The HR industry changed a lot in 2020 as the new pandemic context brought new challenges, but skillful HR managers successfully overcame those and transformed their companies’ approach to employee retention, engagement, retention, or satisfaction among others. We featured all this in the exclusive HR Spotlight Interviews, in which we talked to several top HR professionals, but now, as 2021 is predicted to become its own beast, BR decided to revamp the series. Without further ado, let’s kick off 2021 with the pros and explore the HR trends of the new year. For the first episode, Andrea Voinea, HR Executive Director at BCR, returns after her original interview for the second season of the #HRSpotlight series!
2020 Overview: the most important actions and programs in your organization?
In 2020 our top priority was the safety of our people, while ensuring our business continuity. By making use of technology, we adapted in record time our business models and our processes so that most of our people could work safely from home: in the last 9 months of 2020, 90% of our head office colleagues worked remotely, while in the network we worked with teams in bi-weekly shifts of 50%, thus managing to keep all our bank branches open during this period.
Since beginning of the pandemic, we invested massively in the health & safety of our colleagues, through measures such as continuously delivering protection materials sand disinfectants (including daily delivery of masks for those coming to the office), testing all our colleagues who are suspect with COVID, covering commuting costs for those coming into the office, or running a vaccination campaign for the winter flu virus.
In addition to health & safety measures, there were two new important directions on which we had to support our people: to address their increased social-emotional needs as well as their medical and wellbeing needs. There are multiple programs that we implemented in 2020, but one that is worth mentioning is our custom-made Open Line Coaching program called “We are here for you” facilitated by our internal team of coaches, offering continuous support on social-emotional issues for our colleagues.
We have also created many projects to increase the level of engagement of colleagues in this new setup of remote working, and to help them get through this difficult period. We communicated much more than before, both vertically through our managerial channels, but also using across the board communications through regular newsletters and open calls on the topic in context. An example would the daily communication pill called Bine de Stiut (Good to Know), every day having a different topic, ranging from news around major achievements of our teams (for instance new functionalities in George), or introducing different teams and their members, up to wellbeing topics, from Optimism of Monday to Relaxation of Friday. Another example of how we reinvented our engagement actions is the weekly learning newsletter called “What are we learning today?” issued every Wednesday for all BCR community, every week on different topics such as Trust, Collaboration, Happiness, Talent or Vacation, its content being created with the help of a different team in the bank.
What was quite clear to us in 2020 is that the needs of our colleagues for proactive communication, emotional support and interaction with their team, even if only in virtual environment, was higher than before. Paradoxically, the physical social distancing requires closer human interaction, more active listening and solidarity.
On the HR side, we had many opportunities to rethink processes and make them more efficient. We are in a complex process of digital transformation and technology helped us to keep the things up and running within HR. Even before the pandemic period, we were having a lot of HR administrative services delivered through our self-service platforms, during pandemic we managed to automate all our processes in record time, we moved to fully remote HR workflows – we ran recruitment and onboarding remotely, we delivered our induction program remotely, we conducted our performance development process remotely, we expanded our e-learning capability, moving all our learning and development programs online. We even ran an internship program remotely.
2020 was a huge opportunity for us to do things differently and we will build on the learnings of this period to shape the way we will do things in the future.
Keeping an eye on the future, with so much change and uncertainty on the horizon, how is your organization getting ready to accelerate the 2021 changes?
It is quite clear to all of us that the future brings the expansion of SMART WORK. Therefore, we have launched a program called SMART WORK@BCR, meant to redefine our way of working in the future. The program is built on four pillars, respectively leadership & culture, collaboration & productivity, workplace & health and technology & processes.
Smart work doesn’t refer strictly to hybrid working, it requires rethinking of the entire ecosystem in which we work (starting from culture, technology, processes and workplace). It entails new skills and behaviors, new leadership style, new collaboration platforms, space optimization solutions, rethinking of collaborative areas, revision of certain policies (e.g. travel, car fleet), new approaches in regard to corporate health and wellness and so many other topics.
We are currently in the design phase of our hybrid model, the program team is cross functional, and we use design thinking involving colleagues from all areas in the bank, to define our aspirations and solutions.
Which will be from your perspective, the top 3 most important trends for top HR professionals in 2021?
The first trend for HR professionals is changing at scale our ways of working from traditional organizations into more flexible and agile organizations, incorporating SMART WORK into our way of being and expanding our remote working practice. In the context of migrating from traditional organizational models to more agile models, we will see hybrid teams addressing complex challenges in shorter times. No matter where they are on business flows – product management, IT, risk, operations, legal or compliance – they will be able to collaborate and co-create effective solutions tailored to the current needs of our customers. And all of this will be done working from home or from office.
The second trend is in related to the improvement of employee experience, by simplifying, digitizing and optimizing HR processes. Standardized processes will be greatly automated and be available through self-service, HR services will be delivered faster, and remotely where possible. HR people will spend more time in advisory area, seeking to continuously improve key touch points in employee experience throughout the lifecycle in the company.
And the third trend, very important, is upskilling and multiskilling of our people, to enable them to adapt quickly to changes of the business model and to succeed in this new digital era. Jobs with high added value will remain after automation, so people need to get new skills. Also narrow jobs will disappear in the long run and wider jobs that require multiple skills will prevail. Therefore, our people will need to acquire new skills in the wake of technology. An important aspect here is related to embarking all our colleagues in the digital journey, motivating them to embrace the digital mindset, and anticipating and continuously building emerging skills.
The upskilling part refers also to leaders, preparing our leaders to be able to perform in the new reality, to manage hybrid teams, strengthening their social and emotional skills to increase collaboration and building adaptability and resilience skills to thrive during an evolving business situation. The challenge for leaders in the new reality is to give direction, provide autonomy and focus on outcomes rather than activities, to build strong relationships between local and remote employees while motivating teams and driving performance.
All these trends, taken collectively and also individually, open new perspectives for the human capital area. All are extremely relevant. In my view, if we are to select the overarching, most formidable challenge of the role of HR, I would say it has to do with “the right culture”, the right evolving culture, fit for the Organization of the Future.
Whether for our shareholders (as the right culture of balancing trust with profitability and regulation in a digital, increasingly interconnected world), for our HR function (the right culture of agents of change, balancing corporate goals and meeting employees’ expectations) or for our employees (the right culture of balancing employee and employer value proposition), “the right culture” is the critical ingredient to perform sustainably in a volatile, uncharted Economy 4.0.