L’Oréal, A great place to work

A survey by the American magazine Fortune ranks L’Oréal among the ten "best companies to work for" in Europe. It is the only French company on this list.

An international atmosphere, a great deal of autonomy and responsibility for all employees, excellent human relations and excellent benefits, a pleasant working environment even at the factory level….the American magazine Fortune had more than enough reasons to place L'Oréal – the only French company in this ranking – on its European short list of "10 Great Companies to Work For". The final choice was made after a thorough Europe-wide survey based on numerous visits to the firms under consideration and dozens of interviews with their employees. . Although this is the first year European companies have been ranked by Fortune, their list of the top 100 American companies to work for has been a benchmark reference since 1993 and has been updated annually since 1997. The European firms on this year’s list are ING (The Netherlands), L’Oréal (France), Morgan Stanley (UK), Nokia (Finland), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), Porsche (Germany), Prêt A Manger (UK), San Raffaele (Italy), Skandia (Sweden) and ST Microelectronics (Switzerland).

A Passion for Beauty

To give readers an idea of the "L’Oréal ambiance", Fortune describes the scene at the company’s Panoramic Coffee Bar between 8:30 and 9:30 in the morning. "There you will see, on any day of the week, comments the magazine, one of the most stylishly dressed work forces in the world, ... talking animatedly about the work at hand. These are people with a passion for beauty products."

Multicultural and international

In particular, the American journalists attribute this passion to the fact that L'Oreal is a genuinely international company and everyone there feels enriched by the multicultural environment. The coffee bar conversation is mostly in French, but it could just as easily be in English, Italian, German, or a number of other languages. "The international character of the company was cited as an advantage over and over again in conversations we had", the article underlines. The writers also point out that there are 45 nationalities represented in the L'Oreal work force, and that the company is headed by a Welshman, Lindsay Owen-Jones.

Another factor that contributes to employee satisfaction is the opportunity to take on responsibility very early in one’s career and to express one’s personality. "L'Oreal employees thrive on the freedom and autonomy that are hallmarks of the company's culture.", the magazine observes, citing several examples and viewpoints of young managers. They evoke the "right to be wrong", or "the right to be different" given to all employees. After listing the many "fringe benefits" enjoyed by L'Oréal employees, the journalists conclude that, "not surprisingly", turnover is low with an average tenure of 14 years. One explanation for such a high degree of employee satisfaction is provided by François Vachey, L'Oreal's Vice President for Human Relations, "Loyalty to the company is very important to us. People come, they join, and they stay." And another reason why people tend to like their jobs is apparent in a quote from Lindsay Owen Jones, L'Oréal's CEO, "When I see financial analysts I always tell them that one of the reasons for our success is the special relationship we have with our people."