The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has changed organizations and made human resources professionals to think differently about their role to adapt to social distancing and a new work environment that we could have never imagined before.
Ivana Ivić, Head of HR Department, UniCredit Bank Serbia
In 2020, in terms of Human Resources, the word “human” took on a real meeting. Now, more than ever before, it is important to listen to the employees, understand their needs in the new environment and show compassion. At the same time, it was vital to ensure business continuity because, for the banking industry, there is no business if we do not serve our clients.
For UniCredit, health and safety was the top priority from the very beginning. Thanks to the fact that we have introduced ‘smart work‘ some years ago, complete teams were quickly mobilised to work entirely remotely for a prolonged period. Thus we can say that we were well-prepared. Back in 2017, UniCredit signed first joint declaration on Work- Life Balance that promotes a set of specific, concrete actions to support work-life balance across UniCredit’s operations. New technologies are implemented to make best use of people’s resources, in terms of both skills and time, while respecting their private life. But, at that time, nobody could fathom that one day remote work, that was a privilege at that moment, could become our reality for last 12 months. Thus, three years after, in the pandemic year, and based on the accumulated experience, UniCredit has signed another document – a joint declaration on remote work – with a view of extending the opportunities offered by technological advances, enabling new ways of working which support a better work-life balance and greater efficiency.
Remote work is here to stay
There are already studies that reveal that organizations want more of their onsite employees to continue to work remotely after the pandemic passes. One of the main strengths of an HR professional is building relationships and thus it will be challenging to continue with this practice in the working environment where you do not have everyday contact in person. This will also, to a certain extent, change the nature of the HR’s role. If the company wants to survive, HR professionals should focus on motivation of the employees, sustaining the corporate culture, promote diversity and inclusion and trying to improve the engagement level. To do that, all internal processes should be adapted to the new ways of work in order to maintain work-life balance.
“New technologies are implemented to make best use of people’s resources, in terms of both skills and time, while respecting their private lives”
Who is the new talent?
Now, almost a year after the pandemic started, we can also speak about skills that are the key for the new era of uncertainty. Fast decision-making process, accepting adequate portion of risk and digital literacy proved to be strategic competences. I tend to believe that this new knowledge will influence also the recruitment process and the way how we discover talent. Namely, certain skills that we were not considering as crucial and that were not valued, are a must for the future. Moreover, this is not just about skills; it is also about certain positions in the different teams that we did not considered as important in banking industry are now absolutely needed. This will also influence the talent acquisition strategy, retention and benefit policies, award programmes, development plans and different ways of engagement of employees.
One of the main challenges that HR professionals will have to cope with in the future, when remote work is concerned, is how to set clear boundaries between professional and private life. Recently, the EU lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution arguing that individuals have a fundamental “right to disconnect.” We have also addressed this topic in UniCredit’s promotion of work-life balance. We have started an internal campaign, reminding all colleagues every Friday via e-mail that they should turn off their computers and start their weekend on time. Another internal campaign is dedicated to managers whom we encourage to continue caring for our people they are in contact with every day through respecting working hours and helping that team not to take their work home.