Groupama Immobilier and AFAQ ISO 9001: a question of assets

© Groupama Immobilier - La Défense.

© Groupama Immobilier – La Défense.

Groupama Immobilier, which received AFAQ ISO 9001 certification in 2004, has been committed to continually improving its activities for over 10 years. Just a few months from its first AFAQ ISO 9001:2015 audit, Quality Manager Marianne Laffin gives us an insight into the company’s “quality” adventure.

How did your company implement the AFAQ ISO 9001 certification approach?

Groupama Immobilier, the real-estate subsidiary of the Groupama Group, launched a quality strategy with the aim of raising service quality. The idea was to address the needs of our customers, whether lessors or lessees, and thereby enhance customer satisfaction.

In the early 2000s, a major overhaul of the company’s internal organizational structure prompted us to formalize our quality process approach, and we naturally began taking steps to achieve AFAQ ISO 9001 certification.
We had to describe our activities more accurately, reassign various actions, and so on. Deciding to go down the certification road meant choosing a recognized and tightly controlled process. It was the ideal opportunity to document the actions that we had taken and align them with the requirements of the ISO 9001 voluntary standard. The scope of certification was extended to reflect changes in our activities and currently encompasses acquisitions, major projects, marketing, rental and facilities management, and sales.

Did you use training or awareness-raising initiatives?

Yes, both. The most important aspect in a company is communication. When we were working towards certification, the project group held regular meetings. Then we began using briefings and our intranet to cascade strategic information to our employees about our objectives, the progress made, top management’s decisions, the action schedule, and so forth.
When a new employee joins the company, we present our quality policy, the actions taken (present and future) and our commitments to our customers. We explain our certification strategy and our future projects. Hopefully that provides a clear understanding of our company.

Actual training is carried out at pivotal moments, namely the years in which the ISO 9001 voluntary standard was revised (2008 and 2015), and is developed for the process owners in particular. Training sessions clue employees into the main changes in the voluntary standard and help them anticipate which modifications will be required internally, as well as focus on the opportunities for improvement. Training plays an essential role in empowering employees and improving our actions.

What is your assessment of the certification approach?

It did not take long for me to see that the AFAQ ISO 9001 certification approach forms a strong structural framework for supporting the company’s changes and leading progress initiatives, while helping develop the quality policy. Furthermore, this approach enables the company to review its processes and their aims, update its indicators, and so on, which are key benefits for an organization.

Did you encounter any difficulties? If so, how did you overcome them?

It is not always easy to engage employees with an approach that cuts across the processes. Some of the requirements in the AFAQ ISO 9001:2008 standard may give employees the impression that they are spending more time on the approach than their daily activities. The solution is to educate, discuss and communicate, especially with a helping hand from the process owners. The project team was on hand to answer any questions raised by employees.

On a personal level, what did you get out of the experience?

Major satisfaction. In other words, the satisfaction of contributing to the company’s overall operation and developing an operational quality system. This experience has improved my ability to share knowledge, adopt the best communication tools, keep a close eye on everyone’s activities and lead change. As part of this certification approach, we are committed to continually improving quality and enhancing customer satisfaction. Certification also makes us look at the quality management system as a driving force for the company.

How did you realize that changes were being made to ISO 9001?

By keeping up to date on the latest developments concerning voluntary standards and certification services. AFNOR Certification also gave us a heads-up, which allowed us to prepare. We explained about the new voluntary standard and the associated impacts during management meetings, and then we passed on the information to the employees and announced that Groupama Immobilier would be renewing its certification in line with the new standard in 2016.

The new AFAQ ISO 9001:2015 standard is in place. What are Groupama Immobilier’s expectations?

We are going to draw strength from the innovations in the standard to roll out the new priorities in our quality strategy and improve efficiency.

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