You have spent 26 years at Citelum and had five different roles. How does someone remain motivated and commited to a company so long?
I have joined Citelum at the company creation. I am employee number 3. Therefore, I consider Citelum is somehow my baby although I have never been a shareholder of the company. I have also taken so many different roles within the company that I hardly had time to be bored or lose my motivation. I believe it is very different when you have been in a company since the creation than when you join later as a manager without strong tight to the company history. I would recommend anybody to be part of the creation of a company whether as a founder or just among the first employees. It is a unique and very motivating professional experience.
After more than twenty years with a man chairman and CEO, Citelum is now headed by a woman– Carmen Munoz – since mid-2015. What change did you observe in the way the company is operated?
Carmen’s approach to strategy, management and organization is very different from that of the previous CEO. However, this has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman but rather related to the fact that she has different skills and professional career. Also, the objectives that were set to her by the shareholder are very different from previously and hence requires a different roadmap. In my opinion, women and men are not so different when it comes to executive management. Everybody at Citelum is satisfied to have a female CEO. We have recently undertaken a big effort to increase the company as well at management position and on the field, even though it is difficult to find women interested by managing operations in the field of electric works. We have the ambition to raise the ratio of woman in the company to 50% from 18% today.
Citelum became a leader in urban lighting with a disruptive long-term comprehensive management offering that included design, implementation and O&M, with contractual KPI’s and applicable penalties. Do you offer the same model for smart city projects and is it enough to preserve your leadership and Cities’s preferred partner position?
The comprehensive management remains the foundation of Citelum’s offer and know-how. This type of contract is essential to guarantee the projects performance and we are able nowadays to commit to much higher levels than 15 years ago. We have also moved from an offer based mainly on energy savings and maintenance performance KPI’s to an offer that aim at guaranteeing the performance of high added value services for cities and citizen (“smart city” approach). We are therefore working on new use cases and services to improve the quality of life in the city (environment, mobility, attractiveness) without increasing the costs. We undertake regular surveys of users (city managers and inhabitants) to evaluate the services perceived quality and improvement. The results of these surveys are included in the performance evaluation and part of our KPI’s.
Technology and innovation are key elements in the evolution of our offer in terms of added value created. Innovation is also very present in our operation and management processes but also in the way we approach urban planning and creation of new services. For this reason, we remain convinced that our comprehensive management approach for cities contributes to transform them into a more resilient, economical and sustainable model.
Many tech players who are present on the smart city market like Cisco, Itron, Huawei or more recently the GAFA, offers salaries that are 1.5 to 2 times higher than construction and system integration companies. Do you think there is a risk for Citelum to lose its talents in a way that could affect your capacity to deploy and operate complex projects?
In general, we have not identified at this stage a risk of people massively moving from Citelum to tech companies in the field of Streetlighting and Smart Cities. Citelum is a middle size company that is part of a large government owned energy group (EDF) and this has for sure an impact on salaries but we do not offer lower salaries than similar players in the industry, mainly construction and environmental services companies. However, we don’t have the same business model and positioning on the value chain than tech companies. They cover a more specific portion of the value chain that requires very expert technology engineers and managers for whom there is a high demand on the market at the moment. As prime contractor, Citelum secure the global revenue of the project and have the ability to work with different partner companies including technology suppliers like Itron, Cisco or Huawei to execute the contract. Our model requires less expert but more versatile profiles. Our people privilege the ability to work on operational implementation of projects within the framework of a close and daily relationship with the clients. The satisfaction of a concrete achievement certainly compensates for part of the salary differences. I have personally made the choice 26 years ago to join Citelum so that I could be in direct contact with end-customers and be involved in all the aspects of their projects.
Do you actually consider these players as potential competitors or do you rather consider them as suppliers of Citelum who would remain the prime contractor and preferred partner of Cities?
Technology players have always been present in streetlighting and smart cities. Traditionally we work with luminaire suppliers. They are expert in their field and they were instrumental in moving the industry toward LEDs and smart solutions. Some of them like Philips tried to take a bigger part of the value chain and to compete with us with very little success. It is very difficult for them to go beyond technology. It is not their DNA. In the same way players like Cisco, Itron or Huawei bring in great technologies for Smart Cities and they are part of our suppliers in many key projects worldwide. But our knowledge and experience to deploy and operate global city projects and commit to global KPI’s within complex legal framework and financing schemes, are also key success factors to succeed on the smart city market. This is Citelum’s expertise and what we have been doing as prime contractors in leading cities worldwide for more than 25 years now.
Street Lighting have gone through two successive revolution in the last twenty years starting with LEDs retrofit followed by the large-scale deployment of smart control solution, often as a pillar to smart city projects. How did it impact Citelum’s recruitment and talent management policy?
The increasing complexity of Smart City projects in terms of technologies but also implementation planning and maintenance compared to simple streetlighting projects has clearly had an impact on our talent recruitment and management policy. Our need for versatile people has not changed but now they need to cover much more topics when it comes to engineering and technologies. Where streetlighting was traditionally mainly about lighting, electricity and civil works, smart streetlighting and smart city projects cover many other verticals like parking, cctv, traffic management and environmental monitoring and brings in electronics, IT and connectivity as well as project financing and more complex legal frameworks. This type of profiles are rare and very demanded and hence harder to recruit and retain. The good news is that as projects become more complex, they generate more profitability for Citelum as they offer more benefits and added value to the end-customer. This allows us to offer higher salaries to recruit and retain the most talented people in our industry.
How do you attract talents and why would they join Citelum?
We often discuss this point during Executive Committee meetings. The new generation is typically more interested in connected technologies than traditional infrastructure. They also want to be involved in projects with real environmental and social impact. Therefore, we put forward Citelum’s real contribution to improve the quality of life and the impact of its activities on reducing the carbon footprint of cities. Candidates are also attracted by the fact that Citelum is a human size company of 3000 employees with 350M€ annual revenue of which 80% is generated outside France. We operate like an international start-up while part of EDF, a very large and solid government owned group. Finally, Citelum encourage global mobility and offers unique international careers in Europe and amrica’s continent.
Do you have an onboarding program for your new recruits? What does it consist of?
We actually do organize pretty extensive integration programs up.
Technical expertise and innovation, project management, internationalization, town planning, sustainable development, funding, so many themes on which we train our new employees to provide our customers with the most relevant smart solutions.
We present them all the opportunities in terms of professional careers at Citelum or even within EDF Group. Citelum’s employee have access to all the training courses made available by the EDF Group which gives us permanent learning opportunities in various areas.
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