BR’s #HRSpotlight series returns this week with a new interview, this time with a human resources senior professional with over 15 years of experience. Cristina Mancaș, the SEE (Southeastern Europe) HR VicePresident of the Schneider Electric Group sat down with us under the HR Spotlight and shared her views about the latest developments in the industry.
Business Review: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?
Cristina Mancaș: Over the past seven months, we have already faced challenges we have never thought we would. For HR people, being away from colleagues at work is decidedly a very strange feeling. But ever since the beginning, we have all agreed the work from home solution was the best one and we all started to get used to seeing each other via our online meeting platforms.
After these seven months which have taught us a lot and driven us to change a lot, we are seeing the future closer than ever. And our biggest challenge would be to reconcile human nature with the progress of technology and get the technology to continue to work for our benefit.
How did your organization managed to balance the increased workload of employees, both in the HR department and company-wide?
We did not have a noticeable increased workload. We worked in a different way, that is certain, but I would not say we worked more. One of the things we monitor at Schneider Electric is a fair distribution of workload and as such, we were ok. Whenever we see someone has too much responsibility or too many projects, we redirect, we redeploy or we hire new people.
Has the use of tech alleviate the workload of your HR team?
Yes and no. Certainly, the use of technology allowed us to continue to work in a seemingly normal way these past months. And even before the pandemic, we were using extensively software tools to plan meetings, deploy training sessions, set objectives and measure job performance. The usual set of tools. Now that our work has become 100% online, I can say it is efficient and we got used to it, but I can also say I miss the human touch, I miss the face to face meetings.
∙How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from traditionally office to hybrid working arrangements?
Recruiting and onboarding have, probably, been the toughest challenges we had to face. For no other reason than the limitations we now had in explaining and demonstrating the Schneider Electric Romania organizational culture to the new recruits. We have a vibrant organization, of dedicated professionals, meeting with them and understanding the feeling of camaraderie we all share is very important for any new employee. Of course we tried to replicate most of that online and we made sure new employees have access to as many relevant colleagues as possible. I can only hope we did a good job.
As the months have passed since the beginning of the outbreak, have you seen an improvement in employee morale, team cohesion, etc. even as many of them might still be working remotely?
I think people really appreciated the face that we took all the required safety measures quickly and swiftly and we made it possible for them to work from home in no time. Moreover, I think our field experts appreciated now more than ever the fact that the Schneider Electric power management solutions allow for remote administration and maintenance. Being able to service clients promptly, without leaving home has been a huge benefit for them.
We are now allowing some of the people to return to the office, in very limited numbers and under very strict conditions, and we can see they miss each other. On the other side, online, communication has been more intense than ever. We have many managers who have now had a chance to reach out to their entire teams even more often than they had in the past. It is very easy to set up a quick town hall online, gathering some tens of employees. Much easier than it is in real life. So managers have taken the opportunity to talk to their people directly and about everything, a mix of professional and private life, as the pandemic has affected both.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress/anxiety?
Yes, we have help available for our people, as we understood from the beginning the new situation might create emotional pressure.
How prepared is the Romanian workforce market in adopting the latest HR technologies, seeing the latest surge in workload?
I think now they are far more prepared than they were last year. We even have candidates who ask us if work from home is allowed, it has become a sort of prerequisite. And of course, work from home is only possible with the support of technology. So yes, as far as the digital transformation of organizations is concerned, the pandemic has given us all, including us at Schneider Electric Romania, a serious push. We are now ready to accept it and embrace it far more happily than seven months ago.