My co-speaker give him a real dressing-down. Following the episode, the admiral and I struck up a friendship.”
This friendship led Emmanuelle Duez to become a Navy reservist in 2014, “a wonderful opportunity to build bridges between the civilian and military worlds.” For almost two years, she has even been an external member of the Naval Innovation Hub, a unit dedicated to breakthrough innovation at Naval Group. “This collaboration with the Navy has given The Boson Project a very practical dimension,” she states today.
Emmanuelle Duez has a talent for turning adversity into advantage. An entrepreneur at heart, she found her calling purely by chance: “When I was young, I wanted to be a profiler. That’s why I studied criminal law. I took a course to become a lawyer or magistrate, but in the end I decided I wanted to save the world. So I moved from the bench to a business school, ESSEC, completing an apprenticeship, with a view to setting up an entrepreneurial project that would have an impact on people’s lives.”
It was by creating the WoMen’Up association in 2011, as part of ESSEC’s Leadership and Diversity Chair, that she discovered her flair for entrepreneurship. “Being involved in entrepreneurial activities is nothing less than a way to express my personality,” she confides.
The WoMen’Up project, whose motto is “Women and young people: facing the same struggle in business!” and which focuses on management subjects related to gender diversity in big corporations, has opened up many doors for her.
“It provides leverage for management practices in business, allowing you to go and see senior executives and say to them: if you’re not convinced by parity for ethical reasons, you should adapt your organisational systems anyway for economic reasons and also to attract and retain talent.”
Workspace is key to human excellence
In the current crisis, this capacity to recognise the changes taking place, especially among younger generations, makes The Boson Project a popular think-tank. The firm has been working since 2016 on human resource issues relating to spatial changes in the workplace (refitting and relocation specifically). Emmanuelle Duez urges businesses to quickly give “serious consideration as to what justification there is for people to leave home to go and work in the office.”
She believes that reinventing workspace is a must. “As far as development projects are concerned, it’s vital to be able to sensitively reflect an organisation’s human and strategic requirements in its workspace and to help staff embrace these projects so that rather than being an inconvenience they are an opportunity for engagement. The human aspect of spatial transformation should not be overlooked.”