Human Capital 2020: In the crisis, the importance of human resources departments has increased

Flexibility and resilience will determine the future of work. The current crisis requires companies to listen to the needs of employees and respond quickly to them. At online conference Human Capital 2020 brought stories from companies whose management proudly faced to difficult times.

The importance of HR directors in companies has been growing and they are also more visible now. They often help their bosses dealing with the pandemic effects, acknowledged the speakers of Human Capital 2020 conference. According to them, HR director is becoming a "small CEO" and his role is becoming more and more complex. Clear communication with the rest of the company turned out to be one of the key topics.

What to do when half of the company has to work from home? The terms have to be defined first. Leading expert in labor law Jakub Morávek, lawyer and partner Felix a spol. law firm, offered a new perspective on this area. The law does not know the institute of home office. Only the paragraph 317 may be applied: work outside the workplace during the time defined by the employer. It is necessary to agree from when to when the rules required at work are required at home. It is not just a question of when the employee will be available, it is basically a transfer of the workplace to the home environment. This requires the consent of the other party. The solution may be a shorter fixed shift and then let the employee to determine for him/herself the rest. Companies cannot order a home office, although the government almost forces them to do so. However, they can document that they offered home office alternative to employees.

Technologies doing the job for HR

There are more possibilities while working from distance that was previously thought. It is necessary to develop effectively the skills of employees using technology maintaining the personal point perspective. Pavel Fáček, Managing Director from Skilldriver, demonstrated this on the battle of robot and human over who is a better at employee development. According to Fáček, new smart form of e-learning may surpass the human trainer. As an example, he showed a bank robbery simulation in 3D glasses for security guards, or a digital guide that monitors what tasks a new sales manager must complete in the first six months. "Technology can successfully replace people in many parts of training agenda so they may focus on key tasks," says Fáček, adding that technology is better in terms of keeping on tasks. However, technology cannot make a feedback yet.

But, how to keep in touch with your team as a manager? Many directors has been facing to this question. Vít Vážan, CEO of České Radiokomunikace found out original solution. This former member of TV Nova's top management began filming videos for colleagues and became a screenwriter himself overnight. He did hang back and spend hours with production, including jokes, mascots or competitions to increase viewership. The very first video provoked great reactions, about 10% of people from the company gave him a feedback. In the end, the videos hit all about 360 employees, but its limits also appeared. "Find out who your audience is," Vážan recommended. Broadcasting from his home office "bubble" he almost forgot about a third of his colleagues who were working outside all the time.

Wellbeing stands for people who go to work “entire”

Another general director has been in charge of the communication. Roman Senecký from the Mondi Štětí. In order to maintain the esprit de corps during the both pandemic waves, he aimed on appreciating the work of his people as much as possible and reminding them the company's mission. In case of Mondi, it is its importance for the region. The factory washes hospital linen and supplies the region with hot water. "I set a trap for myself in the form of cards that reminded me on the table to whom I should thank. The fact that they do the job well is not a matter of course," sais Senecký. He also introduced more frequent video calls and collected feedback from hundreds of employees, which also helped to prevent the spread of rumors. Senecký recommends not to forget the introductory informal part in video conferences. Biohacking was applied in members of the teams too so they could deal with stress more easily.

In other companies, they go even further withing employees´ wellbeing. "We spend a third part of our lives at work, as a boss I consider the question how people feel at work as my personal responsibility," said Vratislav Kalenda jr., CEO of Applifting. The Prague software studio operates as a free company, where everyone has a possibility to express and everyone has the right to know the salary of others. The company trusts its people and applies so-called presumption of good. On the intranet, for example, there is a company credit card number and whoever needs something to buy, he can use it - just ask others. The bigger the investment is, the more people have to approve it. Even when accepting orders, everyone has the right to veto if she or he does not find a particular client suitable. "We have safeguards against trust breaches, and I pay close attention to compatibility with corporate culture during the probation," Kalenda added.

Search for “purple people”

Who operating in the companies under the pressure will push ahead the necessary innovations? Globally, there has been a trend of hiring so-called "purple people". These people are equipped both for business and technology management. "We have such people and we have been raising them, but today we need to look for other senior people on the market," confirms Kalenda from Applifting. This trend was well described at the conference also by Czech managers Jana Marlé Žižková and Pavel Bulowski, who work in Southeast Asia, which is in terms of internet penetration further than the Czech Republic. People spend hours in discussion groups there. HR professionals also have to go there if they want to hire someone "purple". "Diversification of the workforce is a necessity. A career means no longer how well I do one job, but how agile I work in an organization that is changing in the future," Žižková said.

But there is another old problem. The most of managers claim that well-managed onboarding leads to greater efficiency. At the same time, however, a large number of new employees do not feel sufficient support in their beginnings. They fully verified this in Mall. During the recent rocketing sales growth they had to be hiring up to 200 new colleagues in 8 days. At the same time, the most of the company was working from home. So they radically changed the old unsatisfactory ways of "embarking" newcomers. Instead of sitting over the Excel spreadsheets, new employees were sent to try a shift in a store or distribution center. As part of the mentoring, each new employee had a "partner" to show him how to do the work. "It helps employees to realize the value of their work throughout the company," said Ewa Kubín, HR Director of the entire Mall Group.

Distance working as an innovation killer?

If you want to direct your company towards innovation, you have to give them a firm place. This was described by Zuzana Krajča, HR Partner of Sodexo. Since last year, it has been preparing for the changes associated with the widespread introduction of the so-called meal voucher flat rate, but 3 hours a week set aside for innovative projects have not been enough for new challenges. The real progress came with a wider collection of ideas from more employees. From these "ambassadors of innovative thinking" emerged. Thanks to this, we managed better the work from distance and the transfer of services to online, including making new contracts or organizing virtual events. "You will never please everyone. However, innovations keep going. Now, we have innovative online training for everyone on the program and we are moving from KPI to OKR," Zuzana Krajča added.

Another HR director, Hana Caltová from Kofola, also had to go through big changes. According to her, even in Kofola, the move to a home office did not dampen new projects. Kofola lives from innovations, focusing on recycled plastics, Rajec barrels, acquisitions of new companies and ecological projects not only in the Rajecké valley. Even during the closure of bars and restaurants, Kofola intended not to give notice to people from the sales department. They just got another job and now they are waiting when the pubs will be open. "This year´s dismissals were rather connected with long term purposes. Some of the colleagues needed to start new journey. We provided them by individual consultancy program to prepare them for selection process. Most of them gained new job within three months," Caltová described. According to her, it is crucial to reconcile the heart with the mind in the hard times. As an example, she mentioned postponing the long-planned project of a new company headquarters.

Distance work from home is tricky when you search for creative solutions. These come form team interaction usually. Martin Pešta from Geometry agency confirmed this. He admitted that had great problems think up anything, since it is hard for more people to speak at once on-line. This has unexpected effect, also less assertive people with good ideas had the chance to talk. The creativity on distance may be supported by diverse instruments, as internal platform where one can see both the project and the colleagues live on the video. Pešta recommends also innovation workshops with diverse participation (colleagues from diverse fields and countries participate), where the prototypes emerge that are tested consequently and enable to reach functional ideas quickly. "Before, it took about two weeks to develop something and frustration came from the other side. Now, we eliminate the dead ends from the very beginning before because more key individuals are involved in the development," Pešta said.

This year´s Human Capital conference proves that anything can be organized online, but the personal meeting is irreplaceable. The participants appreciated that the speakers took part and discussed “live” at Spojka Evets venue in Karlín and the program was broadcasted. The event was organized with support of Sodexo, Skilldriver and Felix a spol. advokátní kancelář.

Contact: Michaela Dvořáková, Managing Partner, Blue Events

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