Eric Hurel (MIM ‘09), Head of Human Resources for Commercial Operations at Recordati: “The new generations often feel that a few years is enough time to spend at a particular company”
With more than 25 years of experience in the field of human resources, both internationally – Europe, Latin America, United States, Asia, North Africa – and in his native France, Eric Hurel has always worked in the pharmaceutical industry. We spoke with him about his experience and discussed how people should approach moving to a new company.
- After 13 years as HR Director at Actelion Pharmaceuticals in Paris, you decided to move to EUSA Pharma in England. What motivated you to make this change?
Actelion was bought by Johnson & Johnson in mid-June 2017. After a very interesting phase dedicated to integration within the company, EUSA Pharma, a company specialised in rare diseases, reached out to me with a new challenge. When I joined EUSA in January 2020, the company was five years old and needed to develop the HR function at the international level through global policies, management and the creation of subsidiaries. I saw this move as a continuation of my international experience, focused on the development of human resources at a growing company.
- What are your responsibilities now?
Until September 2022, I was the Head of Human Resources for the United States, Europe and Emerging Markets. My responsibilities covered all aspects of the HR function, including recruitment and selection, talent management, remuneration policy and local management. This allowed me to strengthen my knowledge of labour law in several countries. I had the opportunity to set up a Korean subsidiary and to work on projects in Australia and Brazil.
EUSA Pharma was bought by the pharmaceutical company Recordati. Since September, my title is Head of Human Resources for Commercial Operations and I am in responsible for HR at all of the company’s factories (Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Turkey, etc.).
- What challenges have you encountered during this transition?
Whenever you move to a new company, there are always challenges. Although I saw the move from Actelion to EUSA as a continuation, whenever someone brings several years of experience, the new company expects the integration to be quick and efficient and the results to be immediate.
That was my first time working for a British company with an English-speaking culture. Actelion was a Swiss company. Now I have to work with the Italian culture. Each company has its own codes, its own history, its own challenges... and it is important to understand its DNA.
- As an HR director and a responsible leader, how do you think you can impact certain policies to make the organisation more accountable and aware?
The HR function has a key role to play, whether in terms of diversity and inclusion or in holding the company accountable. When I compare it to the past, I think it’s fair to say that the last few years have been characterised by profound developments such as the issue of diversity, flexible work and smart work. If there is one positive aspect that we can take away from the global pandemic, it is the evolution of smart work. As recently as three years ago, the practice of working from home two or three days a week was unimaginable at most companies. Now it is a factor in attractiveness to candidates and employee retention!
HR also has a key role to play in ensuring a good working environment, respect and accountability. However, it needs the backing of general management and the board.
“If there is one positive aspect that we can take away from the global pandemic, it is the evolution of smart work”
- How can we transmit this awareness to other leaders?
Engaging with leaders is a daily task. Our goal must be to ensure that profitability is not the only factor. Leaders need to understand that the company’s image is key and that this requires policies of accountability. These are very interesting times, but we have to make sure it’s more than just a fad.
- How do you deal with the challenge of retaining talent at your organisation?
Talent retention is a challenge for HR. Compared to previous situations, where employees could spend their lives at the same firm, nowadays the new generations often feel that a few years is enough time to spend at a particular company. Candidates need a company with accountability policies, flexible work policies, good salaries, growth potential, autonomy and goals that they can identify with.
They want quality of life – a balance between their professional and personal lives. This can create the impression that the younger generation feels less bound to the company. A new trend is to create a generational balance, with senior employees working alongside junior ones.
- You already had international experience in Brazil, where you worked for more than 10 years. What are the key ingredients for a successful international career?
I already had international experience before I went to Brazil, but I didn’t know much about how HR worked in that country. International life involves sacrifice: lots of travel, no fixed schedule, weekends on the road, etc. But at the same time, it is an unforgettable cultural exchange! To have an international career, you have to accept this kind of life. I chose this life more than 30 years ago – or perhaps this kind of life chose me.
- You were the president of the Paris Chapter for several years. What was this experience like for you? How does it help alumni to have the support of an Esade Alumni chapter?
It was a very enriching experience. I had the chance to meet many chapter members, ambassadors, consuls, companies, etc. The chapters are very useful as an anchor for alumni arriving in a country they don’t know. In the initial stage, networking is essential for your integration in a new country.
- You are still very involved in the alumni community. What has it been like to participate in sessions such as the one recently held in Paris on the topic of labour market trends?
I love sharing ideas with other professionals and having a chance to pass on my experience, while at the same time learning so much from others.