Pierre-Henri Blancher

Pierre-Henri Blancher (1)

Pierre-Henri Blancher is a talent architect and organisational development expert. In his roles over the past decade, Pierre-Henri has worked to identify the products and services that people teams need in order to create an amazing experience for employees.

Today, he is Director of Talent Management and Rewards at Jellysmack, an organisation using AI to detect and develop talented video creators.

I spoke to Pierre-Henri about how to drill down on candidates’ behaviours and competencies in interviews, what makes him the most proud as a manager, and the age-old mistake of sleeping through your alarm.

Cecily Motley: When it comes to managing teams, what has been your biggest success?

Pierre-Henri Blancher: I am very proud when someone can do two things. First, when they grow in something that started as a challenge. It's easy to help someone grow in something they do well already but when you can challenge someone on something that's difficult for them and see them develop? This is great. The second thing is when someone feels confident enough to talk to me about their next career move - even if that means going to a different company. Most people no longer expect to spend 50 years in one company. So even though, as their manager, you are an ambassador for the value proposition of your company, you need to consider that people have different goals and they may be able to develop more by moving elsewhere.

Even though you are an ambassador for the value proposition of your company, you need to consider that people have different goals and they may be able to develop more by moving elsewhere

CM: And what has been your biggest management challenge?

PHB: I talk too much when I’m coaching. You should be ‘next to’ someone when you’re trying to help them grow, rather than in front of them or giving too much advice. I know that they need to do the work. So that’s something I’m working on.

CM: What is the interview question you always ask, and why?

PHB: I don't have one interview question, like how many golf balls can you fit in a plane or anything like that. I don’t really like these kinds of questions. But I usually use the STAR methodology. Often, someone will describe a situation and generalise about what they did - you know, “I’m good at X” or “I often do Y.” I love to take a pause and ask them to tell me about what they did specifically, not the general situation. This helps to identify the underlying behaviours and competencies a candidate is displaying.

CM: What has been your biggest people blunder?

Years ago I was in charge of an assessment centre and we were receiving the final candidates for a very senior position. The night before their interview was the annual office Christmas party - you can see where I'm going with this. The company rented a club for all the employees and the next morning I didn't hear my alarm. I woke up at the time of the interview. My colleague helped me shift the order of the candidate’s tests and I arrived maybe one hour late for the interview. The candidate obviously realised that I had just got into the office and it ended up being one of the most awkward interviews of my life.

CM: Thank you so much for sharing that and I bet you never did that again! What is the bane of your professional life and what do you waste the most time on?

PHB: Redoing the same reports in Google sheets over and over just to update my data.

CM: If your career were a bestselling novel, what would its title be?

PHB: Working Fast and Slow. There is the book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow, which is about effective decision making: the fact that some decisions are quick but a little biased while others are slower but perhaps better quality. He encourages us to make more of these slow decisions.

In my career, I’ve made some decisions a bit too fast and others a bit too slow. Going into consulting, moving to a different country, moving to the startup ecosystem - all of my decisions have been driven by a mixture of emotions as well as more rational career goals or motivations. I’m happy where I am, but I did make some decisions that were more motivated by emotion than making sure I had the ‘perfect’ career.

Some decisions are quick but a little biased while others are slower but perhaps better quality

CM: Do you think AI is going to take your job?

PHB: Absolutely! No, in all seriousness, I believe that AI will be a formidable co-pilot for my job in the future. But I also think it depends on where a company is in its people journey. When you build a talent management strategy in a startup, sometimes you build a kind of SaaS, meaning that you need to build something quick and easy to understand. In these cases, AI will help a lot. But as an organisation becomes more mature, it needs to develop more bespoke, human services. Then AI will help less, in my opinion.

CM: What is your life hack?

PHB: I live in Paris and I often use public bicycles. Half the time, you get a bike that’s badly maintained or doesn’t work well but I’ve learned that you can actually see the number of stars that users have given each bike. If you do that, you can always get an amazing bike.

CM: And what is the AI prompt that you use most frequently - for Chat GPT or other?

PHB: We have employees in different parts of the world, including in the US and the UK, so most of the written communication at my company is in English. When I have to produce something to share within the organisation, I will ask Chat GPT two things: first to correct and enhance my English, and then to simplify the message.