During the strike of the pandemic, maintaining corporate culture and raising employee spirits has become a must-fulfil task to stay relevant. While meeting the annual goals, soaring employee efficiency, maintaining staff and even increasing their salary, Beeline has seemed to have cracked the perfect corporate culture code to withstand the tough times. To find out more, The Financial has reached out to Lela Salakaia, Chief People and Organization Officer at Beeline.
Q. The past two years have brought a lot of changes to the working environment. What were the major challenges that you had to deal with?
A: The pandemic has radically changed the working environment and its conditions. From March 16, 2020, the very first days of the virus detection in Georgia, Beeline has completely shifted towards remote working. The shift in itself was not difficult as we had launched a Bee Free approach in 2017, an initiative that enabled employees to work from anywhere, twice a week. The main challenge turned out to be managing increased employee stress levels which were caused by an uncertain environment and sudden offline relationships with one another. This was evidenced by many studies and our internal regular surveys, however, we have taken many measures to deal with the negative factors.
Q. How did you maintain your corporate culture?
A: We believe that we are creating the innovative corporate culture, with core values: customer obsession, innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship and truthfulness. Delivering these values to each employee and introducing them to corporate life is a top management priority, therefore in 2021 we were fully committed to the Tone at the Top program, which delivered a key message to employees – values are not meaningful words but a gateway to our corporate life.
To promote the corporate culture we have initiated projects such as a Values Marathon, Cultural Roadshow and formed cultural community. We have also laid the foundation for Culture Talk and a new reward system – Culture Champions. The projects received great feedback and we plan on holding them annually, with various adjustments.
Q. How did your employees deal with the sudden shift towards remote working? How did their productivity change and did you initiate any campaigns to boost their motivation?
A: Our pulse surveys help us identify the major negative factors that influence employee efficiency so we can implement programs accordingly to alleviate them. In our case, these were a lack of offline communication and deterioration of work-life balance during remote working. With this in mind we became even more active on our internal communication platform – Facebook Workplace, where we host regular live engagements from top managers, a weekly talk show Friday Coffee-break where we invite employees and discuss different topics, ranging from culinary, to travel, children and other work and non-work related themes, so that the coworkers can connect with each other and share the current reality. We have also initiated a number of contests and developed our corporate rules to remind our employees of working hours while sending letters and code of ethics to know how to handle remote working.
Q. What were the benefits and are you considering keeping the remote working method after the pandemic is over?
A: The ability to manage own time is probably the greatest benefit to our employees, therefore we are planning to maintain a hybrid model. Bee Free has already been proved a great success and we will maintain the approach for the future now with different name “ Work from anywhere”
Q. In a pandemic, it has become difficult for the private sector to retain staff. How did Beeline overcome this challenge and how much did it affect the number of employees?
A: We value all of our employees, and we are proud to state that not a single employee has been released or suffered from a reduction in salary. We have introduced HR programs that provided employees with two key factors – care and trust.
Taking care includes physical, psychological, economic security and support such as protected offices for virus prevention, necessary equipment in shops and offices, full remote back-up, transportation during lockdowns and much more.
Psychological care involves a constant connection and encouraging employee activity online in live engagements, shows, competitions, and mindfulness/anti-stress training. We have also initiated an informational campaign to fight the Covid-19 virus and invited renowned immunologists and NCDC representatives.
To provide even more economic stability for employees since the start of the pandemic their salaries have been increased twice..
We have also shown great trust in our employees while switching to a full remote working method, as the focus shifted towards task results rather than daily control. A cross-functional involvement of employees in projects showed an increase and the managerial circles strengthened even more, therefore the attrition rate decreased while efficiency increased and 100% of goals were met.
Q. How difficult was it to adapt to the new reality in terms of working from home, recruitment and other HR-related activities?
A: At Beeline many HR processes were already digitized as we have implemented programs such as ATS system Lever, Onboarding system Talmundo, online interviews and much more. We have faced slight difficulties regarding online document signatures, however we believe to cope with the problem in the nearest future.
Q. What was the major learning experience for you as an HR executive in these two years?
A: I believe the major learning experience was solidifying that human-centric approaches and taking care of our employees will always be relevant and bring even more success to the company.
Q. What will be the working environment like in 2022?
A: I believe in 2022 many companies will choose the benefits of a hybrid model and gradually switch from the remote working model. In my opinion, the trend will affect and shape offices to more hybrid-work adapted. This may not be fully realized in 2022, however, the trend has begun and the effects will probably be irreversible.
By Gela Megeneishvili