Wednesday, March 22, 2023

HR Spotlight Interview | Ana-Maria Andrei, HR Manager at Provident Financial Romania

The latest episode of the HR Spotlight Interview series saw us talking to Ana-Maria Andrei, HR Manager at Provident Financial Romania. We found out what are the biggest challenges of an HR Manager in the Personal Finance sector, and also, how the #futureofwork looks like for all those involved in this industry.

1. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges for your HR department in this new future of work?

We believe that the greatest challenge for our department is to make sure that our people are safe, happy and that they have access to the resources, support, and information they need.

Now more than ever, we need to pay closer attention to the personal aspects and to create an environment where family life and professional life are balanced and we need to be proactive when it comes to helping them achieve this balance.

To summarize our main concerns were to make sure our client interacting employees had the protective equipment and protocols in place and to make sure that all our employees have the support needed to adapt to the current situation.

As we have merged our homes with our offices, setting up new boundaries is a must. Even though before the pandemic our team members had the possibility to work remotely one day per week, having all the support functions work almost exclusively from home was something new.

On the other hand, many of our colleagues are field agents, as one of the services we provide in delivering the loan and collecting the installments from the residences of our customers. As these roles require a physical presence, we had to make sure that they have the protective equipment, hygienic-sanitary items they need and that our work protocols were adjusted to ensure both their safety and that of our customers.

We strongly believe that if our employees have a predictable working schedule, which allows them to deal with their personal and professional duties; they will achieve better results with positive effects for them, and at the same time, for the company.

We have a big team, with over 2,000 employees, thus we are constantly enhancing our feedback mechanisms, which are helping us understand our employees’ needs and, in return, provide them with the necessary support.

In the long run, I believe that the companies that are rapidly adjusting to the context and find ways that allow them to adapt to the changing needs of the employees will attract and retain the best candidates on the market.

2. How did your organization manage to balance the increased workload of employees, both in the HR department and company-wide?

First and most important, we intensified our communication efforts: as we entered a period filled with uncertainties, we needed to make sure that our colleagues were always connected, even while worked from home.

We provided open communication channels between field agents and team leaders, as well as for the messages of the company CEO to the entire organization.

I would say that through communication we made sure that everybody had the information required to do their role and we avoided increased workload caused by confusion; managers were always connected and aware of the needs of their team members and they prioritized the tasks efficiently. We do not encourage working late hours, as we strongly believe this would cause negative effects in the long term, both over the private life of employees and by extension over the company.

We started seeking solutions that would help us make sure that our employees are well. We provided the employees with digital-wellbeing activities, such as sports sessions, yoga, parenting, and mental health workshops, and added extra days off for situations when they or their children were sick.

As psychological support is very important to help people cope with all the changes in what we all knew as normality, we set up group sessions with therapists.

Even before the pandemic, we were offering a flexible schedule, but we decided to add up 2 more intervals during which people could conduct their working hours, this way allowing them to juggle better the household activities, this was beneficial especially for parents that found themselves looking after children as well with schools and kindergartens closed.

While when schools and kindergartners were open, we avoided setting up meetings at the beginning of the end of the regular working hours, so that the employees with children could drop them off or pick them up from kindergarten/school. Kids were also in the spotlight during National Children’s Day – they even have their own book filled with their drawings, painting, poems, or stories from the lock-down period which we’ve printed and mailed, Halloween and Christmas, when we organized virtual parties, sent Christmas gifts and made sure they also got to virtually meet Santa Claus.

3. Has the use of tech alleviated the workload of your HR team?

Technology can be a very powerful ally, especially when you are facing an unprecedented period, such as we are now. The greatest change we made in 2020 was related to processing the documents, as we started signing most of the documents online.

However, the first steps towards digitalizing our activity were taken in 2016 with the implementation of an integrated HR management system that covers all the main areas of activity. Some HR tasks can be repetitive and time-consuming, so we needed a little help, so in 2019 we “hired” Arya, our first digital HR assistant. Arya is a robot (RPA) and helps us save around 3.000 working hours a year, which is a lot of time that can be used by our employees for productive, creative, and innovative tasks.

What Arya actually does is taking over some of the repetitive tasks like centralizing recruitment data, preparing different documents like contracts, offers, letters, and forms, perform reporting, updating information in our databases, and scheduling candidates for the mandatory employment medical checks.

She does not get the final saying in terms of hiring, but she helps us deal with the non-value-added tasks that before kept us from focusing on our main customers – candidates and employees.