SNCF - INITIATIV’ programme

Support the transformative process of the Group

In September 2013 SNCF Group launcher its INITIATIV’ programme in the presence of the trainees, their managers, Sophie Boissard, deputy CEO, Strategy and Development, SNCF, Marie-Dominique Bidault, HR Director of support functions, SNCF and the SNCF/ ESCP teaching staff. So far, 5 cohorts have been trained.


Paris Campus

+33 (0)1 55 65 56 30

Jean Marc AMBROSINI,  HR Director,  SNCF GROUPThe beginning of a period of transformation for a company involves great organisational agility for support functions to respond qualitatively to the needs of their customers.

It is essential to develop our capacity to question and to support strategic choices to help the teams in a constantly evolving organisation.

Moving support functions towards a true partnership with operational personnel and strengthening the service culture internally are big challenges. The INITIATIV' programme is thus designed to assist and support our young talent to take on ever-expanding responsibilities in the transformation process.

Jean Marc AMBROSINI, HR Director, SNCF Group

Nicolas FOURRIER, SNCF Group Director of rail strategy and regulationDue to its history, SNCF has inherited a hierarchical organisational model ("I do what my boss orders me to do") and focused very little on customers.

The personnel directly in contact with customers have awareness of the latter’s expectations, but are often not able to orientate the whole company to best meet them. The organisation into three EPICs, while it may complicate future operating modes, is also an opportunity, as it will enable us to break this pattern and introduce a dominant supplier-customer relationship. This will be the key to the relationship between the main EPIC and subsidiary EPICs, which will not be hierarchical and will manage rather than prescribe. In parallel, this will demonstrate the effectiveness of functioning of its EPIC subsidiary shared service centres (Accounting, I.T, HR ...).

A Business Partner within a support service must know and understand customers to meet their needs. About the main difficulties encountered by the support functions in the Group today: they are subject to the constraints of high productivity targets and also the demand for high quality of the services they deliver. This may result in the feeling that assigned objectives are unobtainable. It is important for managers to involve their teams fully, while managing organisational changes that will enable them to meet these expectations.”

Nicolas FOURRIER, SNCF Group Director of rail strategy and regulation - INITIATIV' programme Sponsor.


Why this programme?

The opening of passenger rail transport to competition in France and Europe, international development, the reform of the railway system and regionalisation: so many cultural and organisational transformations that focus on the role of Support Functions to promote and support change within the SNCF Group. Designed for executives in cross-functional departments whose performance allows a favourable prognosis in terms of increasing strategic responsibilities of the company. 43 people identified in career committees and confirmed by managers have been already trained.

Stefan Bürkle, Group Purchasing Director, SNCF GroupThe main quality required of the Business Partner, in my opinion, is competence: professional competence in one’s field of action.

The service provider must know what they can and what they cannot do for the internal customer. They must include this in the strategic definition of medium and long term needs and translate this knowledge into operational aspects daily to ensure that the internal customer is really supported. Secondly, their professionalism, but also an ability to work with people from very different backgrounds: to know how to contribute to team projects in an open-plan environment and not to think in boxes! Finally, to be smiley and positive.

When I was offered to be a Sponsor of this programme, I was totally enthusiastic because I think that this training is really important. It is also a major factor in the transformation of our teams. It is a way to value young talent; to expose trainees to problems they do not have the opportunity to meet on a daily basis.
Giving them an opening, making them think about the questions that executives face ... It is an opportunity to give my own personnel who are part of the programme and others, my vision, my experience and thus contribute to the transformation of the Group.

Stefan BÜRKLE, Group Purchasing Director, SNCF Group also Sponsor of the programme

Why have we chosen ESCP ?

Following a tender, SNCF chose ESCP for four reasons:

  • Its approach and beliefs about the necessary changes in stance of “service provider” support functions
  • Its clear understanding of three key dimensions: the ability to understand strategy and relay it to teams the ability to conduct a transformation project and define appropriate steering for an organisation
  • A programme design combining group and individual work
  • A real validation at the end of the programm

Marie-Dominique BIDAULT, HR Director of support functions, SNCF Group

The Academic Director’s point of view

For ESCP, the training of a manager in a position of responsibility is aimed at developing their thinking and action skills, both in management and in the specific technical areas of their profession.

It is therefore with this dual purpose that we have designed your programme: to provide the trainees with the means to grow in their role as managers and take greater responsibility within support functions.