After exploring the latest HR trends in sectors such as banking, automotive, legal, tech, or IT, our interview series continues as we shine the HR Spotlight on the telecom industry. Luiza Muller, HR Director at Orange Romania, sat down with BR for our latest HR Spotlight interview, in which we delve right into the #futureofwork to talk about the use of tech in HR, remote recruiting and onboarding, employee wellbeing, and the new competencies which have emerged in the new pandemic context.
Business Review: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?
Luiza Muller, HR Director at Orange Romania: Never before have HR departments been more challenged to shift and transform their processes and mindset like it happens today. As an organization with more than 3500 employees we need to care for our people’s physical, but also psychological health and, in the same time have a welcoming & productive working environment.
At Orange, we value our culture of collaboration and care. It’s that magical ingredient that gives us the strength and motivation to get through difficult times, stay together and almost move mountains during the past months. A big company like ours is like a small city where people usually interact and share experience, say hello when passing by and smile. Always smile. The lack of physical interaction didn’t take our energy away and the passion for what we do, but we can feel a change in the dynamic of each team in terms of relationships and attachment.
The greatest challenge now is to keep our people together, with a constant performance, and our strong culture. It’s a matter of finding the best mix between the advantages of working remote vs. the benefits of being present in the same physical space, while strictly respecting the safety measures. Therefore, in the next months, we are testing a hybrid working model: a minimum of 25% from the office and the rest from home. We will see the results!
Has the use of tech alleviate the workload of your HR team?
Yes, yes, yes! Orange, as a business, offers technological solutions that improve everyday life for companies and individuals and I couldn’t agree more that technology is here to work in our advantage.
I also think you can have great results by combining the experience and knowledge of big organizations like Orange and the agility and creative thinking of startups. For example, we created Orange Fab, a corporate acceleration program, where startups from different fields (security, smart city solutions or HR) get support from Orange to further develop their product and find the right local or international clients.
Nestor is a startup from Iasi, which enrolled in Orange Fab at the beginning of 2020 and we already started a pilot project together. They had the best solution for our need, since we are currently in a process of changing our performance appraisal with a new performance ecosystem. We aim for a cultural change of mindset, based on OKRs methodology principles and also an agile way to value our people’s potential. Also, we need to constantly improve the digital experience of our employees and, in the same time, have a friendly & flexible tool. Their platform will help us have, in the same digital space, both business performance and level of skills, by gathering OKRs & objectives setting, engagement survey, skills and continuous feedback.
Are there any specific tools/platforms used by your HR team which significantly improved productivity and helped keep things manageable?
In the previous answer we were talking about the benefits of technology. Inspired by the chatbot Djingo, which we are using in Orange to answer customers’ inquiries, we implemented an internal chatbot for employees – Roby (the naming part, of course, was tough).
Based on a technology developed by DRUID startup, Roby significantly improved the digital employees’ experience and, at the same time, helped us ease our HR processes.
At first, Roby assisted employees with information related to medical services or generating medical employee certificates. Those tasks alone took over a lot of workload, but we wanted to add more features. We created new flows and also provided colleagues with the information needed to make payments while staying at home. Upon receipt of any request, Roby validates the author and his position within the organization, and then assists the employee, based on predefined templates, in what he or she wants to do.
How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from traditionally office to hybrid working arrangements?
Relationship building is a big part of our job as HR people and up until March we thought meeting in person is a priority. Before the pandemic, we used the option for online interviews only when necessary. The new context flipped our preferences when it comes to seeing new candidates and recruiting. There was an already established flow for online interviews, but we had to scale it so it could become business as usual.
We continued recruiting during the emergency state almost as we usually did. Only the process and the medium changed. Orange is a Top Employer giving access to a good salary package, a safe and caring working environment and career development opportunities. This is what continuously attracts valuable people to our company. As a market leader we take pride in saying that we have some of the most generous benefits packages in Romania.
There are some very interesting stories about online onboarding, we certainly do live times filled with challenges, but also accomplishments of all kinds. For example, new employees only saw their colleagues in person after 3 months or even after 6 months.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress/anxiety?
At a global level psychologists are talking about a collective trauma. This pandemic period has brought changes not only in the professional lives of our employees, but also in their personal lives. Disruption doesn’t come easy for most people and we need to give them all our support to help them cope with the change and adapt.
We have organized sessions with professionals on how to control emotions. We also gave employees access to a non-stop psychological support helpline where 300 professionals are there to talk to them and give them advice when needed. More than that, people had access to numerous wellbeing programs and workshops in remote, on themes like: how to deal with small or teen children, how to cope when you are home alone in remote, how to improve your work-life balance, yoga, fitness etc.
What new competencies have emerged?
COVID-19 lockdown triggered us to see the near future divided into 3 different stages:
- Acute stage – right after the lockdown had been set, we decided to see what competencies need to be immediately tackled and to protect them by virtual delivery of training. These are the “skills to operate”, that an individual occupying a role needs to master so to be able to fulfill the core responsibilities of his or her role.
- Recovery Stage – even before the lockdown seemed to come to an end, we realized that remote work is still here to stay, so our next aim was to identify all the competencies needed for people to be able to cope with the new reality, probably for an indefinite period. We call these “skills for the moment”, that help people perform in a new context: working together remote, feedback and feedforward etc.
- Development Stage – even if the crisis has not ended yet and lessons are still to come, future long-term orientation determined us to analyze what we’re being through and extract some lessons, so to be able to articulate our strategy for the period to come . We decided to accelerate on the competencies that are delivered through training under the siege of company-wide programs. ATOM is our leadership development program which aims to help build the Orange Leader brand through skills that we consider essential for any manager: from working agile to managing change.Another great achievement that we’ve gained in this period is a sound and very promising capitalization of internal expertise. We’ve put in place a community of experts in various fields, but especially on competencies related to our core business, IT&C skills. The scope of this community is to disseminate knowledge and expertise inside the organization on IT&C topics with the help of our experts. Great energy and volunteering sprung with no effort to stimulate the natural tendency of our colleagues to give back to their colleagues in the organization.