At our European headquarter, the Rijeka office, last year we have started with a new HR initiative. Along with our existing employee satisfaction surveys and regular 1-on-1 meetings with team leads, we have implemented additional HR employee check-ins. The main purpose was to get to know all of our people better – their thoughts, feelings, desires, and ideas on several areas of their daily work. Consequently, we were hoping to make improvements in their employee experience by discovering our drawbacks and acting on them.
HR check-in was conceived as a lightweight, friendly, and informal one-on-one meeting with a dedicated HR Counselor. HR Counselors’ main responsibility was to offer help in addressing different situations, provide a chance to exchange feedback, and be the go-to person whenever an employee feels they need support in facing any workplace challenges. And during the global pandemic, we expected those challenges to occur more often than usual.
In those 6 weeks during March and April, our HR team has spoken with every employee who has been with iOLAP for at least 3 months, which makes a total of 136 check-ins. That is a lot of words. We have discussed a variety of subjects, such as the position and career development, work environment, organization structure, financial satisfaction, etc. However, the most important idea was not to ask questions but rather to make it safe for people to speak openly about what is on their mind.
We were very positively surprised by the amount of insightful comments and ideas we have received. By conducting employee surveys, we got a sense of employee satisfaction or engagement or whatever it is that we were surveying. And yes, you can ask all the right questions and follow best-practices, but surveys can only give answers to questions that were asked in the first place, which leaves a lot of open space for guesses, assumptions and missed revelations. In contrast, having conversations provides an opportunity to exchange new ideas, further explain your thoughts, show emotion, and provide support in addressing difficult situations.
One of the most prominent subjects was, of course, the effect of the COVID pandemic and fully remote work on well-being of employees and their work performance. Having the possibility of remote work even before the pandemic, we were lucky to have a pretty smooth transition to working from home in terms of the job, equipment and work organization. We were aware that those changes might affect our people in different, and maybe even unexpected ways – some could be thriving, others struggling. Luckily, we found that most employees saw more positive effects on their daily work while working remotely, felt more engaged and even had a strong sense of well-being. Flexible hours allowed for more autonomy in creating their own work schedule which also increased their level of productivity. For those who were struggling with working from home, an opportunity was given to work from the office under secured and regulated terms.
Another important revelation was that we have noticed our company culture was also undergoing some changes – together with our company, our people matured and grew. There is a slow shift happening from a very casual, modern, young company that thrives on parties, company events, and gym membership to a more structured environment where a lot of importance is placed on work-life balance, and benefits like medical check-ups, insurance and kindergarten are appreciated. We even have a significant increase in iOLAP babies compared to previous years!
Of course, many other meaningful information arose from this initiative and a full return requires a great commitment. We’ll continue to do our best in addressing people needs and concerns, and identifying strongest drivers of work experience, but we also need to manage expectations and be honest in our approach – not all things can be resolved or improved in a heartbeat.
Maybe the biggest breakthrough of this initiative was that 98% of people found this initiative useful and want to continue having regular HR check-ins.
So, when in doubt, just ask: Can we talk?