Sonepar’s major strength


Listening to our associate and maintaining a close and connected management style are key to Sonepar’s success. Human resources are a major area of responsibility in any company, and one to which we’re constantly renewing our commitment. ”

In 2015 we recruited 6,900 associates. We also developed a powerful search engine on our website Sonepar.com to aggregate job postings, making it easier to access information about career opportunities in countries where the Group is established.

By the end of 2015, Sonepar had 43,000 associates worldwide, including almost 3,000 newcomers who joined the Group as a result of our nineteen acquisitions. The challenge for us has been to integrate these new associates, capitalizing on their skills, respecting cultural differences, focusing on direct contact and information sharing and encouraging integration paths.

To better serve our customers, we continually invest in improving our own associates’ skills, offering high value-added products and solutions and mobilizing the means to achieve operational excellence. The complexity of our businesses and the development of specialty activities mean we need to recruit more highly qualified staff with new skillsets. We are constantly improving our training programs, particularly online. We are also particularly attentive to the welfare of all the people working in Group companies. And they appear to appreciate this. A 2015 Ipsos global survey clearly demonstrates managers’ confidence in Sonepar and their sense of independence and genuine dialogue. These are key assets for building long-term success.”

Sara Biraschi Rolland was appointed Senior VP, Group Human Resources in February 2016.
Sara Biraschi Rolland was appointed Senior VP, Group Human Resources in February 2016.

Detecting and encouraging potential: The group’s strength

Sonepar significantly invests in training for all our associates so that we can better detect potential wherever it lies and encourage internal promotion. The objective is always to identify talented individuals, nurture them, help them progress and facilitate their career development. The first priority is therefore to identify potential talent within the Group, a process that already takes place through annual performance reviews. In addition, the Group’s General Management and Region presidents undertook a formal international talent review in 2015. It was based on preparatory meetings held between regional and country leaders in areas where teams had already undergone performance reviews. Starting in 2016, this process will be rolled out across all of our subsidiaries.

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Key figures 2015

We’re investing in skill

43,000 associates
average age
new hires a year
16 years
years average within Sonepar
new associates (acquisitions)

Confident and committed staff


A large survey of Sonepar managers has underlined their commitment, interest in innovation and confidence in the Group’s future.

Pierre Soussand :

“In the summer of 2015, Sonepar commissioned Ipsos to undertake a global survey of the Group’s managers. Almost 4,000 managers, or 84%, responded, a very high take-up rate indicating a significant level of commitment. Some countries chose to extend the survey to all of their staff (the United States and France in 2015, with others to follow in 2016). The results have been analyzed, shared with management teams and used to formulate action plans. The survey confirms managers’ high confidence in the Group and their commitment to its future. It has also enabled us to see how managers have taken on board our common values of listening, sharing, initiative and independence.”

Key figures 2015

  • 91% Support the Group’s strategy
  • 92% Commitment to the Group
  • 89% Recommend Sonepar as an employer of choice

*Ipsos survey commissioned by Sonepar

Ipsos 2015 survey: main conclusions

Sonepar had Ipsos carry out an extensive, sixteen-language online global survey with all of its managers between June 11 and July 3, 2015. The market research firm then compared the results with RED (Representative Employee Data), a database drawn from a sample group of global companies.
The first conclusion to be drawn had to do with the impressively high response rate, with 3,973 managers, or 84% of the total, responding to the questions.
The second conclusion related to managers’ confidence in the future: 64% of them stated that the Group is moving in the right direction, that it has progressed and that it displays increasing efficiency.
The third conclusion was that there is considerable confidence in the Group’s leaders. Managers strongly support (91%) the company strategy and are confident in the decisions made. Even better: 93% claim they are confident that the Group will fulfill its ambitions.
The fourth conclusion to be drawn from the survey is the high level of motivation driving managers, along with their commitment to the Group and its values. Furthermore, 89% of respondents agreed that they would recommend their operating company as an employer of choice; 94% that they identify with its culture and values and 96% that they are proud to work for their company.

Responses to the questions on management practice reveal the reasons for associates’ high levels of commitment. Respondents indicated that their managers treat them with respect, are available when needed, delegate sufficiently and are open to initiatives for change. The survey thus confirms that Sonepar has created an original and effective combination of vision, values and business model.

“I joined the Group in 2012. The added value of Sonepar as an employer? Global strength, intercultural training, career development and diversity. Sonepar listens to the employees and supports them 100%.”

“I identify with the company culture, the challenges are stimulating and there are real opportunities for professional development within the Group. I joined the Group in 2011. The added value of this employer is the coherence of its business plan, providing the stability needed to progress.”

“I started working for Sonepar in 2004. I’ve stayed because I feel appreciated, because I’ve found professional stability and a spirit of responsible freedom. Sonepar makes sure that each associate feels indispensable to the Group’s success.”

our teams,
succeeding together


Sonepar provides a supportive working environment, assisting staff integration, providing opportunities for career development and encouraging personal growth.


It’s the men and women working within the Group all over the world that enable Sonepar to achieve solid, sustainable growth while expanding and diversifying its business lines. Sonepar has always valued the importance of its teams. And investing in human potential has proven to be Sonepar’s winning bet. This principle holds stronger than ever today. In addition, Sonepar invests in career development, recognizing talent and providing opportunities for promotion, while ensuring the health and safety of all our associates. Its local companies have established a number of orientation activities for newcomers: a personalized welcome; opportunities to meet with management, presentations of the company strategy and objectives, personal development perspectives, and induction into the use of the company’s intranet and dedicated social network. In some countries, new associates are offered training modules and receive six months of guidance from mentors. For those coming from companies just joining the Group, this helps them understand how the Group works, its processes and the corporate culture. As a result, all new arrivals rapidly find their place in the Sonepar family.

Encouraging internal promotion

For new associates, the next step is receiving training tailored to their needs, to their roles and career goals. Promotion is widely encouraged within Sonepar. In Canada, about a hundred internal promotions took place in 2015; in the Unites States, there were nearly 600. Whatever the size of the company, the principle remains the same: last year saw 29 internal promotions in Belgium and 51 in the Netherlands. It is Group policy to advertise vacancies internally. Seeking out associates with the potential to progress quickly is subject to the same approach. For the first time in 2015, an International Talent Review was organized in conjunction with the Group General Management and the Region Presidents. Its goal was to prepare the future by capitalizing on experience, anticipating staff turnover and identifying gaps in knowledge and skillsets. The Talent Review has so far taken place in Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Individual performance and potential are better known as a result.

Sonepar junior committee

The Sonepar Junior Committee (SJC), designed for young executives under the age of 40 from around the world, is also one of the Group’s strong points. Each year, around forty young managers from across the countries and professions come together to work on the strategic vision developed within Sonepar This approach strengthens cohesion and openness, while widely disseminating best practices. Several countries have developed their own versions. In Belgium, there is the new one-year EDAP (Employee Development Program) project. In Germany, the Sonar program nurtures ten associates under the age of thirty over a two-year period.

Added to this is a concern for the safety and protection of staff. In all countries, each Group company has relevant training programs, enforces stringent safety regulations, provides the necessary safety equipment and maintains the quality of the working environment. At the same time, the Group emphasizes prevention through a flow of information using multiple channels (posters, e-mails, brochures, internal magazine and real-life exercises) and regular reminders of safety regulations.


In New Zealand, the Corys Health & Safety Program developed by Corys is a comprehensive program certified by a specialized organization providing training, communication and awareness-raising campaigns, supplying monitoring through the use of a range of dashboards and issuing diplomas. Every newcomer participates in a training session before taking up a post. Launched some years ago, this program has resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of accidents and has also significantly reduced the severity of those accidents that still happen. In the United States, safety programs have been standardized across all operating companies and in 2015, a communication campaign was initiated with a new common logo. Its aim is to target all the activities, functions and roles within Group companies, providing safety guidelines and models and enabling adaptation to facilitate compliance with local laws. Always striving for excellence, Sonepar USA tracks results using indicators that allow comparisons with national statistics. In Australia, an entire week is dedicated each year to the promotion of safety. And for some time now, customers are invited to participate, too!

“Belonging to a group like Sonepar offers security. With that kind of protection, I really feel reassured.”

“Three different factors have contributed to my progression within the Group: training, which has been a real career launching pad; support and encouragement from managers; and my own ambition and dedication to Sonepar.”

“There are many opportunities in our company for highly motivated individuals to develop their careers. I have always felt supported— Management and the Executive team have shown me great mentorship and leadership, helping to guide my career to date.”

“I chose Sonepar because the managers have confidence in us and help us prove ourselves by applying our innovative thoughts. The Group understands the employees’ needs and provides them with a pleasant working environment.”

“When I arrived I received targeted training. The act of performing the tasks and attaining the specified objectives helped me to find my feet and rapidly adapt to the company.”

“Yes, when I joined the Group, I could see it would be easy to become a part of the Sonepar family. Everyone at NorthEast Electrical Distributors treated me with a warm welcome and offered their support to help me succeed in my new role within the organization.”

"I joined the Group in 2013, and I built me quickly through the human qualities of management. The integration process has allowed me to know the different tasks and understand the working methods."

for everyone


Sonepar offers multiple training programs to enhance the skills of its staff, while promoting dialogue and cooperation. Associates everywhere in the Group can always find a program that will help them learn and grow.


Sonacademy, our corporate university for the past eleven years, offers Group executives from around the world practice-oriented courses, whose scope is currently being broadened. In 2015, they were attended by nearly 530 participants of twenty-four different nationalities, including associates from the UK and Colombia for the first time. Two new modules were also created. In the two-day course titled Effective Cross-cultural Communication, participants learned how to work more effectively in a multicultural setting and communicate better with their teams. The second course, Insights 2, was designed to help executives focus on the areas most essential to meeting their targets and properly celebrate the achievements of their staff.


The Sonepar Leadership Program (SLP)

Developed in partnership with the INSEAD business school, this program offers Group executives from all over the world three one-week sessions held in the United States, France and Singapore. During the program, they supplement their managerial skills and clarify their strategic vision by looking beyond the scope of their country or mission. About thirty executives participate each year, which brings the total to over 150 managers since the start of the program in 2011. In response to the program’s success, a number of country organizations have developed local versions. In the United States, a “talent incubator” program was set up last year for five high-potential executives.

Local programs to boost skills

Sonepar invests in the skills of its people, offering a large number and a wide variety of courses around the world that are tailored to the local culture. Those courses enable associates at all levels of responsibility to expand their knowledge and progress in areas as diverse as management, sales, customer service, administration, safety, strategy and technical service. Of the several hundred different subjects covered, here are a few examples from 2015. In Belgium, 350 courses drew 540 participants for a total of 10,000 hours. In Canada, 1,800 associates attended one or another of 300 courses. In Germany, 3,137 participants signed up for the 450 programs on offer! The United States achieved a record, with nearly 11,000 training modules given on lighting, e-commerce, sales, safety, legal compliance and other topics. And last year, 144 U.S. managers also got special leadership training.


Country organizations in the United States, Australia and elsewhere already have online platforms offering teaching materials on issues ranging from marketing to finance, from management to strategic planning, from sales to technology— not to mention compliance and safety. In the United Kingdom, the Group already offers 447 e-learning modules, along with some fifty health and safety programs and 230 sessions on common skills. In the Netherlands, 2,200 associates have received online training through 43 different modules. In 2015, associates in Italy took over 1,100 online sessions.

A global platform for all Sonepar associates was created in 2016, including program to build awareness on personal and data security and on legal compliance. The Group makes use of “serious games” to confront associates with virtual workplaces in which they are required to detect security failures and weaknesses. As training in compliance with the law, everyday situations are enacted in videos and the “players” take an interactive quiz to validate their knowledge. Each person who successfully completes the game gets a certificate.

In some countries, programs for younger non-management associates have been initiated, particularly at companies offering high-tech solutions. In Germany, for example, a program called Technology Attack was developed for young salespeople. In groups of fifteen, participants work for fifteen months on four major focus areas: lighting, renewable energy, automation and smart home management. The program ends with a final exam and a certificate. Similarly, Routeco in the United Kingdom has established a Sales Development Program that runs for four years.

“Sonepar? It’s a fantastic culture which empowers employees to develop, learn and grow both personally and professionally.”

“It wasn’t easy for me, as someone working in a small company, to join a large group in 2014. But I ultimately found a family at Sonepar as well. Since then, I have taken four courses that enabled me to progress and constantly improve my business skills.”

“I have been to several internal and external courses. I have been given the chance to attend all programs that I showed an interest in. I am constantly learning. These training programs have provided me the following qualities which I utilize each day in my job: leadership, teamwork and product knowledge enhancement.”

“I joined Sonepar in September 2015. Since then, I’ve taken part in several sessions, either online, in a classroom or in the Rockwell training center. For someone like me with experience in other areas, this kind of training really helps me respond to customer needs.”

“Sonepar has a very good training and motivation system. I’ve taken courses almost every year since I arrived in 2008—on logistics and supply chain, on import-export and even on leadership. That’s helped me move ahead with my career.”

Networks and committees: a strategic asset


Decentralized organizations place a premium on sharing information, experience and innovation.

International committees: strategic networks of experts

In addition to sharing good practices and information, our International Committees decide on strategic developments. Chaired by members of the Sonepar Executive Committee, these groups of operational decision-makers who are experts in their fields make it easier to develop and disseminate concrete solutions around the world.

Seven Committees issue recommendations:

  • e-Business Committee (EBC),
  • Information & Communication Technology Committee (ICT),
  • International Logistics Committee (ILC),
  • International Suppliers Committee (ISC),
  • International Finance Committee (IFC),
  • International Human Resources Committee (IHRC),
  • Sonepar International Legal and Compliance Committee (SILCC).

Product Management teams: where marketing experts meet

Organized into regionally-based teams, these experts work to optimize supplier and product strategy by sharing their extensive technology and market knowledge. In 2015, they held a global forum where they presented the results of their work to the Group’s marketing and procurement managers from the various countries.

Sonepar Group Leaders Meetings: thinking strategically

The Sonepar Executive Committee continues to bring together the Group’s fifty leading executives twice a year to enhance strategic thinking and determine the key priorities to be addressed. In 2015, their meetings in San Francisco, California, with leaders of high-tech companies from Silicon Valley gave them a deeper understanding of the challenges created by the digital economy.

Sonepar Leadership Meetings: workshops and sharing ideas

In March every year, nearly 700 Sonepar executives meet in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. These events keep them informed about the Group’s results and key policies. They also include thematic workshops that foster interaction, discussion and innovation.

E-business Managers Meetings

In 2015, over 80 e-business managers got together in Madrid, Spain with the ICT’s members to share knowledge and experience. In addition to plenary sessions, there were practical workshops that gave rise to lively discussion on issues such as the Group’s digital strategy, developing mobile applications, webshop trends, product and customer data management and the logistics specific to e-business.

A social network gaining traction

Sonepar’s social network has been growing at great speed. Sonepar associates around the world can use it to create or strengthen bonds, get to know each other better and share experiences and good practices. The network ensures that information is widely disseminated in real time. Thanks to the contributions of its members, concrete problems can be solved and innovative solutions can emerge from discussions within virtual communities. . In 2015, over 5,000 associates were already using this form of interaction. That’s more than the Group had forecast. Users post about 1,500 messages every month and participate in more than 200 active discussion groups. Several country organizations have created thematic areas of their own. Users appreciate the network’s flexibility, and a growing number of messages are posted from smartphones and tablets.

Le Sonepar Junior Committee (SJC)

The SJC operates as an in-house think tank where gifted young people from the Group work together for a three-year period. The aim is to scan the environment and existing opportunities, compare ideas and suggest perspectives on upcoming major projects. Committee members focus on a topic set at the start of the year by Regional or General Management. This past year, they presented their thinking on the assigned topic to the Executive Chairman and the Sonepar Executive Committee. The subject in 2015 was how to identify the most emblematic business cases in the Group and incorporate them into a pool of shared experience. The SJC, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016, helps build internal networks and enhance multicultural collaboration.