Launched in 2020 and updated in 2021, the #HRSpotlight interview series enters its third era receiving another revamp for 2022. Together with the best HR professionals in Romania, Business Review will keep exploring the #futureofwork and to find out how leading companies have balanced out all the challenges of recent years, creating strong employer brands and great working environments for their employees. For the first interview of the updated series, Business Review sat down with Irina Munteanu, Deputy General Manager at Apa Nova.
- 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?
Regardless of the year or the economic context, Apa Nova carries out a process of continuous improvement within the company, in all areas of activity, in the centre of which we are placing our most important asset – our employees. Last year, we continued to attract young talent and professionals, with a total of 188 new colleagues joining the teams.
Also, we promoted internal mobility for employees who desired a career change, both horizontally and vertically. They had priority to fill the positions available in the company, which increased their motivation, retention, commitment, and professionalism of the team. We also promoted a culture of performance in the workplace, at all levels, by defining specific objectives, for all processes, with clearly defined indicators and in correlation with the goals of the organization.
We continue our investments in the education of the future generation, supporting internship and technical schools programs.
To be sustainable in terms of human resources, we have developed a succession plan for the organisation critical roles, both for managerial and technical and we have identified high potential employees that are able to take over new professional challenges, in the short and medium term. Also, we have defined customised individual development plans, aiming to reduce the gaps between a successor’s current capabilities and where he or she needs to be in the future.
At the same time, we have developed a coherent development program for the company managers, aimed to improve their personal, professional, and leadership skills.
In order to help each employee to continue their development in a flexible manner, we have digitalized the training processes by launching an e-learning platform that provides over 600 personal and professional development courses, available to all our employees. Additionally, we launched an automatic system that helps the staff to manage the work schedule, delegations, requests, and approvals.
To ensure external competitiveness and internal equity for our company, we have implemented a
new compensation and benefits strategy, based on modern salary survey analysis, adapted to the current needs and context.
Based on the strategic investments planned in the upcoming years, Apa Nova has developed a recruitment plan, with the goal to attract around 100 new employees, such as: project managers, specialists, engineers, professionals, technical and support staff.
- 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?
The wellbeing of our employees was always a priority for us, a key factor determining the organisation’s long-term success and effectiveness. For this reason, we dedicate a lot of effort in making sure that Apa Nova is a great place to work, from the point of view of the safety and atmosphere in the workplace, employees’ relationship, financial stability, performance recognition, flexibility, development, and growth opportunities. We also encourage proactive initiatives, open communication and continuous feedback that creates a positive and productive atmosphere, a healthy organisational culture.
Also, years ago, we rethought our employees’ involvement and developed a work environment centred on them. We reconsidered how we defined visibility in the workplace, by recognizing performance, building mutual trust, and maximizing each other’s potential. At the end, all for our high-performing employees should feel fully appreciated, as they deserve, for the extraordinary constant efforts.
The employee benefits budget has increased significantly in recent years, by expanding the amounts for medical services for both employees and relatives, settlement of rest and treatment tickets, meal and gift vouchers, bonuses offered on various occasions, or book rental subscriptions. As we will continue to hire new employees also in the following months, we improved our onboarding program in order to provide all the necessary support, information, tools, and networking, for a smooth integration in our company culture
- We can’t talk about the #futureofwork without talking about the future workplace. Is it going to be back to the office or WFH? How does WFH impact HR activities?
Apa Nova by definition is an operational company, and the teams are split between working remote and working on premises. Obviously, the way of working has significantly changed in the last 2 years, and we adapted, promoting a flexible WFH schedule that will continue in the future, as well.
As we needed to increase the flexibility in the workplace, we have implemented a flexible desks pilot program for the office areas. In advance, any employee can choose to book an available desk and we plan to extend this program to other company locations in the future.
- 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?
Our Group PURPOSE is to become the “champions of ecological transformation” and our GOAL is to have a positive IMPACT on five development directions: human resources, social, commercial, environmental, and financial.
As part of our social responsibility, we are investing in education in the future by supporting dual vocational education and successfully implementing internship programs for students. Coordinated with the other human resources projects, we are also using these programs for our staff rejuvenation, an effective strategy to identify and attract young talents that are needed for any organisation. Starting with 2018, Apa Nova supported a class of 24 students of the Anghel Saligny Technical High School, through a partnership with the Ministry of National Education and we continued to do so in the years that followed. Currently, we support the educational process of 48 vocational students, providing financial, educational and career counseling support.
Our company has permanently invested in education and career development for young people. Last year, Apa Nova joined the Edu Networks program, as a strategic partner, throughout the program, so that almost 7,000 children from 15 schools in the Bucharest – Ilfov area benefited from modern education.
- Summing up the previous questions and adding insights that might not have been covered so far, what are the most important trends HR leaders will focus on in 2022 (and beyond)?
The world, customer needs, and workplace operations have dramatically changed a lot in the last few years. In general, it is necessary to reshape the organizational culture that should adapt to the new challenges and ever-changing business reality.
Now, more than ever, HR leaders need to motivate their teams and align their representatives with common goals and long-term strategies, but at the same time, they must identify, attract, and retain crucial skills and redesign the work environment to boost the employee value proposition and drive business performance.