Is it enough today to have a sushy-party with your colleagues or to install colorful poufs to make your company friendly? For Pauline Vessely, doctor in sociology, the answer is no! In the professional environment, conviviality must be stimulated in a subtle way. The sociologist directs the R&D pole within the company Social Bar, a kind of “factory” of meetings between people who do not know each other. The company would like to open about twenty of them on this model within 5 years and sells services to companies.
Why did you choose usability as a research topic?
Pauline Vessely : What interests me is to study the role of “weak ties”, that is to say, not very intense and/or not very recurrent links, which often characterize those we weave with our colleagues. In my opinion, they are only weak in name, because they are extremely structuring for society but also for the company. They are the ones who make a group become a work collective. The Covid-19 crisis put it in perspective, when remote work took hold and human relationships were transformed. What I like is also to carry out research on uncharted territory: conviviality has been, in the past, underlined by the scientific literature, but little treated from the angle of socialization. The social bond is however a key ingredient of happiness at work!
In 1869, Pierre Larousse, in his Grand Dictionnaire, defined conviviality as “the taste for joyful gatherings and feasts”
Is the company a friendly place?
PV: When we talk about conviviality in business, we often refer to the offices themselves, especially since the generalization of telework. However, to have pleasant workspaces is not enough to make the company friendly. Especially since the company is a social structure that is standardized, within which individuals have formal relationships. Even if new models emerge, advocating a more horizontal management, hierarchical links are still very present. The liberalization of work, the culture of profit and the use of digital tools can also be obstacles to conviviality. Since it is not spontaneous, it must therefore be encouraged. Especially since it significantly impacts the productivity employees.
It’s these “little things” that make the link
Isn’t recruiting nice people enough to make a company friendly?
PV: It helps, but it’s not enough! Because all personalities must be able to express their share of sympathy or, at least, their desire to share. It is this framework that companies need to co-construct with their employees. Moreover, when it wishes to stimulate this culture of conviviality, we advise them to involve all of their employees, that is to say, to let them find the rituals that will create conviviality tomorrow. The process should therefore not be top-down. An employee must feel free to organize a discussion time if he wishes to share his favorite readings, for example. It is these “little things” that make the link, unlike seminars or “team building” sessions, which are more intended to federate teams.
What does the intervention of the Social Bar within companies consist of?
PV: The Social Bar is an activator of conviviality. Its purpose is to trigger social encounters. We intervene within companies to help them ignite this spark and thus build a collective identity. To achieve this, we rely on devices that promote, without forcing, interactions. This can be challenges, quizzes, blind tests… In this way, individuals overcome the distrust they have of others and begin to exchange. Our feat of arms is to have managed to animate an Olympia full to bursting and to have confronted two ministers in office! We have also created a school to train “conviviality agents” likely to intervene in seminars, team buildings…
Does conviviality remain authentic when it is “provoked”?
PV: This is one of the fears of some of our agents: that this conviviality becomes forced, so that it rings false. On this subject, we noticed that when it was driven with enthusiasm, it remained spontaneous. Anyway, in launching this school, our goal was not to create robots that recite ready-made sentences! It was rather to train conviviality agents in the reception and service professions while encouraging them to remain themselves and to appropriate this notion of conviviality. In fact, when they intervene within companies, their objective is not that all co-workers become friends. Their ambition is simply to create social ties between them.
Question to an expert: do you believe in the function of “conviviality agent” within companies?
Response from Laurence de Fontenay, ex-HRD of the Randstad group, now executive coach for Connecting Minds.
” At a time when companies are struggling to recruit, friendliness, which may seem like a “light” topic, is actually a major element of employer branding. Today, companies are in competition not on technical aspects such as the content of their jobs, but on intangible elements such as the working atmosphere and friendliness! These are the subjects that employees evaluate on review platforms such as Glassdoor. I think that the function of conviviality agent therefore has its place in business, provided that the subject is approached in a transversal way, not in a segmented way like CSR. This person could intervene on an ad hoc basis, to animate meetings and seminars, for example. Its role would be to transmit the culture of conviviality internally. Creating this function, which would support managers and HR, would also allow companies to announce an intention, to send a strong message to their teams. This is all the more important as younger generations more easily leave a company when they do not feel good there. In my opinion, conviviality is therefore not only a lever of well-being but also a factor of commitment which has a significant impact on turnover. »