Kasia Kowalewska: How did Arla GSS find herself in the pandemic reality as an employer? Has the new situation changed your long-term plans?
Monika Cichosz: Arla, as a food company, handled the crisis very well, with even gains in some areas. The pandemic also did not stop our plans for the development of the Shared Services Center in Gdańsk in the area of IT or finance, in which new teams were created, and thus opportunities for professional development for our employees.
On the other hand, acquiring additional talents from the market, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, was sometimes quite a challenge.
The numerous applications that came to us, unfortunately, were not suitable for the positions, and external people invited to the recruitment processes did not want to take the risk of changing jobs and preferred to wait out this difficult period in their places of employment. However, the situation is slowly starting to stabilize.
K.K.: In the context of IT, construction and several other industries, before the pandemic, there was a clear reference to the „employee market”. Employers, wanting to have the best employees in the team, offered very attractive pay conditions and numerous benefits. How is the situation today?
M.C.: It is difficult to say unequivocally whether we are currently dealing with an employer or employee market.
On the one hand, there is still a large number of applications for junior positions, where the requirements are not very extensive and theoretically most of the candidates meet the expectations. Some of these people are candidates with several years of professional experience, whose expectations regarding the possibility of professional development we would not be able to meet as part of a junior role and ultimately, after a short period of cooperation, this would result in the departure of such an employee from the company.
On the other hand, we have the IT area, in which, after the initial turmoil on the market and the closure of numerous projects in other companies at the beginning of the pandemic, the situation has been stabilizing for some time and it is still difficult to recruit qualified specialists. For some positions, the only effective form of obtaining them is invariably the Direct search method. The pandemic also affected the managerial staff, which, due to the ongoing and upcoming changes, ie the transfer of business processes to other countries, is looking for new professional challenges on the local market.
K.K.: What was the biggest challenge in communicating with employees? How did Arla GSS begin to rebuild online communication?
M.C.: Building and maintaining existing relationships between team members has been limited to formal online meetings that usually need to be arranged in advance. Despite the existing communication solutions in the organization, such as MS Teams, Yammer or Outlook, the biggest challenge was to reorganize the communication rules at the level of both the entire company and teams. Before the pandemic, these tools were supportive, while during the pandemic, they became the main sources of communication and collaboration.
In order to support employees in maintaining team bonds, the Virtual Collaboration initiative was established in Arla.
It is a global community of employees from various business areas that holds regular meetings conducted and facilitated by members of the Digital Services and Infrastructure Train, dealing with, among others, broadly understood communication in the organization.
Virtual Collaboration is primarily a space to share your experiences and ideas for organizing integration activities as part of informal online meetings, which each team can try out almost immediately. Until now, these were virtual Escape Rooms and many other forms of spending time together.
K.K.: What was the greatest achievement in these „more difficult” times?
M.C.: The first weeks were a stressful period of trial and error in building cooperation from scratch, while as an organization we adapted in a relatively short time to the new reality. Large part of employees got used to remote work and managed to reconcile private and professional life.
For a long time, however, voices about the willingness to return to the office, at least partially, are beginning to appear, because each of us lacks direct contact and the possibility of having a spontaneous conversation in the corridor or a common café in the canteen.
K.K.:Do we see any benefits in the current situation? What’s ahead?
M.C.: The pandemic has certainly made us realize that we can quickly adapt to unexpected changes and that many business processes can be successfully performed remotely. However, I believe that most of us are already counting on a return to normalcy, mainly due to the possibility of direct contact, which we have been deprived of for the last year. We are looking forward to the moment when we can meet in person and talk during job fairs or other industry events – this is what I wish for myself and others.