All the energy from the last months went to crisis management, said Gabriela Alexandru, HR Director at Michelin Romania at Business Review’s Working Romania event, showing that a there is an extreme adrenaline rush during this period.
”The first time I was in a crisis situation was 7-8 years ago and it was a simulation exercise. I was HR manager for one of the Michelin plants in Romania, and at that time the management team had a theoretical role in the perspective of a crisis. Each of us had a role to play in a crisis situation. I must confess that, at the time, the simulation seemed excessive and useless, just a waste our time,” said Alexandru.
Even more, one day Gabriela received a phone call telling me that we have a crisis scenario, simulating an accident at the factory, an explosion with victims, impact on the environment, etc. ”And I also had some problems with my phone that day. But, at the end of the day I understood that a crisis does not come when you have time or everything is ready, a crisis comes when it comes. That is why you must have practice in theoretical situations,” says Gabriela Alexandru.
”The COVID-19 crisis caught us in this situation and we had the opportunity to manage from the first moment the important things, while the organizational ones were already practiced and prepared. We made sure that the employees are safe and we decreed a full home office for all the activities that were suitable. We also had to prioritize the projects, to which it is worth directing our energy,” explained Alexandru.
During the pandemic, the time spent at home allowed the team to understand how the communication application works. ”We discovered that we can also do online events with many employees. It was useful because we were able to have question-answer sessions with management, an essential session of maintaining a clear dialogue between managers and subordinates. All these behaviors were unraveled during the crisis and we had to find a way to perpetuate them. Before the crisis we received messages from top-management to prioritize projects, we had too many. And I couldn’t do this very well back then. But in the crisis I saw exactly what is worth keeping and doing and what is not. This kind of behavior must be preserved in the future,” said Gabriel Alexandru.
A very important thing is also to keep the business alive. Which is done easier when the team understands and follows the top-management or crisis cell decisions. ”This is not the time to test or challenge decisions. Unpopular decisions with a short-term impact on employees are also made, but our interest is to keep the business in the medium and long term. And understanding employees is essential,” said Alexandru.
”It is also important for people to see that the implementation of decisions is done properly, not through a passive-aggressive attitude. I understood one more thing that this slightly poetic discourse of HR about the importance of the teams passes next to the management as it is not an emergency. But now it is understood that having the team to back you up is essential,” said Alexandru.
Another important dimension, especially during this period is the emotional dimension of the crisis. ”Uncertainty makes us anxious no matter how mature we are. We have taken this dimension into account since the beginning of the crisis and we have addressed it quickly. We have introduced a hotline where employees and their families can turn to for legal, tax or emotional advice and we have organized all kinds of internal stay-in-team competitions to maintain social cohesion in a situation where we are all indoors. Currently, our concern is to restart the activity progressively, at the right time from the point of view of employee security and business needs. We remain alert to everything that happens, but we are optimistic that things will work out. We will not reach last year’s business results in any situation, but we expect to overcome the crisis in a reasonable way,” said Alexandru.
”From an HR perspective, this crisis will make a positive contribution. The relationship between employee and employer will be more flexible. Working from home will remain an important component for everyone. The big challenge is to keep the social dimension of labor relations, to keep the teams alive. In times of crisis there is no system to replace the collective intelligence of teams, which have a very good response to unforeseen situations,” explains Gabriela Alexandru.