June 11, 2020 - One on One
One on one with Isabelle Frenette, an inspiring team player with a sharp strategic vision, now Vice President of Human Resources at Ludia, a company in the video game industry which is fortunately doing well during these exceptional times.
1. In this period of great chaos, as a leader, what has prevented you from sleeping?
In the context we’re in right now, I’d say we’re lucky to be among the privileged companies, and I’m very grateful for that. We haven’t had to make any tough decisions, any layoffs, like a lot of other companies. As Vice President of Human Resources, what quickly caught my attention was maintaining the strong culture of proximity at Ludia, despite the distance. I asked myself how this unexpected event was – or was not – going to shake our strong community spirit. At Ludia, the deployment of remote working was done in an extraordinary way, quickly and efficiently. Our employees are relatively young on average and, because of our industry, technology is part of their habits. The adoption of all these new distancing habits has been very smooth despite the fact that Ludia was one of those companies that did not value this form of work, having always emphasized the importance of being together and meeting physically to exchange and build in a collaborative manner. Our vigilance was focused on maintaining a strong sense of belonging within the company and its 400 employees despite the distance that still exists. Let’s just say that my team and I, as well as all the managers, took care of ensuring that we were present by continuing to communicate a lot, and even more than before.
2. What have you learned about yourself since running a company in these unstable times?
As a leader, in times of crisis, what personality trait is accentuated? Humbly, I would say that the situation has confirmed, and even strengthened, my ability to adapt and to bounce back… even though I’ve only been at Ludia since January. I don’t feel so shaken by such a crisis; I know how to navigate in this type of context. I see an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to improve in every situation. I am comfortable in managing change. All of this has also allowed me to discover and understand, in an accelerated way, the values of the company and of those around me, the strength of each team member, the values of the Company’s President and my new colleagues. Far from being just a few words thrown down on paper or in company speeches, I was able to see that here, the values are truly shared and carried by the entire organization. How this situation was dealt with, the main concerns, the decisions made, the daily gestures, the strong relationships tinged with humanity, caring, support and recognition between everyone, all of this was a beautiful illustration of Ludia’s core, its DNA. This was an opportunity to affirm my ability to adapt and to showcase my resilience.
3. What inspires you daily these days?
Without a doubt, the Talent and Culture team. They all have a key role to play and they play it very well, they complement each other. We share common points such as resilience, adaptation, this desire to make sure that there are no negative impacts for Ludia and to turn the current situation into an opportunity to improve. Together we reflect, exchange, and develop the essential strategic axes to meet and even anticipate needs, always with the objective of bringing human resources further at Ludia. There is also the vision of our Company’s President and the management team that inspires me. As an HR leader, your role is not just to be a human partner, but also a strategic partner, taking an interest in the financial aspect, development, and talent. At the moment, his vision is perfectly in line with mine, human values dictate the priorities. What he says, he does. And that’s admirable. We tell ourselves that we couldn’t have had a better opportunity to see the true colours of the company in this crisis, it’s a remarkable revelation of organizational values. And it’s extremely inspiring!
4. In your view, what is the greatest unfairness of the present situation?
There are so many in this difficult context – and it’s not easy to target just one. We can’t really rank them, it would be too unfair in itself. The injustice is that, from a societal point of view, we have to make difficult choices right now. And when we have to make choices, we naturally leave people out of them. That’s the flip side of making big decisions. In business, as an HR leader, you’re the guardian of fairness. This means that it is not enough to give the same thing to everyone… you have to evaluate every situation independently and do it fairly. This is probably why I am more sensitive to this aspect in the current situation.
5. Who is your hero in this crisis?
In these times that confront us all, Ludia, like many other companies, is offering to lighten the burden of employees that, let’s admit it, all have shown great resilience. Parents who have to juggle each day with the unexpected, lonely people who are cut off from their social life, in fact all those who have had to adapt and who have been able to regain the upper hand in this unique context. For me, the heroes are all those who turn the situation around to extract the positive and to inspire others. I have a specific example in mind: a parent of two young children who, with his spouse, chose to spend the “summer of their dreams” and to do everything possible to make it happen. These people succeed in magnifying the present moment and do the best they can with what they have. How inspiring! To be able to put oneself in a state of gratitude for the special moments that COVID makes possible, those are my heroes. It’s contagious and inspiring, and it has an impact on the well-being of others!
6. What is the most exciting innovation your organization has undertaken in these tumultuous times?
Ludia’s innovations have been human-centered. We quickly acted on the flexibility of people’s schedules, deciding to evaluate their time management differently, by objectives. To deliver our projects, we rely on team solidarity, the collective strength of the group versus the individual contribution of employees. We have also made a shift in employee communications, beyond the logistics of remote working. The status quo has never been an option for us. The team and I have multiplied the opportunities for contact with employees by creating meetings (fun and corporate) through our exchange platforms: the LudiaHome (our internal newsletter), quizzes with the president, our virtual 5@7s, online gym sessions, cooking classes, etc. We have also developed a new way of communicating with employees, which goes beyond simply sharing information with them. Employees tell us that they still feel like they are part of an organization and not like they just have to deliver results like freelancers working apart from home.
7. In closing, the question that kills, if you were François Legault, from here, how would you write the future?
That’s a very complex question! To each their own job, as they say! From an HR perspective, in our micro-company of 400 people at Ludia, there are several parallels to be drawn with the actions of our political leaders. For our part, we wanted to minimize the impact of the situation and seize opportunities to improve. I think, and hope, that this is what we have been able to do with a lot of focus and hard work, and I think that this is also what our authorities have been doing since the beginning of the crisis. Nothing is taken for granted for anyone in this context, we are all constantly learning and reacting to the best of our abilities. Without overstepping my area of expertise and range of action, in the face of this situation, I would therefore make sure to minimize the impact, to take a step back, to challenge my people to do things differently, to maximize opportunities, to do the best we can with what we know and to remain very present, honest and transparent with the public, just as we are currently doing at Ludia, for our employees. The idea is to continue moving forward together, in an unknown situation.
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