HR Today – Interview with Caroline De Allegri, HR expert

par Caroline De Allegri

24 April 2022

by Caroline De Allegri

24 April 2022

Caroline De Allegri laid the foundations for several HR functions worthy of the name in semi-public institutions in the canton of vaud. She is especially appreciated for her delicacy and sincerity.

Her ability to listen and her authenticity are held in a pocket handkerchief. She masters both wonderfully. Her life and business partner, Marco Brienza, tells this anecdote: “She was mandated one day for a dismissal. The situation was delicate and the tension high. She listened and found the right words. A few weeks later, the dismissed person phoned her to thank her!” Here is Caroline De Allegri, part-time HR manager at the ARAS Nyon (social) association since 2018 and consultant at the Odienz firm, which she created in 2016 with her partner. A tight-fisted woman in a merino glove. She herself describes herself more as an HR transformer. And says he deeply loves people and justice.

She hears, listens and supports but above all wishes to give impetus to make the other and the organization grow. She welcomes us at the end of August to the coworking space La Serre in the Fiches-Nord district of Lausanne. She is “a little stressed. She smiles: “ I’m not used to being in the shoes of the candidate”.

We’re here to talk about the basic ingredients of a professional HR function. Over the years, it has become his trademark. Caroline De Allegri set up the HR departments of three semi public institutions in the canton of Vaud. Each time she arrives, she observes then she builds on the basis of what already exists and always in partnership with the teams.


Her first mission starts on a bluff. Freshly graduated in work psychology from the University of Neuchatel, she sent an unsolicited offer to the Asylum for the Blind Foundation for a position as HR assistant. “I had no experience”, she says. Paul Sarbach, the director at the time, said yes. The patriarch leads this institution, with a personnel department whose main mission is to manage the administration of salaries and social insurance.

“On my first day, I think they had forgotten I was coming..”. The boss installs her in an empty office and suggests that she review the staff statutes. “So I was immersed in the bath from the start. The Asylum for the Blind is a private foundation recognized as being of public utility, a complex organization, with several ramifications and a long history. She discovers an institution attached to its history, a multi-story liner with more than 25 trades. There reign the myth of careers for life and exotic recruitment practices.” I was asked, for example, not to retain candidates who had stuck more than two stamps on their cover letter!” With skill and a low profile, she begins by observing the dynamics, building relationships and creating alliances.

She quickly manages to reassure the payroll manager, who did not understand how an inexperienced woman could earn 5000.- per month. Caroline De Allegri pledges allegiance to him, learns and dares to move the lines. “ I started by setting up a professional recruitment process, with standard advertisements, skills to target and objectivity in the selection of files. It also establishes a partnership with actors in the field. An operation that is not always obvious in the hospital environment. She dares: “Doctors could have oversized egos. It was not easy to recruit their assistants. Do not hide the requirements of certain doctors while highlighting the attractiveness of the position. Things have changed a bit since then, she says.

«I do what I say»

How does she find her place in this bucket of crabs? “ I say what I do and I do what I say, it creates trust,” she replies tit for tat. This is her firm side. After recruitment, she sets up an onboarding process (cover letter, contract, onboarding documents and a roadmap to follow for the 1st day, the first week and the first three months.) “My specialty is simplicity. Formalize in writing and have a record, yes, but everything must remain easy and understandable.”

Its onboarding process includes a guided tour of the entire organization. She comments: “The fact of moving to the different places of the institution has made it possible to bring people together, to break down silos and to break transversality into practices. A hospital should be a multidisciplinary team with the patient at the center. It’s not always the case…”.

She then tackles the evaluation process, which lacks guidelines. In order to understand and identify leads, she invites herself to interviews and observes. Result: hallway noise is justified. The process did not solve all the situations and even less the critical cases. “So I stopped everything, the time to train the management and review the process.”

Little by little, the personnel department is becoming more professional. With the arrival of the new director, Yves Mottet (the predecessor of Vincent Castagna, in place today), the institution hired a HRD (Francoise Riem-Vis) and expanded the HR team. She recalls: “I had been offered to take over the HR department but I needed someone above me to feed me. With Francoise, we reviewed the managers training guide, set up a conflict management system, created an occupational health policy, described all the HR processes within the framework of the ISO approach and developed a Business Partner approach.”

The HR team grew to 8 people in 2013. She decided to take up a new challenge.

Structure and method

It was the La Pouponnière Foundation and the Abri de Lausanne (250 employees) who hired her. Director Bruno Dell’Eva especially appreciates her experience with ISO. She says: “It was not the label that interested her, rather a need for structure and method.” Upon his arrival, the Foundation operates mainly in a decentralized way: the challenge is to be able to create bridges between the different services, to harmonize and simplify practices. It is in this spirit that she thinks about the organization of internal substitutes in order to respect the very strict quotas in terms of childcare for young children.

Again, she begins by listening. The function of substitute educator is relatively poorly valued, with a high turnover rate. This uncertainty causes tensions in the teams. Since her arrival, Caroline De Allegri has added an HR assistant, a recruiter and an HR project manager. Together, they create and train a pool of internal replacements to ensure the service. “Creating an HR function is not just about the process,” she says. Through exchanges and mutual adjustments, the sauce takes hold and the organization emerges more united, more peaceful. At ease on more technical subjects, she is also committed to evaluating the methods of implementing an HRIS.

Mission accomplished, she then joined the Association ARAS Nyon, which offered her a position as HR manager.

Part-time (a 50% that she stills occupied today). “ I also wanted to have more time for my HR consulting activities.” As for ARAS Nyon, it was both its personality and its ability to professionalize the HR unit that appealed, Caroline De Allegri embodies the transformation of the HR function that everyone has been talking about for twenty years. She says, “What I like is to take HR from a salesperson and numbered approach” towards a better understanding of the human interaction with others in a work environment. It is a subtle task, comparable to raising a child. It takes time, requires repetition, with sincerity and conviction. “

Here we touch on the heart of the De Allegri style. She details: “I like people. I always manage to see in the other a common point, a gateway to the relationship or the situation. It is my deep nature.

I’ve always had this curiosity for others. Basically, people are not ill-intentioned. My role is to deconstruct and understand.”

At the ARAS Nyon association, she sits on the management committee, with the director, the finance manager and the executive secretary. “We have good cohesion and a common vision, essential to create a coherent HR function.” In this new job, the challenge is to update certain practices and questions habits. Again, she takes the time to listen and also dares to put her finger on more delicate subjects. “I’ve always been pretty responsive. If I feel any discomfort, I talk about it right away. If it’s nothing, so much the better, but it’s nothing, so much the better, but it’s rarely nothing.”

To find one’s way

She draws this responsiveness from her father, a self-made man, a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur in the IT sector, a sales and business development ace. The paternal grandfather founded the company Clotura (manufacturer of fences, since resold and renamed Clotura New Tec SA). Her mother, from a family of farmers, (housewives and secretary), she learned non-judgment, gentleness and simplicity. Caroline De Allegri is the eldest of three sisters. She studied modern languages at the Chamblandes gymnasium in Pully and then chose work psychology in Neuchâtel, because “ I wanted to become a professional counselor”.

Mother of a twelve year old daughter, she is passionate about inner quests, practices yoga and is inspired by meditations. As a form of continuing education, she consumes coaching, books and TedTalks, with a strong interest in personal development. The interview is coming to an end.

One last question: Once the HR function is in place, what is the next step? She thinks for a long time: “Everyone is talking about digital transformation today. In my opinion, this will only happen if you first transform the individual. From my point of view, the HR function should support individuals in this inner transformation. HR is often instrumentalized by financiers to increase profit. I am not one of those.”

Text: Marc Benninger, Editor in chief of the French version of HR Today since 2006. 3/4

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