Out-love everyone else

Exploring ways to use social media in business has brought Céline Schillinger deep into the realms of human purpose. What seems to us like a set of tech-driven, one-dimensional behaviors — posting, commenting, checking in, and otherwise connecting — can signal, for Schillinger, a longing for meaningful action in the world.

Schillinger, head of quality innovation and engagement at Sanofi Pasteur, has spent the last several years boosting motivation and productivity at an organization that distributes more than 1 billion human vaccines annually.  When she speaks of engagement, she does not mean temporary spurts of fun orchestrated by management.

“Many organizations keep people happy with parties and free beer while paying them minimum wage,” she says. “Their business model is based on the fast rotation of young graduates who supply cheap labor.  Engagement for the sake of engagement keeps people happy so that they don’t claim power.”

Instead, Schillinger aims to engage employees responsibly. Helping them to think beyond themselves and to direct their efforts toward a meaningful purpose raises their job satisfaction and their productivity. “What drives me is helping people do what’s right for them,” she says. “It will impact society for the better — not just for them as individuals — but as a collective of consciously adult people who are doing something larger than themselves.”

To that end, Schillinger spearheaded a social media movement within Sanofi Pasteur called “Break Dengue.” Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that infects 400 million people every year. The fixes can be as simple as getting mosquito nets or Sanofi Pasteur's own vaccine to at-risk populations. However, implementing those fixes requires action and ingenuity.

When Sanofi Pasteur employees keep in mind the larger humanitarian purpose of eradicating dengue, and communicate on social media about possible ways to achieve that goal, they figure out how to do their own jobs better and extend the impact of the entire organization.

Schillinger calls this the “virtuous effect” of social networks.  Energies connect and information is leveraged, not just exchanged. People share ideas and emotions, which are equally valid human constructs in the social media world. Passive listening is over.

So is the old-fashioned workplace, where bosses dictate and workers do what they’re told. The patriarchal organization may have been effective in a bygone age, but as Schillinger notes, those fatherly bosses were not overly interested in the well-being of their employees.  

“We have to radically change the world of gatekeepers because our systems are no longer efficient,” Schillinger says. “The distribution of power has changed in our society, especially thanks to technology, but also to deep social transformation. Society is more diverse, families are diverse, demands for freedom and personal choice are different.  We need to empower the world system to adapt.”

The outward engagement Schillinger describes addresses another significant change in the new economy: Workers are less loyal to organizations because organizations are less loyal to them. A work contract is a practical but shallow document that makes no promises about genuine dedication.

“People don’t really care about the future of their organization,” Schillinger says. “Who benefits from organizations? Shareholders? Top leaders with enormous paychecks? What people are concerned about is the purpose of what the group is trying to achieve. If this purpose is appealing enough, they want to serve it, and they see themselves as playing a role.”

Organizational talk aside, Schillinger makes a simple plea for workplace happiness and productivity: “Outlove everyone else.” She credits her parents for showing her this truth. They were both artists and teachers, slightly unconventional people who modeled independence, a healthy skepticism of the private sector, and an admiration for beauty wherever it appeared. Seeing the world in these ways serves Schillinger well as she seeks out the potential and purpose of Sanofi Pasteur and its employees.

“My parents showed me that there were multiple sources of love, that you can have great, constructive relationships with lots of people,” Schillinger says.  If people cannot find ways to serve a purpose at work, they transfer those impulses elsewhere. “But if we could have a little bit more of this energy at work, that would make a lot of difference.”

To get the best out of people, Schillinger says, call out to their hearts, not just their minds.