Business / human resources

Employee value and flex-work

Interview with Aco Momčilović, Future HR

(Part 3)

Part 1 | HR Expert, the profile & career

Part 2 | The HR market in Croatia

What is the difference between a traditional Human Resource department and today’s People and Culture?

Most HR departments evolved from employee administration departments. A few transitions are going on currently, in my opinion, and we’ll see what will be the outcome. 

The first one that has happened in the most sophisticated companies is that HR became a strategic partner in the company and HR Director member of the board. Those departments deal, besides classical functions, with Knowledge Management, Culture Creation, Change Management, and Executive Development. 

Aligned with that, we can see emerging an HR Business Partner position, which is more deeply involved in the business side. 

What is already anticipated, is the reaction to the current trends — more online work, more diverse teams, and new generations of employees that have different motivation structure, and ways of communication. That is putting even higher demands on the HR departments, but also on the companies as a whole. 

Of course, many key skills and functions didn’t change in their core, but are just named a bit differently and fine-tuned.

Which policies are a standard set for each employer? 

Traditional HR processes are Recruitment and Selection, Integration/Onboarding, Education and Development, Performance Management and Compensation and Benefits. 

Of course, some of them are accentuated, based on the area of business and type of the company. 

One of the workshops that I am conducting is about the connection between the organisation and the business strategy. 

As mentioned before ,  Company Branding and that cooperation between HR and PR is something that emerged in the last decade, and I am happy to have announced it more than 10 years ago in the article that was published on IPRA. 

Some practices that are standard in western countries are still too complicated to implement in Croatia, due to law and tax regulations. For example, giving employees stock options is a common thing in the USA, but not so often practised in Croatia.

How much does it ‘cost’ to lose a good employee? 

The cost of hiring a good employee is also growing each year, as well as yearly investments in an employee, and yes, if they leave, the impacts can be both direct and indirect. 

Many researchers estimate that it costs between 3 to 12 month’s salary to lose a good employee. It depends of course on the position within the organisation and specific skill set. 

As a consequence, companies and HR departments are implementing different employee engagement projects, as well as setting up incentive and motivation structures aligned with the company strategy and employee profiles. 

During my recruitment and headhunting projects, I will advise clients to look into the reasons people are leaving and analyse ways to improve their retention rate, as simply employing a new person might not be a long term solution.

What is the method that you use to assess candidates or already formed teams and team members? 

Methods could be very different from position to position, but usually, I will conduct a behavior-based structured interview. One of the tools that are at my disposal is psychological tests  — personality questionnaires and tests of mental capabilities. 

For the personality I am using NEO PI R — probably the best questionnaire of that type in the world, that is based on the Big Five theory of personality. 

For some higher positions, it is also recommended to organise assessment centres, incorporating psychological testing, to see candidates behaviour and response to simulated situations. 

Have you ever had a situation where it is just impossible to assemble a team or make them understand and accept each other?

Fortunately, I haven’t had a situation that extreme, but I have worked with different managers who almost couldn’t work with each other, and that was necessary. 

It could be because of their different personalities or a different perception of organisational goals, but it is not easy to work in that kind of environment, especially for their teams. 

My role in that situation is to be a communication enabler, and to translate in a way, information from one side to the other. 

Very often communication and misunderstanding is the big part of the problem, and in cases when we don’t have time to conduct long term education, it is easier just to work with individuals and find common ground. 

What do you think is the most difficult characteristic that makes a person hard to work with? 

Arrogance and rudeness are somethings I personally dislike. However, in general, it really depends on the individual. Traits that are problems to others, sometimes are no problem for me at all, and vice versa. 

Within the complex and long-term projects, it’s challenging to work with people who are working only on their agenda and use the organisation for their short term goals and benefits. 

Which characteristics impress you personally with employees or candidates? 

In general, I like ‘nerds’ and their way of thinking. Also, it’s great to see people who are able to put their specific knowledge in the broader philosophical context. Those people usually have good general knowledge and are constantly working on themselves. Not many people can entertain two different thoughts at the same time and have an understanding of those who think differently than they do.

Some candidates on top of that have great storytelling skills, which can be very useful and entertaining at the same time. However, it’s important to recognise those who only have excellent storytelling skills. 

What are your thoughts on how flex-work culture will become a standard byproduct of and after the pandemic? 

One thing is for sure; there will be a lot of work and research for psychologists and other humanistic scientists. Although it is too early to give precise predictions, there is a significant amount of data gathered on the topic. The world will go in the direction of more flexibility, and work from home in general. 

But there are significant downsides too, which need to be explored. It’s yet to be determined in which types of jobs will this new approach give positive outcomes and in which a negative one. 

But much research shows us even now that we need to redefine what are crucial positions and how to honor them. 

Also, not surprisingly, high-income jobs and people of better socio-economic status are less impacted by current changes and will adapt easier to the new environment, but those with lower salaries and status are now having bigger difficulties and will have them in the future. 

From the sociological perspective, it will be interesting to monitor if changes we expect will contribute to the overall quality of life and work, or increase already significant differences between people.

Do you personally ‘believe’ in the flex-work? 

Flex work, whether we are talking about flex hours or flex location is a great benefit, and it’s something that is available to new entrepreneurs by default. It helps productivity and creativity and saves time. 

In larger organisations, it’s dependent on the employee attitude, their drive and self-motivation. A better work-life balance is achievable but should include a higher sense of responsibility. Employees who are dependent on micromanagement will have difficulties transitioning. 

Do you think it’s possible to have a work-life balance if we work more than 8 hours a day, and 5 out of 7 days a week? 

Lousy jobs and bad employers create a challenge even in a part-time arrangement.

It also depends on the country and ecosystem; in some western cultures, a new term emerged, underemployment, describing people who have full-time jobs but can’t live off their salaries, forcing them to find side-gigs. 

In general, most international companies are expecting their employees to work a certain amount of overtime hours for their above-average salaries. My experience is that you can have a reasonable work-life balance with 5 working days in a week and working a few hours per week overtime. 

At least for a period of time, and in the case a person doesn’t have a family or other obligations. 

In a utopian future, we will have to work less and to have more spare time which could be invested in our personal development and quality of life and social relationships. In a dystopian one, most of us will end up as slaves (laugh). 

Do you support balancing diversity in the workspace and why? 

I’m a big supporter of it, as gender balance contributes to group dynamics and a healthy environment; it’s good to have mixed teams. Diversity is a well-explored topic, and it’s proven that diverse teams have higher potential and are harvesting more creativity. In today’s economy, based on innovation, this becomes increasingly important. 

As a consequence, it will be necessary to adopt policies that will allow many teams to maintain their diversity to get to higher levels of performance. Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), it is clear that having more women at C-positions and as board members, gives significant benefits. 

They have different risk profiles and are usually more risk-averse than men. Working on those and some other differences will become more important in the future if companies will aim for sustainability and socially responsible development. I believe that female leadership is yet to give the best to the world.

How should we impact industries with a traditional lack of women’s presence? Seems like forcing it in the boardroom is too late, and that society is not doing enough to encourage women to choose particular professions when they are at the beginning of their education? 

This is a tough one. Female quotas are not the answer and have many downsides, but it seems that they might be a part of the process for the time being. On the broader cultural level, we should empower women to engage in leadership positions and to support their confidence. 

Studies show that we can’t make women choose professions that are not resonating with them, and with more choices we all have, there will be more differences between choices 

of both genders. 

In my opinion, the core problem will remain the same, as long as women are trying to succeed in a system that is predominantly defined by men and their measures of success. As a society, we will have to think about that and make some core changes, reevaluating our priorities and goals. In that new, potential arrangement, women might be even more successful, without having to work as hard as they do now. 

Connect with Aco via LinkedIn or read via Medium.

You might also like