Interview with Alexandra Peligrad, CEO Smartree Romania: Companies should focus on going ahead with their plans, with the long-term investment projects, assuming their commercial orders and the payments
The HR departments and companies play a critical role in the current context, have a very important role in communication and decisive action, both to inform the employees of the changes in internal policies or procedures and to reduce as much as possible the fear and anxiety following this new way of working in the overall uncertainty cast by this exceptional situation.
Outsourcing Today talked with Alexandra Peligrad, CEO Smartree Romania in order to find out what is more laying behind the HR roles and tasks these days.
The HR approach that works best and towards what business objectives
Among the various objectives that HR departments have today, one particularly important focus should be to identify the critical roles within the company and to develop a plan in order to ensure these critical positions and roles will be maintained throughout this period. Then, if the situation requires, these roles should be organized by category into essential positions for the company, positions that can be temporarily suspended and those with extended suspension period of time, without having a major impact on the continuity of the business.
Another focus should be on maintaining the motivation and implication of the employees in their daily tasks while working from home. In this regard, HR departments have a very important role in communication and decisive action, both to inform the employees of the changes in internal policies or procedures and to reduce as much as possible the fear and anxiety following this new way of working in the overall uncertainty cast by this exceptional situation.
The communication should be prompt, accurate and transparent, outlining the measures taken and the reasons for taking them.
There should also be considered a proper online environment for trainings, learning and development programs, so the trainings at the working space can be replaced with online trainings and demos into a software platform available to all employees. Tools for collaboration, organizing and sharing tasks or projects traceability should be a must. Nobody was prepared for this situation, but now the companies and the HR departments are forced to accelerate the processes in order to implement the necessary changes according to the new way of working.
Another important action of HR in this period is to keep the colleagues connected, to keep the communities created at the working space active and to maintain the interest of the employees in the company mission. Actually this means to find the proper ways to preserve the company’s culture alive but in order to achieve that it takes continued effort and commitment together with the top level of the company. Culture is a fundamentally human concept and replacing it with technological solutions would not bring the same result. Thus, the tools and procedures to be implemented should allow as much collaboration and communication as possible among the employees.
The main needs of clients in the current context
Since we provide some critical services such as payroll and personnel administration, generally speaking, the needs of our clients in this period are mainly related to having a stable partner, one that can ensure their business continuity and that is ready to act as a real consulting agency. Since the beginning of this crises, which emerged as a medical one, we went through several stages in terms of our clients’ focus. In the first days since the state of emergency was declared, there was only one preoccupation: if we were prepared in delivering the services contracted while working from home, so there would not be any delay or even worst, the impossibility to calculate the salaries and indemnities on time and accurate for their employees.
As things evolved and people get forced to get locked down in their homes, we all came to realize the consequences on the companies’ activities, especially on the ones directly affected by the lockdown. Then we entered a different kind of stage in which our partners reacted according to the specific of their industry and under the impact of fiscal and social measures enforced. We cover a different range of industries, from manufacturing, retail or services and we started to assist them in taking decisions on how they can easily implement the technical unemployment or the fiscal incentives offered by the authorities during the state of emergency or how can they benefit from the allowance granted for days off. So the pressing issues of the moment including assistance regarding personnel administration, labor force contracts or even dismissals or how to correctly implement the work from home regime. So we had multiple challenges during this period: providing legal assistance, acting as middleman between our clients’ demands and the competent authorities and most of all, accommodating these requests into our HR software system.
Apart from all these, even if there’s a sense like the whole economy is pushed aside with large sectors being effectively locked down, we still got various requests for collaborations during this period. These are the moments when companies truly realize the benefits of having outsourced parts of their business. It’s safe scenario because in a chaotic period when you are forced to take decisions overnight about what parts of your business can continue and under which circumstances you don’t have to worry about some consuming time processes like payroll and personnel administration activities. And although we had requests from our partners in assisting them with the dismissal process for a number of employees, on the other, we have some open recruitment positions in large numbers, such as call center agents or blue collar personnel for the retail industry. And this is a good sign taking into consideration the times we’re facing,
What kind of fiscal or legislative updates would be useful for the local market in terms of recruitment and labor market
Taking into consideration the actual context, when companies are forced to limit their operations due to safety concerns or to operate only with part of the employees, I think the flexibility of labor contracts during a certain period of time would be a useful measure. This means grating the employers with the possibility to reduce the working schedule according to the company needs and adjusting the salary rights corresponding to the actual time worked. This would be a useful measure for the Government’s budget also. It would probably decrease the percentage of technical unemployment while only a part of the compensation granted to the employees of the companies found in difficult situation would be insured by the state budget and only for a limited period of time. Another advantage is that companies would then afford to keep their employees, who will receive if not fully, most part of their salary. Another measure that would help the economy is postponing the payment of taxes and contributions for companies in financial difficulty and rescheduling them in the future for a reasonable period of time. In the same time, the companies that do not have their activity impacted in a negative way during this period, should be encouraged to assume their fiscal and social obligations on time.
What should be the focus and the priorities for the overall industry in Romania in addressing the business expectations of this year
Business expectations for this year are totally changed now compared to the ones existing at the beginning of the year. Nobody expected such a scenario in which the economy would slow down on a large scale, and so many industries would be closed down for a period of time that we can’t foresee today. Unfortunately, due to the medical crisis which determined an economic downturn also, it is almost impossible to make a clear business plan, budget or forecasts based on the drivers of the business. The companies should create a range of scenarios with any possible outcome that can appear from having the same level of activity down to no activity at all. And based on these scenarios, the measures should be taken as soon as any signal might appear in the course of activity in order to reduce the negative impact on the company. Regarding the priorities of the companies in Romania, as well as all over the world, they should be related in calling back the people to their jobs in safe conditions, implementing strict rules and regulations in the working space in order to keep them safe, and besides all this, managing the risk of an infection with the pandemic in the working space. Given the current context, a mitigation plan against the risks associated with the Coronavirus in the working space is highly important, even mandatory I would say, especially since we all know from the medical authorities that this pandemic will have long term consequences in our everyday life. Without this plan, a company could enter the impossibility of continuing its activity if the virus would infect a critical number of employees.
Apart from the safety concerns, the overall industry in Romania should focus also on finding the practical solutions to make the economy function. The first step is not to stop the activity or to restart the activity that was put “on hold” but rather companies should focus on going ahead with their plans, with the long term investment projects, assuming their commercial orders and the payments. Freezing large amount of cash in the company is not a solution since this kind of approach would finally backfire and negatively impact the whole economic chain.