The #HRSpotlight series pushes onward just like the inspiring HR leaders featured in our interview. This week, we explore the #FUTUREOFWORK with Estera Anghelescu, Recruiting & Employer Branding Director at Kaufland Romania, one of the largest retailers in Romania, who answered the questions of BR’s HR Spotlight interview series.
BR: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?
Estera Anghelescu: While everything is changing at a fast pace, we have to permanently adapt the recruitment and selection practices to such scenarios. We are always looking for ways to deal with today’s challenges in order to maintain the employees’ and candidates’ engagement, social connection and also their wellbeing.
According to the latest statistics, about half of the companies are planning to adopt digital technologies to support remote working and collaboration. And so did we. During the last months, most of our processes have been digitized, whether we are talking about the communication channels for the interviews during the selection process (Webex, Skype, Zoom) or about the usual team meetings that are now taking place online as well. The activity requires now, more than ever, a clear and transparent communication. We set ourselves way more clear goals and we also report everything in a more transparent manner.
Moreover, as the work environment is one of the main benefits, we also try to keep the team as united as possible. While the usual teambuilding activities are not possible anymore, we had to come up with new initiatives that lead to a cohesive team. One important example is the internal communication activities taking place during the 15 years anniversary campaign in the latest two months: anniversary raffles or team challenges.
How did your organization managed to balance the increased workload of employees, both in the HR department and company-wide?
One of the most important steps you can take in order to deal with such a situation is a clear strategy for sure. During the last months, we have managed to become even more organized and united than before. This way, we found a balance and a reasonable workload for each employee.
One essential thing is a clear communication between the employer and the employees. At Kaufland, all the team members are aware of our structured processes in order to be able to fully avoid any type of chaotic situation.
Besides being aware, they also need to understand the need of putting all those processes into practice. The great news is that they fully understood this need and all of them were extremely motivated and open to go an extra mile during this period, even if this effort was not limited to their field of activity. They fully embraced the development of other projects that might not have been at all part of their daily responsibilities. At the end of the day, when the workplace feels like home, the motivation is the one that guides us to become even better than yesterday.
Has the use of tech alleviate the workload of your HR team?
Technology is extremely praised for making our lives easier, especially when talking about the remote working. We have fully digitized recruitment and training platforms, and, besides that, we use SAP as a system that helps us access the company’s data anytime, in a very structured manner, both within the HR department and the company as a whole. We also have an intranet network that aims to keep us all connected to all the news within the company, as well as extra programs that allow a fluid communication between colleagues (Jabber or Webex).
How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from traditionally office to hybrid working arrangements?
As mentioned before, most of the selection process for the headquarter has switched to a full online form, while the recruitment of blue collars remained mostly offline, as the work they apply for can’t be completed online.
The online interviews are mainly taking place on Webex and Skype. We sometimes also use WhatsApp video calls for our colleagues in the stores. This way, we manage to meet those who want to join the company, even in front of the screens.
More than that, it is important to mention that the assessment centers are fully digitized.
Regarding the onboarding, we are also using different tools that can be used remotely. Indeed, this process requires a more active engagement from the manager in order to fully integrate the newcomer to the team. On a long run, we believe that this will pay off, as most of the new employees already caught a good glimpse of the Kaufland’s working environment.
What programs/rewards/benefits have you implemented in order to keep spirits high in your company?
2020 marked the 15 years anniversary of Kaufland Romania, and now, more than ever, we wanted to reward our employees for staying close to us through thick and thin. Every one of them is part of the company’s success. Every role is an essential one.
This year was an important one for us and also a good opportunity to convey to the employees all our gratitude. In order to do so, we organized a series of special giveaways and raffles for them. We only hope they fully enjoyed all the gifts and experiences. They all deserved every one of them.
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?
Given the fact that we are a retail company, most of our team is formed by frontline workers. So, only a small part from our colleagues, the ones working in the headquarters, are pursuing their activities remotely.
However, if we are talking about the employee morale, we can clearly notice an improvement compared to the first weeks of the lockdown. Their wellbeing is ensured by the team spirit and the fact that we act as a family. More than that, stability and the pleasant working environment mattered a lot. Each of them is understanding the impact of their own work on the overall organization, so they keep up the good work even in difficult times.
How did you manage to keep a good level of engagement among your teams/departments/employees?
The best way to keep the employees engaged and motivated is making them feel valuable and valued, and this is part of Kaufland’s commitment. We are all aware that we are an important piece in a puzzle, yet, if any of us would be missing, the picture will be incomplete. I think that, by understanding that, you are part of a larger community, you do not only get a sense a belonging, but you are also able to prioritize your responsibilities, especially by knowing that there are other people depending on you.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress/anxiety?
Our employees’ wellbeing has always been a focus point, therefore some of our colleagues are actually counselors, their main role being to listen to everyone’s needs, as well as to offer pieces of advice, even before pandemic times. So, more than before, during the past months, they were always there to support us.
It is important to mention that our colleagues who were tested positive for the new virus received counseling. During the whole period, we were close to them, as this is the way a team built like a family acts.
How prepared is the Romanian workforce market in adopting the latest HR technologies, seeing the latest surge in workload?
The majority of companies are planning to adapt internal communication strategy to support engagement and also to use pulse surveys or other means of checking in with the employees working remotely. This is the the proof that we are ready to manage and adopt essential strategies in order to adapt the workload to today’s challenges.
This period is also a great opportunity for the market to reinvent and all the companies are looking for ways to deal with the major challenges, including employees and candidates engagement or their wellbeing. In order to do so, top priorities for the companies should remain a transparent communication and stability. Even more important is that trust should be central to this new working era.