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13th INRA Awards ceremony © Arnaud Veldemann

2018 INRA Awards

INRA’s HR watchdog

No less than 520 permanent staff in INRA’s “Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology” division look to Jean-Michel Gigleux for motivation and guidance, and his attentiveness and professionalism do not disappoint. Indeed, he is the winner of the INRA’s 2018 Research Support Award.

By Sarah-Louise Filleux, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 01/29/2019
Published on 12/10/2018

“I was good at maths”, says Jean-Michel Gigleux, speaking of his first career choice which landed him a job in 1993 in the accounting department  of INRA’s Grand Est-Nancy site. That is how he learned to appreciate the rigour and precision of numbers and accounting… or was it in fact he who brought those things to the job? Over the course of 12 years, Jean-Michel developed procedures and indicators that foreshadowed quality control measures ahead of their time in support services, before taking a sharp turn in 2008. Encouraged by his colleagues in the Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology division, he became their HR head. Ten years later, he is recognised as a pillar of his profession and has lost nothing of the enthusiasm he first came with.

A fount of knowledge and intellectual curiosity

The unknown… a challenge to rise to

“I love to examine things down to every little detail” says Jean-Michel Gigleux, “and I never do anything half-heartedly”.  In his office, a strange chart pops up on his screen, made up of a myriad of colour-coded cells and figures. It’s enough to make untrained eyes swim. “This document contains all the latest data for the division’s HR needs” he explains, smiling. This mountain of information is a synthesis of the current skills of the 34 scientific units managed by the division, as well as those needed to maintain scientific integrity over the next five, or even ten, years. Jean-Michel’s cursor flitters over anonymous profiles and dates, each colour corresponding to a precise piece of information. The sum of all this data pertains to more than 500 permanent staff: who is retiring, degree of flexibility, how jobs change over time, etc. Jean-Michel himself created the tool, the better to monitor HR changes in real time and adapt his strategy accordingly. With the ease of a pro, he also explains his tools for managing projects and the team-building activities he has implemented. In 10 years’ time, Jean-Michel has become a point of reference for his colleagues and superiors. He knows the current norms and standards like the back of his hand, as well as those that are outdated and when exactly any changes took place. When national statistics are published, he always verifies that they “are in line with our figures in the field”. He is not afraid of the unknown; on the contrary, change is an opportunity to accept a challenge and acquire expertise.

An adventurer who’s all ears

Passionate about numbers but also about working with people, Jean-Michel heads a team of seven that includes two remote workers. “What I like about support services is that when you help people out, you get to see immediate results”.   Jean-Michel plays an advisory and support role in his division and for unit directors. His work has taken him all around France to meet scientific and technical staff, which can sometimes be trying, but is always motivating for someone who loves to fly. According to Stéphanie Delvig, division assistant, and Anne Jambois, who works in management, Jean-Michel is “a man who inspires confidence and has a tremendous capacity to listen”.  This is a quality he strives to maintain: “It’s important to know your field, your people, their concerns, what drives them. It’s what lets you unravel the tension that can come from working with others”.   

“The award came as a surprise”, muses Jean-Michel, laconically. Fulfilled in his daily life, he is already preparing for the future and INRA’s merger with Irstea. “INRA is also about having lots to look forward to”, he says.

2018 INRA Awards. Jean-Michel GIGLEUX, recipient of the Research Support Award and head of HR at INRA's Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology division. INRA Grand Est-Nancy research centre.. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe
2018 INRA Awards. Jean-Michel GIGLEUX, recipient of the Research Support Award and head of HR at INRA's Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology division. INRA Grand Est-Nancy research centre. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

Associated Division(s):
Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology
Associated Centre(s):
Grand Est - Nancy


53 years old, married with three children


1983: Vocational diploma (BEP) in Accounting  
1986: Technical baccalauréat in Management
1993: Recruited in the “Accounting” department of INRA’s Grand-Est-Nancy site
2008: Head of HR in the Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology division
2012-2018: Secretary of one of INRA’s four Commissions Consultatives de la Recherche  

Hobbies: passionate about aviation and photography

What next?

“Everyone should feel good about what they do”: that just about sums up Jean-Michel Gigleux’s thinking.  He intends to “continue developing innovative team-building activities” with his colleagues, such as interdisciplinary seminars, the better to strengthen ties between different professional groups. Using quizzes, workshops and videos, Jean-Michel and his team are raising awareness of the various constraints of each player in a light-hearted way. It’s a long-term project which will be further tailored to suit the forthcoming INRA-Irstea merger.