Solvay pursues comprehensive initiatives and processes to cultivate and assess the engagement and well-being of its employees, including personal development, rewards and recognition, an inclusive culture, and work-life balance. The Group also considers that engagement is fostered by freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Employee engagement is the level of commitment, passion, and loyalty a worker has toward his/her work and the company. The Group believes that engagement increases performance through higher productivity and employee retention. Five factors have an impact on employee engagement: pride, quality of work environment, overall satisfaction, motivation, and attachment to the company. Solvay also considers that engagement is fostered by fair labor practices and well-being at work.
Employee engagement is measured through a worldwide annual survey measuring the engagement of Solvay’s employees and the factors leading to engagement. This enables the Group to identify strengths and areas where the working environment and employee experience can be improved. The survey results are assessed across various scopes – at Group, Global Business Unit, Function, and site level, as well as for each team manager with at least five respondents on his/her team. Across the Group, this represents a clear and intentional commitment by leaders and managers to improve engagement and support the well-being of their employees.
Indicators and objectives
The Group 2025 target is an engagement index of 80%. This index is used as a yardstick to decide which actions are needed in areas such as personal development, rewards and recognition, an inclusive culture, and work-life balance.
Solvay’s priority objective:
Solvay engagement Index
Solvay engagement index
In 2018, Solvay assessed its workforce engagement via the “Global Census Survey”, a detailed questionnaire of 48 questions. In addition to engagement questions, the survey had two main areas of focus: the Solvay’s transformation journey (topics such as change management and key behaviors) and the employer value proposition (learning, rewards, recognition, well-being, etc.). As in 2017, the roll-out was done entirely digitally.
Engagement remains strong within the Group. Pride in working for Solvay has increased considerably in comparison with 2017. Key dimensions such as Sustainability, Safety, Innovation, and Customer Focus are all present among the top scoring items, showing that they are well embedded within Solvay. The top three show that perception of these topics is stable. However, Solvay faces challenges in areas such as recognition, agility, and digital solutions.
- Proud to work for Solvay;
- Overall satisfaction;
of employees covered by collective agreement*
*Due to the Solvay Care collective Agreement with the global employee representative body, the Solvay Global Forum, which covers all employees.
Solvay believes that a trusting, constructive relationship with employees and their representatives forms the basis for fair labor practices. This relationship is built on the Group’s commitment to respecting employees’ fundamental human rights and guaranteeing their social rights.
Labor relations are managed at different levels.
Solvay Global Forum
In 2015 Solvay created a global employee representative body, the Solvay Global Forum, composed of eight employee representatives from the seven main countries where Solvay operates. This Forum meets with the Executive Committee once a year, in Brussels, during a one-week session. Video conferences are held quarterly, bringing together the Solvay Global Forum and the Group’s top management to comment on and discuss the quarterly results of the Group, and to keep everyone informed of the main new projects.
The main topics discussed in 2018 were:
- The yearly negotiation of the Global Performance Sharing plan, which entitles each Group employee to a share of the Group’s EBITDA, and which also includes sustainability criteria (progress on the Solvay Way annual self-assessment);
- Solvay’s plans to simplify its organization, published in March 2018, were disclosed and discussed with the Solvay Global Forum before implementation, including redundancies and mitigation;
- The establishment of an Employees’ Share Scheme has been discussed with the Solvay Global Forum. Discussion for future implementation are ongoing.
European Works Council
Solvay and its European Works Council (EWC) have been in permanent dialog for more than 20 years. In 2018, the EWC met on two occasions in a plenary session. The sustainable development EWC commission met on two occasions and the EWC Secretariat met eleven times with senior Group management, allowing these representative bodies to be part of Solvay’s evolution. Subject matters receiving particular attention were Mergers and Acquisitions (notably the divestment of the Polyamides activities); restructuring issues, including the simplification plan; developments in Group employment and working conditions; and strategy and sustainable development issues.
The main topics discussed with the Sustainable Development Commission of the European Works Council in 2018 included the five priority targets of the Group, the health and safety plan, the human rights due diligence process in Solvay, the well-being at work policy, and the results of the Group’s sustainability performance assessment by extra-financial rating agencies.
The IndustriALL Global Union Framework Agreement
On December 17, 2013, Solvay signed a Corporate Social and Environmental Agreement for the whole Group with IndustriALL Global Union. This Agreement is based on International Labor Organization standards and the principles of the United Nations Global Compact. It is a tangible expression of Solvay’s determination to ensure that basic labor rights and the Group’s social standards in the areas of Health, Safety and Environmental protection are respected at all of its sites.
In February 2017, Solvay took that collaboration one step further by renewing its Global Framework Agreement with IndustriALL Global Union, reinforcing its commitment by adding new social projects, such as societal actions and the protection of mental safety in the workplace.
Every year, IndustriALL Global Union representatives meet Solvay employees to check on compliance in the field, with two assessment missions taking place at two different sites. One mission measures the results of the Group’s safety policy. The second examines the application of the agreement, which, in particular, formally covers the following health and safety aspects:
- Ensuring good working conditions;
- Managing risk as a daily concern;
- Defining demanding internal policies and their strict application;
- Improving safety performance and regular monitoring of both Solvay’s and contractors’ employees;
- Ensuring healthy working conditions for all, regardless of the job they perform and its associated risks.
In 2018, the two assessment missions took place in the United Kingdom and Germany. IndustriAll Global Union paid particular attention to Solvay’s behavior-based employee safety approach and its potential limits.
To ensure all employees comply with the IndustriALL Global Union Agreement, it has been integrated as an employee practice in the Solvay Way framework.
Minimum notice periods regarding operational changes
Some of the collective bargaining agreements specify notice periods for consultation and negotiation. The Global Framework Agreement concluded between Solvay and IndustriALL Global Union includes a provision that employees and unions (where applicable) must be informed in advance of any restructuring plans. In some of the collective bargaining agreements, a notice period and provisions for consultation and negotiation may be required.
Employee Representation Indicator
Trade unions are present at a majority of Solvay sites around the world. Union membership is estimated at 20% in Europe, 30% in South America, 10% in North America, and 70% in Asia.
Minimum social coverage standard for all employees worldwide
Named “Solvay Cares”, this initiative, set up through an agreement with employee representative bodies, perpetuates the pioneering social vision of Ernest Solvay, who introduced forms of social security at the Group he founded more than 150 years ago.
Solvay Cares will be fully deployed in the first half of 2019 and aims to provide four major benefits:
- Full income protection during parental leave, with 14 weeks for the mother and one week for the co-parent; and full income protection of one week during adoption;
- A minimum coverage of 75% of medical fees in the event of hospitalization or severe illness;
- Disability insurance in the event of lasting incapacity;
- Life insurance with coverage for the family or partner.
Well-being at work
For Solvay, well-being at work is a holistic concept which relates to all aspects of the quality of working life that ensure workers are safe, physically and mentally healthy, satisfied, engaged, and efficient. It contributes to a culture of recognition and support, to work-life balance, to employees’ growth and development, and to good communication and collaboration. The well-being indicator for Solvay’s workforce is measured via the yearly “Solvay Engagement Survey”. Four questions in the employee survey relate to perceived well-being at work.
Responsibility for the well-being program is assigned to the Head of Group Industrial Relations and Social Innovation, with the support of a multidisciplinary Corporate Committee on Well-being at Work. This Committee was set up in October 2016 and meets monthly. It includes occupational physicians and psychologists, Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment, and sustainable development experts.
An important step in the current well-being program is to develop competencies in stress prevention and to implement positive behaviors within the Group. The Committee has developed dedicated training material for managers and for local teams that directly support well-being and has created e-learning videos to raise awareness among all employees. Manager training started with the Executive Committee and the leadership council in September 2017. Since March 2018, nine training sessions for managers have taken place in six countries. Feedback from participants, who appreciated the concrete examples of action, has been excellent. Sessions are led by external psychologists. Other sessions are planned for 2019.
Solvay’s network of occupational physicians and psychologists will increasingly examine the root causes of professional burnout. Since May 2018, Solvay physicians in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Mexico have adopted the burnout observatory approach already implemented in France and Belgium, and further deployment is expected in 2019. The aim of the burnout observatory is to take stock of the magnitude of the issue at Solvay, and to identify the main risk factors in order to define preventive actions. So far, the main risk factors identified are workload, time pressure, lack of work-life balance, lack of recognition, lack of hierarchy support, difficult relationships at work, and the impact of organizational changes.
Training for the burnout observatory has already been attended by physicians covering:
- 37% of sites (60 / 164 sites);
- 55% of employees (14,726 / 26,865 headcount).
Burnout cases were reported in 2018 to the Comex, including a description of the circumstances that can lead to burnout and ways to prevent it. The Corporate Committee on well-being at work is developing tools to assess excessive workload and to include well-being in change management.
A full section of the Solvay Way framework, which Solvay entities use to perform annual self-assessments and define improvement plans, is dedicated to well-being, while the yearly Solvay Engagement survey explores employee perceptions of well-being at work. This encourages sites to develop local well-being programs and assess stress risks. Well-being is one of the management aspects examined during the annual visits organized with IndustriAll Global Union.
2018 examples of regional initiatives
The well-being program is being strengthened in Asia and Latin America. In Brazil, several initiatives were taken in 2018, including the training of employees on well-being at work by the occupational health physician, and training by an external expert to raise site managers’ awareness of burnout. In China, a collaboration between the Chinese human resources teams and the country medical officer was organized in order to ensure the deployment of a common strategy for well-being at work, including managerial training, training of local support staff on well-being at work, and employee awareness.
The Chalampé site in France has employed an exemplary approach to addressing well-being in the context of the change management that accompanied a major reorganization of shift work arrangements at the site.