The future is now conference featured a discussion on the future of HR and trends in employer branding, and the audience heard thoughts on the issue shared by delegates from companies that make considerable efforts to nurture positive HR practices: DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions’ HR director Ivana Mihajlović and Nordeus’ HR manager Sanja Nonković
Under the guidance of moderator Tina Miličić, Atlantic Grupa’s Employer Branding Specialist, the conversation branched out beyond interesting into talent availability and retaining quality staff as a key driver of productivity and innovation.
According to Tina Miličić, recent research indicates that nine out of ten job seekers would apply with employers investing in their brands, as well as that investing in quality employer branding could reduce the number of people leaving companies by 28% and that the vast majority of 85% people believes that the recruitment process increasingly resembles a marketing activity. This begs the question: Is today’s war for talent intensified and what are the next steps and focus of HR functions?
DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions’ Ivana Mihajlović says that as a society, we are faced with increasing career awareness among younger generations, which puts up a big challenge for companies. Employers are more and more exposed to reconsidering their present management practices and examining whether expecting employees to adapt is legitimate or they’re now left with the task of adapting first. “It used to be that young people were taught to be compliant and do what the boss says and that this was a guaranteed route to success. Today, they bring new culture to organizations, challenge employers, and — first and foremost — expect flexibility, in addition to being cared about as individuals by employers,” says Ivana, adding that the biggest challenge for HR today is being competent to present the benefits of the middle ground to both sides. “As a system employing more than 60% millennials, we deal with these challenges daily, and this brought us to the conclusion that fighting for talent requires an element of love. The premise of ‘war for talent’ is outdated — successful companies where young people stay on foster ‘love for talent.’ We are committed to nurturing an individual method to working with people — we approach every employee as a person in their own right, an individual, while developing an HR policy centering around greater personalization. The first step is to ask and listen to what people feel is relevant, as opposed to leaving it to HR or management to make decisions based on their own assumptions about what people value or need in terms of benefits. Of course, the question is whether all employers have the will, the patience, the ability, and the time to have this conversation. Our market has no ready-made staff, there’s no school that prepares students for what we do. That is why we have no room for high turnover rates and why we stay committed to training new staff, as well as to proactively exploring their future expectations,” Ivana says.
Continuous and planned creation of organizational culture is an area of interest at Nordeus, where, according to Sanja Nonković, adapting to young people presents no challenge, because nearly all employees are young. However, as she says, the dynamics of organization change are affected by expats, who make up around 20% of the organization.
“Our labor market still lacks skills gained through formal education in positions like game designer or digital artist, which is why we brought in expats to fill roles that required transferring experience from a specific area. They come from different cultures and almost every continent, bringing their own perspectives on what an organization should look like. Expats put the spotlight on new benefits like unlimited annual leave, since in some countries they hail from, the number of vacation reaches up to 28 days. We told everyone to take as many as they need, and we will follow up and change the policy if need be,” says Sanja, adding that taking vacation days has not changed significantly or on average since the new rules were introduced. According to her, positive psychology contributes to creating a better working environment where these policies are formed not because an insignificant number of people who might abuse it, but instead because of the best people who actually need it and who appreciate it.
According to Ivana Mihajlović, today’s benefits hyperinflation and their accessibility to people, especially in the IT industry, helped to figure out what really matters to employees in a broad array of options — above all, jobs having purpose. “Our research on Generation Z indicates that they don’t care about money and that they don’t see it as a measure of success, as well as that they are willing to do low-paying work if it fulfills them. And that’s the point: What our employees value most is the opportunity to make a difference — the kind of product and service we offer, the kind of value we create for the client, and especially the kind of impact we have on the society,” says Ivana.
“The key,” Sanja continues, “is tailoring the work environment to what matters to employees and knowing what our engineers want, which is often very intangible. Our culture is predominantly an engineering one and the most important thing to them is the product, as well as whether the technology they use is a personal challenge and inspiration. Many are the things that they appreciate. For example, at Nordeus, family is highly valued and people like that — among other things — our premises are open to their family members on weekends, too,” says Sanja.
DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions has recently become the region’s first agency to be awarded the Family Friendly Enterprise certificate. However, according to Ivana Mihajlović, in no way does it serve to show off. “As an advertising agency, we’re the first to avoid falling into the marketing trap and compromise our transparency and integrity with self-promotion. We talk the talk and walk the walk. We applied for the certificate because we wanted to formalize our long-standing culture of good employee relationships and to give young people a clear indication that these rules and benefits apply to everyone and that they’re not a privilege for a handful of veterans. Furthermore, the certification process introduced new measures with the idea of additionaly relieving people of stress and tension in the workplace,” says Ivana.
According to Atlantic Grupa’s survey, retention of millennials averages at about three years, while Tina Miličić maintains that keeping them for so long very much rests on transparency in the onboarding process. “Just be honest, what works and what doesn’t — anything else just backfires,” Tina says. “That’s the way to make a person stay with the company longer. In the selection process, we choose people who like what we do, who like our brands, and who have heard about the climate at the company. Then comes a psychologist who identifies the personality type and pins down the team where the employee will feel at home,” Tina says. According to her, the good thing about recruitment at Atlantic Grupa is that candidates can choose among twenty different brands in eight markets. “Our playground is vast and it provides more opportunities for growth and development,” says Tina.
Expanding, creativity, and innovating job descriptions is another way to bring more dynamics to the work environment. According to Ivana Mihajlović, DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions partnered up with ICT HUB to enable the system to internally develop intra-entrepreneurial and modern skills for the digital age. “We first took a look at what skills and capacities we had in-house, and then we let employees gain additional hands-on knowledge about modern agile management methodologies, tools, and practices, design thingking — all those trendy buzz words that young people respond to and that they can also use in the business environment. Most importantly, we gave our employees a platform and mechanism for proposing and implementing ideas that have practical and functional value. The response was fantastic! For example, the project we named Challenge Direct Media — because we really wanted our employees to ‘challenge’ us — brought about, among other things, the initiative to launch the Data Science department,” says Ivana.
Employees especially like to see their employer’s range in making an impact on the broader social context. According to Sanja Nonković, this is another important component in retaining employees with Nordeus, which is making earnest efforts to transform Serbia into a globally recognized gaming and tech hub.