Companies had to adapt to the new situation quickly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At BCR we were lucky, as this crisis caught us the middle of the digital transformation,” said Andreea Voinea HR Executive BCR at the fourth edition of Working Romania organized by Business Review.
“What makes the difference for us is that we constantly adapt to change”, explained Andreea Voinea, leader of a HR department that takes care of over 6,000 employees. “The new working conditions were not easy to cope with as most of the employees in the head office are working from home, while in the network we work with teams in bi-weekly shifts of 50 percent, but we managed to keep all our bank branches open during this period.”
“To protect our people, since beginning of the pandemic, we ensured continuous delivery of disinfectants and protection materials for our people, for instance we give two masks a day to those who come to the office; we test all colleagues who are suspected of COVID-19 or in direct contact with infected or suspected persons, during the emergency state we covered the commute costs for those coming into the office. There were two new important elements: first, the support to address the increased social-emotional needs of our colleagues. To this end, we developed a program called ‘We are here for you’ which is a custom made Open Line Coaching concept facilitated by our internal team of coaches. We launched the program on April 30 and over 80 colleagues have benefited of these coaching services. We have also concluded a contract with a specialized external partner for continuous support on social-emotional issues for all our employees. Secondly, we have seen an increased need to address the medical and wellbeing of our people during the pandemic. Thus, we offered access to a 24-hour helpline with dedicated doctors to take calls of our staff for urgent medical support. We’re also offering our people access to online resources regarding their wellbeing needs (e.g. stress management, nutrition, ergonomics, kinetic-therapy, children’s education, entertainment, where to spend holidays safely).” Adds Voinea.
The bank also started a vaccination campaign for the winter flu virus, a first for the company. So far, 2,000 colleagues have already signed up to be vaccinated.
“We have created many projects to increase the level of engagement of colleagues and to help them get through this difficult period. We communicated vertically through our managerial channels, but we also have across the board communications through regular newsletters and open calls on the topic in context,” says Voinea.
“This includes a biweekly newsletter dedicated to engagement, focused on sharing of best practices, team initiatives or actions, celebration topics or moments, that colleagues want to share with the entire BCR community. The content is exclusively created by people or teams in the bank and it became a source of inspiration of interesting engagement ideas for other teams across the bank.” Shows Voinea.
We are also running a daily communication pill called Bine de Stiut (Good to Know) distributed to all colleagues in the bank, every day having a different topic, ranging from news around major achievements of our teams (for instance new functionalities in George), or introducing different teams and their members, up to wellbeing topics, from Optimism of Monday to Relaxation of Friday.
“In the learning area we have a weekly newsletter called “What are we learning today?” issued every Wednesday for the entire BCR community, every week on different topics such as Trust, Collaboration, Happiness, Talent or Vacation. The weekly content is created with the help of a different team in the bank, providing access to various forms of learning – book summaries, articles, documentaries, conferences, webinars, podcasts,” says Voinea. “In our communication efforts, regular open calls became also a norm, from CEO’s biweekly call to weekly townhalls of different teams in the bank, or the monthly HR call.”
“In conclusion: the needs of our colleagues for proactive communication, emotional support and interaction with their team, even if only in virtual environment, is higher than before. Paradoxically the physical social distancing requires closer human interaction, more active listening and solidarity.”
“On the HR side, we have many opportunities to rethink processes and make them more efficient. We are in a complex process of digital transformation and technology helped us to keep the things up and running within HR. Even before the pandemic period, we were having a lot of HR administrative services delivered through our self-service platforms (e.g. holiday requests, travel requests, expense reimbursements, timesheets, different types of certificates issued by employer). Still a lot of our processes were happening mainly face to face, such as recruitment, induction, onboarding, performance management and large part of our learning and development.
We managed to automate several things in record time, an example being the issuance of certificates for free movement in the state of emergency, which was done in less than 4 hours. We developed an application to support our managers to allocate their people on teams to return to office in weekly rotations. And many more similar examples, that clearly made our life in HR and our colleagues’ lives easier. Without technology these would not have been possible,” explains Andreea Voinea.
“Since the beginning of pandemic period, we moved to fully remote HR workflows and processes – we run recruitment and onboarding remotely, we deliver our induction program remotely, we conduct our performance development process remotely, we expanded our e-learning capability, moving all our learning and development programs online. For instance, we recruited 100% remotely over 350 external candidates and moved internally over 250 people. We even ran an internship program remotely – we have 32 interns in IT Academy who work 100 percent remotely.”
The last 7 months were a huge opportunity for us to do things differently and we will build on the learnings of the current period and continue to run remotely a lot of these processes in the long term.
The future brings the expansion of SMART WORK. Smart work doesn’t refer strictly to work from home, it requires rethinking of the entire ecosystem in which we work (starting from culture, technology and processes). It entails new collaboration platforms, space optimization, rethinking of collaborative areas, revision of certain policies (e.g. travel, fleet), new approaches in regard to corporate health and wellness. And incorporating smart work in our way of being happens in parallel with the migration from traditional organizational models to more agile, flexible models, where cross functional teams collaborate and co-create effective solutions, no matter if they work in the office or from home.
The second trend is in related to the improvement of employee experience, by simplifying, digitizing and optimizing HR processes. Standardized processes will be greatly automated and be available through self-service, HR services will be delivered faster, and remotely where possible. HR people will spend more time in advisory area, seeking to continuously improve key touch points in employee experience throughout the lifecycle in the company.
And the third trend, very important, is upskilling and multiskilling of our people, to enable them to adapt quickly to changes of the business model and to succeed in this new digital era. Jobs with high added value will remain after automation, so people need to get new skills. Also narrow jobs will disappear in the long run and wider jobs that require multiple skills will prevail. Therefore our people will need to acquire new skills in the wake of technology. An important aspect here is related to embarking all our colleagues in the digital journey, motivating them to embrace the digital mindset, and anticipating and continuously building emerging skills.
The upskilling part refers also to leaders, preparing our leaders to be able to perform in the new reality, to manage teams remotely, strengthening their social and emotional skills to increase collaboration and building adaptability and resilience skills to thrive during an evolving business situation. The challenge for leaders in the new reality is to give direction, provide autonomy and focus on outcomes rather than activities, to build strong relationships between local and remote employees while while motivating teams and driving performance.
“I will finish by sharing with you most probably the most important lesson learnt during this period, respectively the lesson of daring to free up the creativity of our people to explore untapped territories. During the last 7 months, we reminded ourselves that our people have amazing potential to reinvent ourselves to do things differently better and more efficiently for us and our clients.
In BCR we have discovered a lot of people capable to reinvent banking.
And I am sure such people who are reinventing our business, are not only in BCR, but in all organizations. It’s just our role, as HR professionals, to discover them and put them in the spotlight.” Concluded Andreea Voinea.