As assistant director of HR for Interpol, you might imagine that Jean-Francois Gadeceau is in charge of trench-coated detectives lurking in dark alleys around the world as they attempt to track down criminal masterminds and their minions. But that’s not exactly the case.
Most of the 500 people who work for Interpol – the world’s largest international police organisation, whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime – are based at its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, with another 50 staff based at its five regional bureaus in Harare (Zimbabwe), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Nairobi (Kenya), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and San Salvador (El Salvador), plus a liaison office in Bangkok (Thailand).
In addition, Interpol has 182 member countries and each has a National Central Bureau with its own staff of national law enforcement officials.
Interpol employees come from 72 different countries, and therein lies the greatest challenge for Gadeceau and his 12-strong HR team – communication.
“In some countries you have to be explicit. In other cultures people understand each other with fewer words,” he explained.
The organisation has four official languages: English, French, Spanish and Arabic. However, all are expected to be able to work in English, although the levels of English vary.
“This creates difficulties in meetings,” said Gadeceau. “With some cultures it’s not easy to ensure that everyone fully agrees to a proposition. They may agree for appearance sake to be polite. We must pay attention to details to see their true position.”
Interpol, which operates around the clock, 365 days a year, facilitates cross-border police co-operation by providing member countries with a network to exchange and store data and information on police matters, including access to its criminal database. One third of those working in Lyon are police officers from around the world, while the other two-thirds are employed in support services, such as IT, translation, secretarial, administrative, financial and legal areas.
As HR chief, Gadeceau, 45, who has been with Interpol since 1999, is especially concerned with recruitment.
“Our job market is the world,” he said. “We get applicants from everywhere and we are very happy when we can select a candidate from a country not yet represented in our staff.” In the past year the number of nationalities represented increased from 68 to 72, and Gadeceau sees the trend continuing. “I think it’s better for the efficiency of the whole organisation. We have no quota, but we want to diversify,” he said.
The internet revolution has helped in this, and around 80% of applicants to Interpol now apply using e-mail, which he calls “a fantastic tool”.
Benefits and services for his international staff are another priority for the HR director. He said staff from Africa and Asia, for example, need help to adapt to life in Lyon and he is working on providing his employees with an international benefits package similar to that of other international organisations.
In this respect, his position as a board member of the Association for Human Resources Management in International Organisations has been helpful. Through the organisation, members can share their knowledge and experience on HR management in the international environment.
“It’s very important when working in an independent international body like Interpol. We need to share,” he said.
Since he has been at the HR helm at Interpol, Gadeceau has made HR data available to employees via the organisation’s intranet, through which they can access confidential data on themselves as well as non-confidential data on colleagues. He called the move a great improvement that has helped staff get to know one another.
“One of our wishes for the future is to make Interpol an organisation that processes and disseminates even more information, to make it a learning organisation,” he said.
Gadeceau wants to help staff “improve themselves and their own knowledge… improve their competency in handling information”.
Gadeceau spent 12 years with Renault before joining Interpol. From recruitment officer he moved up the ladder to become Renault’s head of personnel at the car manufacturer’s Commercial Vehicles, Research and Development Center.
At Renault, he said, the unions had a major role. But while he no longer needs to contend with unions, “we have to pay attention to our relationship with the committee of staff representatives”. Gadeceau finds this is a good way to get additional information without resorting to spying or interviewing in darkened rooms.