“Employees who give feedback to each other 20,000 times in one month, 500 mentors who spontaneously take colleagues under their wing, internal vacancies that are filled faster. The platform that the Belgian chemical giant Solvay built for its 26,000 employees was such a success that a new start-up grew out of it. Huapii (a contraction of Human and Happy) puts employees and their skills radically at the center. According to founders Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens, Alice Tranchant and Kristof Stevens, the platform is not only transforming the way of working at companies. “We use technology to change a corporate culture. That is what distinguishes us from all other HR solutions. ”

Radical culture change

Re-Imagine new ways of working. That was the assignment that Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens received from chemical giant Solvay three years ago, in his role of Head of Digital HR and New Ways of Working. “ We had to start working in a different way. With more empowerment and more ownership for the staff. Employees had to be central to this new approach. For a 150-year-old company with 26,000 employees, this was a radical culture change. ”Deliver and collect parcels without contact? 

The platform Huapii grew out of functioned as a sort of internal marketplace. “Employees can share their profile, course and skills there. They can connect with each other, to increase their network within the company and to work together more efficiently. It is also a good tool for giving feedback to colleagues. The pilot project caught the attention of the CEO and it has in no time become the internal employee platform at Solvay . ”

The platform was built because other solutions available on the market were inadequate, it sounds. “They were not user-friendly enough, insufficiently agile, ” said Fecheyr-Lippens. “If Solvay was not to the market’s liking, shouldn’t companies still be looking for a platform that encourages a different way of working? When we were allowed to present the platform to other companies at conferences and to other companies, we were always asked why we were not commercializing the idea. This is how Huapii came about, as an independent start-up . ”

Size does not matter

Huapii may have been developed within a gigantic multinational, the platform does not only focus on large corporates. “SMEs with 150 employees also get added value from our solution,” says Alice Tranchant. “ But actually the number of employees or the size of a company doesn’t really matter that much. The mindset is much more important. Above all, you have to be prepared to work differently, to allow employees to take their careers into their own hands. The skills of employees are central, they transcend structures and hierarchies. The platform combats cubicle thinking. ”The skills of employees are central, they transcend structures and hierarchies. The platform combats cubicle thinking.

“The culture change, that is what distinguishes Huapii from other HR solutions. Of course we firmly believe in our platform. But that can only be effective if the culture of the company also evolves. Culture and technology reinforce each other. 

Is the culture change making companies use the platform? Or does the platform lead to culture change? It is somewhat reminiscent of the story of the chicken and the egg. “Sometimes the chicken comes first, sometimes the egg,” laughs Kristof Stevens. “Sometimes there is already a cultural shift , but a tool or platform is still needed to really root it in the organization. Sometimes the platform is needed to initiate and accelerate cultural change. ”

“ I sometimes compare it to tasting chocolate. Someone can explain which ingredients are in such a bar of chocolate, and then you can imagine something about it. But you only really get the taste when you taste the chocolate yourself. ”

20,000 feedbacks per month, in all hierarchical directions

Huapii always works in co-creation with the companies that adopt the platform, Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens emphasizes. “Support is crucial. At Solvay, over the years, only 20% of employees had a profile that was only visible to HR, a few months later thanks to the new user-friendly and people-centric platform, 80% of employees had a profile. ”

“ As skills become visible across silos, internal vacancies were filled faster . In this way, companies avoid missing out on strong candidates internally and start expensive, time-consuming recruitment procedures. Suppose a multinational has a vacancy for a job in Asia and employee X had always dreamed of working on a different continent for a few years. Today, the company does not know that that employee is willing to move to Asia, and chances are that that employee will never see the Asian vacancy. The internal marketplace on the platform can make that match. ”You can give people all possible tools to give their own superiors feedback, they will only do that when they feel that the company culture is ripe for it.

“The number of feedback employees gave increased to 20,000 a month. And perhaps more importantly, employees also dared to give feedback to people higher up the hierarchical ladder . Cultural change plays a crucial role there. You can give people all possible tools to give their own superiors feedback, they will only do that if they feel that the company culture is ready for it. That two-way street only works in an open environment, where people feel safe and know that they will not be punished for that . ”

Advance of mentorship

Another important result of the Huapii platform is the rise of the mentorship , according to Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens . “That wasn’t really part of the culture. However, employees have started looking for colleagues themselves to learn from. They wondered which skills they still need or want to strengthen, and they went to the platform to see who has those skills. This is how an informal culture of learning and mentorship emerged . If your company tries to create 500 matches, you will quickly lose two years. This has grown organically on the platform in a few months. ”

“ Some HR departments are initially a bit concerned about their own role. But when employees sue each other themselves, and don’t waste time on forms and formal approvals, the role of HR just gets more challenging . Much more coaching, much more personal growth, much less administration and bureaucracy. ”

A textbook example of corporate venturing

According to Kristof Stevens, Huapii is a textbook example of corporate venturing, of a start-up that arises within a huge corporate that is much slower and less agile. “ Huapii would never have been able to grow as fast if we hadn’t been able to operate within that large corporate. 

“I have started businesses before, and I am well aware that the idea is not the biggest challenge. What makes or breaks a start-up is understanding a need . We have seen from the front row what a large multinational struggled with and what it exactly needed to make such a huge organization more human centric . That experience is priceless for a founder. ”

“You can also scale much faster. Normally you start from scratch, we could immediately test our solution on 26,000 people .. We could develop our platform in the lee, and we had a huge playing field to experiment and test and thus we could validate our platform with 26,000 users ! Huapii is a start-up and at the same time not. ”

From a safe corporate environment to the jungle

Alice Tranchant admits that from the comfortable position at a large, stable corporate to the hectic and uncertain start-up life, it was quite a step. “I jumped into the deep end. Huapii and Solvay are day and night difference. But I haven’t regretted the jump for a second. I feel that I can make even more impact now. I used to work within one organization, now I can influence the culture and way of working at different companies. ”

Huapii has meanwhile rolled out the platform to various companies, including the chemical company Ravago, where they and their employees commemorated their performance process. Kristof Stevens and his co-founders think that COVID-19 only needs the growth of the platform. will accelerate.

“Companies are looking for ways to build connections remotely. Half of their employees often still work from home, it is important that these people remain involved. With their employer and with each other. Working from home will last, but how do you create a corporate culture when employees barely see each other? That human connection is central to our platform .””