At this global AI platform, company culture is a ‘topic for everyone’

Many employers have spent the last year or so scrambling to figure out how to embrace the opportunities and mitigate the challenges of incorporating AI in HR and business strategies. This conversation is anything but new for the AI-powered platform Dataiku, which assists organizations with leveraging AI and data to drive business outcomes.

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Dataiku was founded in 2013, earned unicorn status six years later, and counts among its more than 500 customer companies, including Sephora and Pfizer. Now, it’s primed for even more growth—hitting $230 million in annual recurring revenue last year and bringing on a new president and chief people officer.

Sandrine Bossard took over the HR function in October, bringing with her more than two decades in HR, including at Experian and France-based digital music company Believe. Bossard recently shared with HRE how she is tapping into her global experiences to advance Dataiku’s people strategy and her outlook for the future of AI in HR.

HRE: What are the most important HR lessons about scaling for rapid growth you’ve learned throughout your career that will be influential in your work at Dataiku?

Sandrine Bossard, Dataiku, on AI in HR
Sandrine Bossard

Bossard: One of the most prominent and recurring lessons that I’ve encountered throughout my HR career is the importance of strategically managing change. It is no secret that most people don’t like change, so how you approach it is very important. I believe that transparency and focusing on the “why” are both key.

Another hard truth about HR in a scaling environment is that change is not easy, especially during a time of instability. This could be a change because of new leadership, a new company focus, or market dynamics that impact how an employee, team, or company has to work. Over the years, a lesson that I’ve had to learn is to be content with instability and learn to find the right balance.

HRE: What do you see as some of the obstacles to maintaining a strong company culture at a global organization like Dataiku?

Bossard: A major obstacle is the belief that culture is the sole responsibility of HR. I believe maintaining a strong company culture is a topic for everyone. While HR, and in some cases, leadership departments, are tasked with designing company culture, it shouldn’t start and stop there. It’s not until it is rolled out properly throughout an organization, both locally and globally, that you can see the fruits of a successful culture.

The secret to maintaining culture is simplicity. You need it to be as simple as possible to make sure everyone buys in. Company culture needs to be routinely reassessed and revamped to ensure it’s still aligned with a company’s expectations. Culture is the common thing that brings people together—both between departments and globally.

At Dataiku, our company’s global nature provides a blend of experiences and perspectives that has proven key to building the best-performing teams. Since Dataiku was founded in France over a decade ago, we now have multiple offices and employees worldwide. Our rich diversity fosters an inclusive workplace that encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to work and is prevalent through many of our ERG programs.

Learn how global organizations leverage technology to fuel company culture at HRE’s upcoming HR Tech Europe, May 2-3 in Amsterdam. Register here.

HRE: Given Dataiku’s mission, how is the organization leveraging technology, particularly generative AI, in its HR strategy?

Bossard: Generative AI can unlock critical data and analytics that can help HR professionals make better decisions. Traditionally, HR leaders have not been very keen to incorporate data as a key component of their people strategy, but that is quickly changing. At Dataiku, we’re using AI to help gather talent acquisition metrics.

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Many of our customers have already found success in leveraging AI in HR. Rabobank, U.S. Venture and SLB are just a few examples of the companies that have effectively implemented AI to help reduce time spent onboarding/training and improve talent retention overall. These efforts have a considerable ROI as these companies are saving millions of dollars each year, while simultaneously providing better upskilling opportunities for their employees.

The HR environment is constantly changing, so I hope we start to see more HR teams and managers leverage the power of data to make better decisions that best serve their people.

HRE: What is your response to HR professionals who are concerned about being replaced by AI?

Bossard: Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that the same set of questions typically tend to follow the launch of any new technology. From when the internet first came out to the new explosion of AI we’re experiencing today, one of the biggest concerns is usually about the impact on people’s jobs and the role it could play in potentially replacing them.

While change is inevitable, I’m optimistic that AI will enable people to work differently and free up their time to focus on more interesting projects. As HR professionals, we need to be open and ready to communicate with our teams about the pros and cons of AI. I strongly believe that change should be embraced and not feared.

HRE: What do you envision as HR leaders’ greatest challenge in 2024?

Bossard: The approach to talent retention presents a big challenge for HR leaders in 2024. Historically, conversations around retaining talent were largely focused on monetary incentives—but this shouldn’t be the sole reason people decide to stay at a company. To do this successfully, the top priorities for HR leaders should be a combination of improving company-provided services, building global and educational career pathways, and creating a culture that people want to be in.

Efforts should be focused on improving the employee experience overall and retaining all people, not just “key” people.

Another challenge we’ll see in the next year is digitalization. Now more than ever, it’s crucial for HR departments to take the reins on all things digital, including analytics and AI. With technology directly impacting the way we work, digitalization will be a recurring challenge over the next few years. The role of HR is constantly evolving—and what was once considered more of a staff-managing administrative department will deepen its stake at the heart of strategic decision-making within an organization.

HRE: Do you have a mantra that guides your personal approach to HR?

Bossard: Serving others and creating impact is what wakes me up in the morning. The impact can be anything, large or small—whether it’s helping someone on the street or resolving an issue at work. This mentality ensures that I move with purpose and inject a solution-oriented approach into everything I do.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].