For the first interview of the new HR Spotlight series, Business Review sat down with Andreea Voinea, HR Executive Director at BCR, to see how the banking sector is preparing for the #futureofwork. Andreea Voinea will also feature in an All Star Panel titled Employer Branding: keys to success | Moving Forward, Together, at BR’s upcoming Working Romania conference, September 29 at Courtyard by Marriott Bucharest Floreasca and online in BR’s dedicated HR networks on Facebook and LinkedIn.
BR: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?
Andreea Voinea: In line with global banking market trends, we are also becoming both more strategically focused and technologically enabled to respond to evolving customer expectations. To this end, we focus on digitizing our core business processes and reassessing our organizational structures and internal talent, to be better prepared for the Bank of the Future.
Our digital journey on which we embarked already for several years, transitioning from a traditional business model into a more digital one, has been accelerated during this period. The last six months opened up a window of opportunity to digitize faster both our customer as well as our employee processes.
While data and technology will continue to play an increasing role in our world, my opinion is that banking will remain a business for people made by people, enhanced by use of data & technology.
Given this context, in my view the critical human capital challenges are related to:
- Upskilling and multiskilling our people, enabling them to adapt quickly to changes of the business model and to succeed in this new digital era. 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;
- Preparing our leaders to be able to perform in the new reality, to manage teams remotely, strengthening their social and emotional skills to increase collaboration and building adaptability and resilience skills to thrive during an evolving business situation;
- Optimizing, simplifying and digitizing our end-to-end employee experience, building on the lessons learnt during the last months when we managed to automate and run a lot of our HR processes remotely;
- Changing at scale our ways of working from a traditional organization into a more flexible and agile organization, 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.
All these challenges, taken collectively and also individually, open new perspectives for the banking sector as well as for the human capital area. All are extremely relevant. However, in my view, if we are to select the overarching, most formidable challenge of our industry and the role of HR, I would say it has to do with “the right culture”, the right evolving culture, fit for the Bank of 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.
How did your organization manage to balance the increased workload of employees, both in the HR department and company-wide?
The key for us to manage the increased workload were our people: I am extremely proud to say that I witnessed how my colleagues proved that they are capable of overnight adoption of technology and how they demonstrated great agility and flexibility to come up with new solutions and capacity to adjust quickly to the new reality.
Another important skill that proved to be essential during these times is the high level of discipline and resilience showed in times of uncertainty by our colleagues in the entire bank.
Most probably the most important lesson learnt during this period is that there is a huge untapped potential in our people, if we free up their creativity to reinvent ourselves and improve things for us and our customers.
Has the use of tech alleviate the workload of your HR team?
We have now the opportunity to ride the technology wave and make our people available to it, comfortable to use it, while making their work life easier and safer.
As I mentioned earlier, we are in a complex process of digital transformation. Without technology, we would not have been able to keep the things up and running within the HR team and the whole BCR family. Where processes are standardized, technology will continue to help us, including in the HR area.
In order to speed up the adoption of technology, we train people on how to fully use new apps and organize day work from home and train managers on how to engage and supervise teams remotely.
Are there any specific tools/platforms used by your HR team which significantly improved productivity and helped keep things manageable?
Even before the pandemic period, we were having a lot of HR administrative services delivered through our self-service platforms (e.g. holiday requests, travel requests, expense reimbursements, timesheets, different types of certificates issued by employer). Still a lot of our processes were happening mainly face to face, such as recruitment, induction, onboarding, learning and development or performance management.
Since the beginning of pandemic period, we moved to fully digital/remote HR workflows and processes – we run our recruitment and onboarding processes remotely, we deliver our induction program remotely, we conduct our performance development process remotely, we expanded our e-learning capability, moving all our learning and development programs online.
Moreover, making using of technology, we managed to implement in record time different requirements generated by the current pandemic context. For instance, we developed an application to support our managers to allocate their people on teams to return to office in weekly rotations. In several hours, we managed to automate the issuance of restricted circulation certificates for our people who were coming to the office during emergency state. And many more similar examples, that clearly made our life in HR and our colleagues’ lives easier.
The last six months were a huge opportunity for us to do things differently and we will build on the learnings of the current period and continue to run remotely a lot of these processes in the long run.
How did you replicate recruiting and onboarding from traditionally office to hybrid working arrangements?
The future belongs to those who adapt. We used tools that enabled distance contact with our candidates. During the last 6 months, we recruited and onboarded remotely more than 250 colleagues.
Once we moved our recruitment process 100% online, we also adjusted our onboarding process online, we redesigned our onboarding materials in a more online friendly format and we created a special self-service section for new colleagues on our HRMS platform. For a number of years, we are running our onboarding process with the support of mentors assigned to our new colleagues, helping them to integrate in the team. We work in close cooperation with our mentors to turn these processes into a positive experience for our new colleagues, even if we run them remotely.
We also adjusted our learning solutions for the new comers. In fact, when it comes to learning, we moved fully towards virtual and online learning since beginning of April. We have adapted all our in-class training programs to virtual ones. In all our training programs we follow the 70/20/10 learning model and we have a mix of pre-work, live sessions and post-work. The 2-days in-class Induction Program is now a 3-days online program with 4 hours of online sessions/day. So far we had over 250 participants.
The learning program for our new colleagues in retail front-office has also been adapted to virtual delivery and we have more than 450 colleagues who have been trained this way.
Our new hires have access to Academia de Learning, an online library with a wide variety of topics, varying from digital transformation, project management, marketing, human resources, foreign languages, MS Office to personal and professional development. In fact, all our colleagues have access to this library and can access its resources anytime, anywhere and from any device.
The feedback received so far is a positive one, still it is quite clear that there is a higher integration effort of new colleagues for the receiving team when working remotely.
Did you make use of professional counseling for employees who reported issues of stress/anxiety?
We developed several programs and measures to address to increased social-emotional needs of our colleagues. One of the programs is called “We are here for you” and is a custom made Open Line Coaching concept facilitated by our internal team of coaches. We launched the program on April 30 and over 80 colleagues have benefited of these coaching services.
Some of our colleagues’ most frequent concerns are related to heavy workload in some areas, future perspectives related to the Bank and/or overall economic and social context, career perspectives, challenges when managing their teams remotely, or personal issues interfering with business priorities. We have very good feedback from the coachees and we will continue to offer these services.
We have also concluded a contract with a specialized external partner for continuous support on social-emotional issues for all our employees.
In addition, we addressed the medical and wellbeing of our people during the Pandemic, by offering a helpline with dedicated doctors to take calls of our staff for urgent medical support.
We’re also offering our people access to online resources regarding their wellbeing needs (e.g. stress management, nutrition, ergonomics, kinetic-therapy).
Given the increased importance of the well-being topic during the last six months, I expect that most companies will grow their investments in such services to support colleagues in the future.
How did you manage to keep a good level of engagement among your teams / departments/ employees?
Health care is an essential part of keeping our business operating, our employees engaged and a major employer differentiator. It is also a very high value service, as perceived by our employees who appreciated our COVID related health measures and support.
The safety of our employees was and still is our no. 1 priority. We took many measures to make sure our people are safe and sound; here are some of them:
- We made available and distributed safety equipment for employees in branches and in headoffice.
- We tested our employees in case of contact with COVID confirmed cases.
- We developed online trainings for all employees on COVID specific risks at work.
- We created a helpline with dedicated doctors to take calls of our staff for urgent medical support.
- We organized daily triage in branches and head office.
- We are now in the process of running a flu vaccination program in season 2020 –2021.
In addition to these health & safety measures for our colleagues, in the last months we have also launched several programs and initiatives meant to keep our people engaged, no matter if there working in the office or at home.
What went very well in keeping our colleagues motivated is consistent and transparent communication, using either across the board communication to all colleagues or managerial communication channels.
We have created a biweekly newsletter dedicated to engagement, called MAGIC, focused on sharing of best practices, team initiatives or actions, celebration topics or moments, that colleagues want to share with the entire BCR community. The content is exclusively created by people/teams in the bank and it became a source of inspiration of interesting engagement ideas for other teams across the bank.
We are also running a daily communication pill/newsletter called BINE DE STIUT (Good to Know) distributed to all colleagues in the bank. Every day we have 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 across the bank, up to wellbeing topics, stress management, nutrition, entertainment ideas, activities to do with children, or recommendations on where to spend your holidays safely.
We had a special competition organized before the crisis, called Best Banker, which was adapted to the new context, and renamed Best Remote Banker. The competition aims to reward the colleagues and our teams which managed to have a good collaboration, performance and, also, the capacity to reinvent under the new circumstances. The program was well received and has encouraged a positive spirit among our colleagues, despite the challenges.
Other measures we took to ensure our people stay motivated, are related to learning. People tend to become frighten when they don’t have information about what they are living. To address this topic, we developed a newsletter called “What are we learning today?” This is a weekly Wednesday newsletter sent out to all employees with direct access to various forms of learning – articles, webinars, podcasts, videos etc. So far we have 25 issues and each newsletter has a dedicated theme such as Trust, Collaboration, Happiness, Talent or Vacation.
In our communication efforts, regular open calls became also a norm, from CEO’s biweekly call to regular townhalls of different teams in the bank.
What is clear to us is that during this period, the needs of our colleagues for proactive communication, emotional support and interaction with their team, even if only in virtual enviroment, is higher than before. Based on our discusssions with our people, paradoxically the physical social distancing requires closer human interaction, more active listening and solidarity.
All our people, no matter where they work, miss the human interactions they were used to before the pandemia. And one way to fill in this gap is that, we, as leaders, spend more time with our team members and succeed in knowing and supporting better our people