In a new #HRSpotlight2022 exclusive interview Business Review sat down with Cristina Mancas, Human Resources Vice President for South East Europe at Schneider Electric, to talk about the latest trends of the HR world in 2022 and beyond.
Starting with a bit of background, how was 2021 from an HR perspective and what were the most important actions and programs you undertook for your employees?
2020 was the year when everything changed, while 2021 was the year we adjusted, namely we created a new normal to match the new set of circumstances. So I can say that somehow, in 2021 we found a point of balance, having to reinvent some of our processes as well as the way we approached employees. Once we created and implemented the new procedures, we resumed our growth, both businesswise and HR wise.
Early enough we realized that the workplace had transformed and that work from home was there to stay. We therefore, introduced a work from home allowance to support our employees with the additional costs that incurred.
We created and implemented a region wide Employee Assistance Program, an online platform that allowed our people to access specialized counsel in areas such as Parenting Resilience, Mental health or financial advice. And this platform is available for both employees and their families. We recognized the considerable impact all the changes had on our colleagues lives and we wanted to give them constant and professional support. We were happy to see the overwhelmingly positive response we got from them for this program.
Last but not least, a project we had already in place for a while, the Open Talent Market took off really well last year, as people looked differently at the various international opportunities our Group was offering, knowing now most of them no longer required relocation. In addition, through this platform they could develop in their career by pairing with a mentor or by participating to international projects.
All in all, it’s been a very challenging year, but a year of great accomplishment too.
2022 is an anniversary year for Schneider Electric Romania. We are celebrating 25 years on the market and we are happy to be one of the largest and most important Schneider Electric organizations in the area. Several corporate functions are coordinated regionally from Romania, we have a services hub that is a global partner to our customers in 27 countries and our customer and partner portfolio is growing steadily, as we develop new ways to communicate, interact and service them all effectively. That, from a HR point of view, requires constant training, adjustment to new technologies and personal improvement and this is how we make our contribution both to our people and our organization.
Employee wellbeing is no longer seen as a benefit, so how can employers and HR leaders take this concept to new heights and get more involved in the personal wellness of their people?
It is true, after two years of pandemic and the very rough start we had this year given the international circumstances, employee wellbeing is no longer a benefit – it is a must. We have subjected ourselves to massive behavioural changes, over a long period of time and we all had to adjust one way or another.
We are already seeing a need to further develop our wellbeing initiatives and it all started with the feedback we had actively collected from our colleagues over the past year. The pandemic affected us in different ways, depending both on our work circumstances, but also our personal circumstances. We recognize that now and we see that a one size fits all solution is not going to work, moving forward. So based on the various categories of employees we have been able to delineate, we are working on addition. This means that we need a blend of activities and programs that we can implement, depending on the personal situation of each individual. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. Quite the opposite, we want to be more involved, if, when and as needed.
We can’t talk about the #futureofwork without talking about the future workplace. Is it going to be back to office or WFH? How does WFH impact HR activities?
I believe we will need to have a personalized approach in this case as well. We support a hybrid approach, between office work and WFH, an open approach that would be adjusted based on the needs of the individual not of a certain work category.
We have families, single moms, single dads, we have a variety of situations that need to be treated differently. Some of our back-office roles can go 100% WFH if they choose to, some of the front office roles can work in a hybrid mode. Some of the departments need to get together only once a week. Therefore, the best way to do it is to come up with different propositions for each situation and, additionally, to create meaningful reasons for people to return to the office occasionally – for operational reasons or even just to celebrate.
Moving forward, I am certain that organizations who will stick to a fix work schedule of 9-5 will fail to retain good employees or any employees for that matter.
Nothing is yet set, nothing is carved in stone, therefore what we do within the HR function is to generate ideas, put them to test in pilot programs, see what feedback we collect and what learnings we can then use and deploy companywide. We need to be pragmatic and agile – things that work should be retained and implemented, things that don’t work should be changed and adjusted.
Recent studies show that many employees expect their employer, and business in general, to be a force for good in society. How involved are your employees in your CSR and Sustainability programs and what are you doing to increase this involvement?
At Schneider Electric, we are a champion of sustainability and by the nature of our business we help companies and people manage energy more responsibly, more effectively and reduce their carbon footprint. The company has received countless awards and recognitions for its efforts and has consistently ranked in the top five global most sustainable companies according to Corporate Knights.
Besides our company’s global commitments around sustainability, we are running also several local initiatives. In Romania, we are having reforestation projects, school renovation projects and we try to help in a meaningful way our environment and our communities in need.
Apart from the CSR projects, we also have internal competitions, challenging our colleagues to come up with ideas to further reduce our carbon footprint – an initiative called the 7 Day Challenge.
Summing up the previous questions and adding own insights which might not have been covered so far, what are the most important trend that HR leaders will focus on in 2022 (and beyond)?
Clearly the most important learning for us was the need for personalization in the HR approach. We are dealing with individuals, not generic groups, so we need to be sensitive to individual needs if we want to recruit and retain top talent. We are working constantly to see employee feedback, to analyse their inputs and to put to actions initiatives that will make our company the best place for them to be. We truly believe that our great people are what is making Schneider Electric an amazing company worldwide and in Romania.