News from HR: a word from Anne-Sylvie Catherin

Anne-Sylvie Catherin, head of HR Department, looks back over her years at CERN before taking up her new position at the European Central Bank.


At the end of July, I will be leaving CERN on a special leave of absence to take up a new position at the European Central Bank. This is a new chapter in my career, in a new context with its own challenges, and as I prepare for it, I would like to take a little time to look back over my years at CERN and share with you the enriching journey it has been, both for myself and for HR.

It has always been my strong belief that any organisation’s greatest asset is its people. When an HR professional believes that, it’s only a short step to the conclusion that the best way to nurture those people is by adopting a professional approach to HR. In this respect, I arrived at a very fortuitous time. Enrico Chiaveri was head of HR and, although his background is in physics, we shared that same conviction. Enrico was the icebreaker in driving change, and as a result, much of what we have achieved during my term as head of the HR department was set in motion by him. I also had the privilege to find constant, unfailing support from Rolf Heuer and Sigurd Lettow, who both wanted to reach the same level of excellence in HR management as that prevailing in other areas of the Organization.

So what have we achieved? First and foremost, we have built an HR strategy where originally there was none. We have improved dialogue with staff, at first through a staff survey and then through regular meetings to present our activities, their purpose and meaning for CERN in a timely manner. We have introduced multiple communication channels to gather staff feedback, ranging from focus groups to discussions with the HR Frontline and live chats. We have developed a Code of Conduct, which has been widely adopted in many areas, including, for example, guidelines for CERN people active on social media. We have put in place policies around diversity, going beyond gender, and recruitment, striving to attract and retain the best candidates both at the initial recruitment stage and on indefinite contracts. And we have worked to ensure that our learning and development offer matches the Organization’s needs, is fully integrated into HR processes such as the MARS exercise, and provides opportunities for each and every one of us to constantly grow and thrive in our respective roles.

My time at CERN has seen an entire Five-Yearly Review cycle unfold. Through this process, we have integrated several important measures around diversity, and developed a new career structure in close collaboration with the Department Heads and in full concertation with the Staff Association. I would like to thank them all wholeheartedly for their constructive approach to our deliberations. The new career structure is in the final stages of development, with the finishing touches being made as I write, with a view to its implementation on 1 September.

Going forward, there is still work to be done in completing the HR strategy, notably with two remaining pillars to be put in place. These are capacity planning and talent management, and both have been endorsed by the Directorate. James Purvis will be taking over from me as Head of Department, and I have every confidence that he will thrive in this new role. James has been a member of the HR Department’s Management Board throughout the strategic development process and I am therefore leaving CERN safe in the knowledge that the HR Department is in good hands.

A common thread underlines all the work done by the HR Department over recent years: we endeavour to put in place tools and policies that help all of us to lead our working lives around shared values and standards of behaviour, and we have nurtured a sustainable approach to the management of our people: our greatest asset. On this note, I would like to say thank you to Fabiola Gianotti and Martin Steinacher for their support and understanding, as well as to all the people both inside and outside the Department with whom I have relentlessly worked side by side to achieve the progress we have made to date. I am ending this journey with a deep sense of gratitude for the trust the Organization has placed in me over the past years and for the numerous opportunities I have been given. I will be taking fond memories away with me, and I look forward to seeing this great organisation continue to go from strength to strength. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing many of you at my last HR public meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 28 June in the Council Chamber.

Anne-Sylvie Catherin

The next HR public meeting will provide an opportunity to take stock of the HR department’s journey over the past ten years and to learn more about the new career structure and benchmark jobs. It will start at 3 p.m. on 28 June in the Council Chamber and will be followed by a drink.