1. Understand the task at hand
Zoom Media, which operates digital media networks in fitness centres, restaurants, entertainment venues, and on college campuses, was founded in Québec, but because of a series of acquisitions, it also operates in the United Kingdom and the United States. “As a result, we have many cultures, and until recently our focus had not been on integrating them,” says Eve-Stéphanie Sauvé, vice president of legal affairs and human resources, who is now working hard to develop common processes. “I hold regular meetings with HR teams in the United Kingdom and United States to ensure we’re all aligned.”
2. Be available
Sauvé practiced at national law firms for 10 years before going in-house in 2001, a step she felt better suited her interests. “I wanted to be close to my clients, but my billable rate was getting higher and higher, and my clients were hesitant to call me about day-to-day matters because they could feel the meter ticking,” Sauvé says. Nowadays, she encourages her colleagues and employees to reach out whenever necessary.
3. Step outside your defined role
According to Sauvé, many people—women in particular—tend to doubt themselves too much. “A lot of young people think that if they’ve studied law, all they can do as a career is law, but … I believe that if you have a good head on your shoulders and good judgment, you can bring a lot to a company,” she says. “It takes many types of people with different backgrounds and personalities for a company to succeed.”
4. Don’t be afraid to take on more
Working primarily from the office during the day but also dialing in at night when necessary, Sauvé spends 40 percent of her time doing legal work, another 20–40 percent doing HR work, and the rest handling strategy as part of Zoom Media’s executive committee. “I don’t sleep much, but I find it very exciting,” she says. “You have to build a good relationship with your superiors so [that] they trust you and know that if something has to be done on a certain day, it will get done.”
5. Accept cultural differences
When HR policies don’t align across organizations, it’s important to understand why before attempting to enact change. “I was discussing vacation policies with my teams, and my UK HR person mentioned that a UK employee starts with six weeks of vacation,” Sauvé says. “My US HR person was astounded because in the United States, two weeks is generous. You have to live with the different legal and cultural requirements, but it’s important to be fair with all employees. We don’t give six weeks of vacation in the United States because it’s not common, and my managers would skin me alive, but we do other things to foster a good work environment, like give US employees an opportunity to get a third week faster. And we let them know [that], to the extent that it’s different elsewhere, it’s a result of regulation, not choice.”
6. Standardize where possible
Recently, Sauvé standardized the salary-increase process across the entire company—a global initiative that took up most of her time. She was willing to stay patient and get through it, though, because “whenever possible, you want things to be fair,” she says.
7. Capitalize on your strengths
In her role on Zoom Media’s executive committee, Sauvé looks for strategies to grow the company. Recently, for example, she helped develop a three-year plan that focuses on advertising in the fitness industry. But she also doesn’t see business as only a matter of strategy. “I bring a softer perspective because of my background, so I’m an advocate for employees as well as for being a good corporate citizen,” she says.
8. Be good
First, you have to treat everyone with dignity and respect, be they employees or service providers. Second, you have to operate ethically. “One may get away with doing something unethical once or maybe twice, but ultimately it will come back and hurt you,” Sauvé says.