Once more, Business Review delves into the dynamic world of Human Resources for another #HRSpotlight interview, featuring the representative of one of the most important Romanian telecom companies, DIGI. In the spotlight, Camelia Maria, Head of HR Department at Digi Group, talks about the challenging but exciting path towards the #futureofwork!
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?
First of all, the major concern was to secure the physical and emotional health of our employees, the issue that has required a substantial effort on the part of the company in the last year. We expect this need to expand at least in the short and medium-term.
A second matter is the harmonisation of work schedules, taking into account the current context, but also in the perspective. Definitely, we can no longer set the structure of the workforce in rigid parameters, for each business it is essential to find the most beneficial formulas of organization of work. Such a new set-up is circumscribed with all the underlying activities that the HR function supports, which will, of course, be adjusted accordingly. Ensuring the balance between office and remote work will have to take into account, on the one hand, the nature of the activities – with specific adaptations, sometimes up to the level of departments and even teams, and, on the other hand, the rather heterogeneous evolution of the needs of employees.
Another key factor in the success of any business is the motivation and satisfaction of employees, which have always been a major challenge, but which is taking on in the current circumstances with greater significance. Recent events led us to rethink everything from a new perspective, including the way we communicate with employees, leadership at any managerial level, activated motivational levers, prioritization, emotional component – all need to be significantly reconfigured to support the needs of the new employee’s profile undergoing a social crisis.
How did your organization manage to balance the increased workload of employees, both in the HR department and company-wide?
Our business is made up of specific, well-defined activity segments, so that the impact has been felt different in terms of both intensity and duration. In some areas, the transition of online activities was quick and relatively easy. In other sectors of work – mainly land-based or in the points of presence – additional support measures have been imposed Thus, at the critical stage of the beginning of the pandemic, we have recorded a relatively small number of situations of major restriction of working hours, up to the minimum level of optimum operation, followed by a gradual return to the usual capacity, and fortunately, there was no case for redundancies.
Broadly speaking, fluctuating volumes of work has been managed, on the one hand, by targeted measures to adjust working hours, such as: flexible working hours, combined in 10 to 14-day sequences, and, on the other hand, by increasing the workforce. Thus, if at the end of 2019 we had a staff of 12,709 employees at DIGI group level, at the beginning of 2021 we had a total of 14.691 employees.
Another way of naturally adjusting the load level was the pressure of re-evaluating priorities, the truly critical components of each role, crisis management forcing the abandonment of any unimportant, routine, redundant elements.
How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from the traditional office to hybrid working arrangements?
The recruitment activity was one of the first HR components transferred online as it is highly suited to remote communication. A challenge derived from the legal requirements that remained rigid throughout this period was the mandatory medical check-up on employment, which, at the beginning of the crisis, considering the drastic restriction of direct interactions, made the employment process as a whole significantly more difficult.
Also, the Induction program, especially in areas that also involve a consistent learning process, was adapted and delivered electronically through remote communication.
What programs/rewards/benefits have you implemented in order to keep spirits high in your company?
The first implemented measures aimed at making work more flexible, especially by adopting work from home in areas where the nature of the activity allowed it, but also changing the start and end hours, merging work into 10-14-day time units, alternated with equivalent rest.
The health of our employees has been a constant priority throughout this period, which is why since March 2020 we have provided and financially supported the COVID testing for employees and teams where there was a suspicion of illness, adopting a plan of immediate measures for different scenarios regarding the dynamics, frequency and range of transmission of infections.
In order to keep up employees morale, as well as support in adapting to the new way of working, we have provided a series of webinars with topics such as remote working, parenting in times of crisis, solution-oriented personal training, the effect of stress in difficult times.
We also provided additional financial rewards, in addition to the necessary hygienic and health equipment, adapted to the different types of activities, for employees who performed activities with higher exposure to the risk of illness.
How did you manage to keep a good level of engagement among your teams/departments/employees?
First of all, we have envisaged as much communication as possible with the management teams and the employees as a whole, so that the measures taken are easily and quickly assimilated, and that employees know and engage directly and jointly in managing this crisis situation.
Throughout the period, we continued to provide our employees with information material, online courses on topics of high relevance such as: health at work, strict compliance with sanitary rules, stress management, emotional intelligence, the benefit of feedback, conflict management, so on.
In order to motivate and engage in the professional development of our employees, we have launched a comprehensive online learning program called The Voice Academy and carried out for 6 months. Thus, students and mentors had been engaging in the development of 69 technical modules, software modules and coaching sessions, aimed at developing specific technical skills that facilitate and accelerate the development and career development process.
In order to appreciate our people’s efforts, we continued the Digi Awards recognition program – the second session, which was initiated a year ago and aimed at recognizing performance and awarding prizes to employees and teams. The main asset of this program, carried out online, was the wide range of coverage, the involvement of all our employees at national level.
Empathy and solidarity have been the key elements of various initiatives (mutual support campaigns) and communication approaches.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress/anxiety?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have developed internally a psychological counselling program, providing our employees with a free telephone line where they have been able to benefit from specialized support from psychologists. The aim was to provide support for sensitive cases with a strong emotional impact as well as to provide advice on the management of day-to-day difficulties resulting from the need to adapt in the formula of work at home.
How prepared is the Romanian workforce market in adopting the latest HR technologies, seeing the latest surge in workload?
The integration of technology into the current operations of any business was an obvious necessity even before the pandemic began. The question was how quickly entrepreneurs manage to assimilate systems, programs, techniques to support efficient operations into organizations. The health crisis has accelerated the uptake of technological solutions, which is beneficial in terms of overall progress, and has made this need apparent where, previously, it was perceived as a desirable but still waiting issue.
As for preparing the workforce in this direction, the answer is much more complex, as we need to take into account the diversity of jobs, the nature of work, the affinity and the socio-economic culture of generations of workers. Technical fields will quickly and enthusiastically embrace any such approach, with the challenge for employers being to find a balance, especially in uneven structures.
In the area of human resources, technology is increasingly gaining ground in terms of administrative, repetitive, the documentation issued, the operational flows, communication with employees and, generally, the delivery of basic support services. This does not exclude, however, direct interaction with the internal client – a defining component of inter-human relations – but facilitates a focus on quality, necessity and efficiency.
Last but not least, we should remember that the digital transformation comes together with new challenges related to information security, protection of personal and professional data, training costs for employees to use the new tools correctly and efficiently, so there are complex processes that organizations must deal with the utmost caution, not just with speed. We are advocating a digital transformation that also takes account of systemic, corporate-wide influences, not just of the benefits of a department or entity.