The Romanian labour market will be influenced this year by several unprecedented factors, according to industry experts, the most obvious and pressing one being the massive influx of Ukrainian citizens caused by the armed conflict in their home country. This topic, and many others, were discussed in detail by business leaders and HR specialists during the first panel of Business Review’s recent Working Romania HR conference, which tried to shed some light on this year’s most important developments on the local labour market.
Many private companies and numerous volunteers have stepped up in support of war-stricken Ukrainians through an unprecedented mobilisation, offering their homes, their resources or their services. But apart from the obvious need for accommodation and food, the refugees will also require various support measures and humanitarian assistance, education, medical services, and of course, employment.
The panel debate was kicked off by Roxana Abrasu, Partner and Head of the Employment Practice at NNDKP, who tackled today’s most pressing issue: the legislation around foreign workforce, which has become highly relevant amid the Ukrainian refugee crisis. “The main problem here had to do with the immigration process, with how we can help these people stay in our country and facilitate their employment. Once this was sorted out, things went quite smoothly.”
But how have Romanian companies and employers reacted to this unexpected influx of workforce? Andrei Frunza, the CEO of BestJobs, one of the biggest online recruitment platforms in Romania, offered some insight into this matter. “After resolving their most urgent needs—a home, food, immediate support—refugees will eventually need ways to provide for themselves. What our platform did was to develop a section dedicated to Ukrainian-friendly jobs. The section was populated quickly, with up to 1,000 jobs listed already. This means that companies’ support and their willingness to help are very real and visible. The challenge now is reaching these refugee communities with our solutions and promoting the opportunities that are available in our country,” Frunza explained, in the context in which only 600 cases of employment of Ukrianian refugees had been reported by the Labour Ministry, despite the thousand job openings posted on the BestJobs platform alone. “We hope that, together with companies and authorities, we can find a way to better highlight employment opportunities by promoting vacancies at a local level,” the BestJobs CEO concluded.
Another important topic discussed during the first panel of this spring’s edition of Working Romania were the recent changes in people’s perception of a “good employer,” as well as the things people are looking for in a job today versus what they would have sought before the pandemic. “The essence of what people are looking for when searching for a long-term professional commitment remains the same as before the pandemic, but this essence is often just the core of a person’s much larger set of needs and desires. Today, we’re seeing more people who are searching for companies that are closer to their own values. We’ve also observed a change in the way employees relate to their companies’ involvement in the social and environmental issues that are close to their hearts,” says Loredana Alexe, Service Delivery Manager at Majorel Romania. “People have moved past the mindset of just wanting a stable workplace; they now want an employer with an established brand, one who can offer an attractive salary and benefit package, and, more recently, they’ve been paying much more attention to a good healthcare package and have been closely following companies’ environmental campaigns, which for some can make a difference in the recruitment and onboarding processes.”
But in the context of a workforce shortage, what can companies do in terms of organisational culture, work flexibility, and benefit packages in order to retain and even attract new talents? “There are many things companies can do after two years of working from home. Our priorities, our lifestyles, our ways of working have changed, and companies have faced significant challenges due to all these changes. I believe that this health has introduced new perspectives in our society and in our organizations,” said Madalina Racovitan, Tax Partner and Head of People Services at KPMG in Romania. “Obviously, HR departments and professionals have had a very important job throughout this period. First and foremost, they had to make sure that their people were healthy and safe. This transformation of our working habits has had a direct impact on what organisations must do to attract and retain talents. Indeed, as Alexe showed, employees now have different expectations, and companies should do their best to meet them. Flexibility is an important aspect of this trend, but we need to fully understand what flexibility means. We need to know what best fits each organisation and each employee.”
Adding to the discussion around work flexibility, Roxana Abrasu of NNDKP noted that the pandemic had forced employers to implement remote work and make work schedules more flexible. “Teleworking became a reality of our lives once the pandemic struck and, in my view, it is here to stay. But as the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we will start balancing things out. The hybrid concept will become our new reality as companies are currently analysing the right split between working from home and working from the office for their employees. From what I’ve seen, a mix between telework and office work will be required, creating a hybrid work model.”
The panel ended on a lighter note, with a Q&A session during which an audience member asked what companies should do to retain their employees after investing in their development.
Andrei Frunza of BestJobs said that like any other investment, investing in employees comes with some risk, and if the company is not competitive in certain regards, that level of risk increases.
Madalina Racovitan of KPMG responded with an anecdote: “The CFO of a company asked the CEO: ‘what are we going to do if we invest in our employees and they end up leaving us?` The CEO answered: ‘but what if we don’t invest in them and they end up staying?`”