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"Employees have higher expectations from companies"
An interview with PageGroup Global Talent Director Esther Roman where shares her experiences and thoughts about the changing face of HR.
Several PageGroup offices in Europe have been certified as Top Employer, some of which are consecutive wins. What do you think has been the key to your success?
PageGroup continues to create excellent conditions for our people. We put our people at the core of what we do and this covers the entire lifecycle of an employee at PageGroup. People remain an integral part of our HR strategy from the way that we attract our people, to retaining them, promoting inclusiveness, performance management to supporting desired career paths and more. We foster a culture that encourages participation and I really believe that this has contributed to our success.
Do you think the role of an employer has changed much in the last 5 - 10 years?
Definitely! Employees now have higher expectations from companies and the spotlight is not only on providing clarity of the job to be done and an appropriate salary but in providing excellent conditions to learn, grow and develop.
I first realized the world was changing when I moved to Switzerland to launch the office in Zurich. I was busy recruiting people for my team. When I asked a young candidate the question “what is the one reason why you believe I should hire you?” and the candidate replied “what is the one reason why I should choose you as an employer?” I thought WOW! I had never been confronted with such a shifted perspective before, after 6 years as a recruiter! Today this approach, where candidates seek crystal clear information on what the company offers and stands for, in order to make an informed decision, especially in central and northern Europe is now pretty common.
Cultural shifts have an impact on the way in which we attract, and retain our people. It influences expectations, motivation and more. As an employer it is important that we continuously listen to our people and anticipate what is likely to happen and affect our employees so that we can have the best protocols in place.
With the rise of digital consumption subsequently making everything more transparent and accessible, would you say that this has presented any additional challenges for companies?
There is a strong need for principles like integrity and trust. Online access means that people can very easily see if companies really demonstrate whether or not they are committed to what they stand for. Aside from the job description and remuneration employees will look at culture and other factors. It is important the communication from a CEO for example mirrors that the “red thread” of the company. Consistency in core messages and principles and having this repeated and visible will ultimately help build trust.
Another challenge is the speed at which everything happens and the resulting lack of control. New systems and processes are ongoing. New ways to measure activity within a company and new and improved ways of operating. In addition, there are review platforms such as Kununu in Germany where employees rate their experience as an employee at a company – for all to see. Such visibility can be daunting and challenging but it is important to have a strategy in terms of how to approach these changes. Companies need to embrace change. It is vital then to have a solid foundation of credibility and trust is key.
What would you say is the common HR mistake made by companies today?
HR is constantly improving which is positive and necessary as it moves in parallel to social demands and ever changing environmental conditions. I’ve noticed over the last few years however, a few frequent stumbling blocks are often bureaucracy and the lengthy and senseless excess of processes. HR can, at times, not be agile enough and can falter when it comes to meeting people’s needs. Organisational theorist Lynda Gratton commonly refers to this in her book ‘The 100 Year Life’ where she explains that families and individuals are evolving faster than organisations and institutions.
Something I would like to see more companies do is give greater strategic positioning to HR departments so that they can truly add value. People are undoubtedly the key to a company’s success but it is necessary that HR departments are able to fully ensure that those people who make the company a success are in the best environment possible.
Another mistake is the eagerness to put in place lots of tools and processes without reflecting what is really fit for purpose and how to make those processes effective for a company and success.
What advice would you give to companies that want to improve their employer branding proposition?
To be true to what they sell and ensure they have clarity regarding their principles. It will be the only way to sustain credibility as an employer. When reflecting on employer brand messaging, it is a good opportunity to re-assess core values and culture. Do you as a company like the image you are projecting? If not, it’s time to take action.
It is important that the people you hire resonate and reflect your company values. Employees are your brand ambassadors and are more powerful than a marketing campaign.
If you look at the communication across our brands you will see that we are passionate, we never give up, we work as a team and that we make what we do fun. These are our core values and we make an effort to live up to these on a daily basis whether you are in an office in Dusseldorf, Paris or Milan.
Our internal communications channel PageConnect, is full of creative days, birthday celebrations and more, indicating a sociable and healthy working environment.
Can you share any initiatives in particular that you know have been greatly received by employees at Page?
At PageGroup we have an inclusion promise that puts the focus on gender, families, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. To support this we have a Diversity and Inclusion programme which is an important move that we promote in our business. We have partnerships with associations and institutions to openly commit ourselves through different programs and initiatives to make these inclusion promises come true. Our [email protected] is another example and is popular in both France and Germany.
[email protected] was rolled-out in Continental Europe last year and is a shift for PageGroup as we adapt to new expectations. It gives employees a window where they can take real ownership in terms of how they manage their time effectively, allowing them to really work at their optimum. The direction is new for us and has been well received to date.