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Paul Hackett
Sep 02 2020

Bringing Back Watercooler Moments: HR and TA During COVID-19


Talent acquisition is a cut-throat environment. When crisis strikes, it’s usually one of the first dominos to fall.

What’s more, it is perfectly possible that the legacy of the pandemic could alter the complexion of the talent space for years to come. 

With that in mind, we reached out to a few HR and TA specialists to discuss what the future of the talent space looks like and how they’ve managed to change roles of both their functions during the pandemic. 


Easing Returning to work Jitters with an Office Queue System

Marija Tregubova is HR Lead at in-store display and mobile shopping experiences provider Ombori. An experienced HR professional, Marija has overseen a number of HR projects over this period. 

For some, the prospect of coming back to the office can be a daunting one - busy offices, even busier commutes. This is especially the case for those who have vulnerable individuals at home. It falls to HR to provide solutions. For Marija and Ombori, the solution to this problem lies in a rather inventive use of the technology they supply to clients.

“We develop a queue system to help mainly retail shops open up safely and we actually have that device here in the office as well. So employees will be able to book times when they want to come to the office, we made a limitation. It's not a big group. So it's maximum 15 people who actually usually visited the office. And then everyone has an opportunity to socialize in small groups, but most importantly, it’s safe.” 

A masterstroke for helping people get comfortable in the workplace, this queue system will be adopted quickly and it’s something that Marija is keen to keep as they move into the future. 

Another development they’re keen to keep is a tool called Hapkey they’ve adopted to measure the overall happiness within their organization. Managed through a web app, Hapkey sends a weekly survey via SMS, consisting of only 3 questions, to all employees. The survey data goes straight to a dashboard which Marija uses to make informed decisions about focus areas. 

“We have been using Hapkey since February. We’re are thrilled about our overall happiness score. It’s about 85% and employees are actively sharing how to improve our workplace. Hapkey has really become key in how we continuously improve Ombori.” 


Ensuring Culture and Purpose is Still Communicated


As employees are forced to distance themselves from their teams, company vision, culture and purpose become even more important and serve as the guiding light for many. For Marija, ensuring this culture and purpose is still clearly communicated has been key. 

“We introduced daily CEO highlights. So our CEO is delivering daily short business updates, which we’ve seen has helped our people feel more involved and more up to date with what is going on. From August we introduced a new system of giving an opportunity to leaders of several functions to give updates on different topics on specific days.”

Taking this one step further, Marija and her HR team have to take a proactive stance on the team’s relationship with their managers by introducing a ‘people manager’ on top of an employees regular ‘functional’ manager. 

“We really emphasize the importance of this new structure so new managers have received training for example about how to conduct a one to one meeting with your direct report in Ombori way, how to make sure your team member is motivated and have the opportunity for mentoring if needed and many more. ”


Maintaining a Hands-On Approach to Onboarding

Continuing to hire throughout the pandemic, Marija has been working hard on maintaining an onboarding system that can effectively introduce a new member to the team despite the distance. 

For Marija, there’s no secret sauce here - it’s just about good old fashioned communication and making sure you’re the link between the new starter and the rest of the business. Ombori provides all the documents needed to kick off online, so that made the transition easier too.

“So I would call and make sure that they have the first kickoff that they know who they can talk to around the business and more importantly, who should be their first port of call. I established this little connection to make sure that if there is anything they need they at least have me and then I can help them to figure out who is the best person to help with different situations.”


Finding the Right Candidate in a Crowded Talent Pool

Mimmi Jonsson is a Talent Acquisition Partner at digital marketing agency, Nordic Morning Group. With a background in talent acquisition and working closely with HR professionals,  Mimmi is well placed to comment on the direction of TA and HR. 

Job losses are the unfortunate outcome of the pandemic but the demand after specific competencies are still high and difficult to find. Those in TA positions who are recruiting within tech, who already had a hard time finding the right candidate, still find it challenging. For Mimmi, who handles all the recruitment for Nordic Morning SE, echoes those thoughts. 

“Finding the right candidates with the right competencies is still our primary challenge, specifically within our MarTech offering. We have 3 main offerings in our organization, which means different competence needs. Due to Corona, we can see that the candidate market has changed with more applicants for some positions, but this only applies to areas where we didn’t have challenges recruiting before corona”

Working on a small HR team of 6, Mimmi is responsible for the recruitment but still has a good oversight on the general HR functions running throughout Nordic Morning Group. 


Building Strong Relationships on an Organisational Level

For many, the relationships within their teams will have been tried, tested but ultimately come out stronger as they adapt to new communication methods. 

It’s at an organisational level that Mimmi and her team are deploying most of their resources.

“What is challenging is to keep the whole organisation together, but we can see that all teams have a strong relationship. You can see that in our employee survey as well, but all that like the organisational level, because it’s not the same having digital check-ins as those we have at our office. Overall, the employees have adapted to the situation really well and we were positively surprised by the result of the corona survey, but we could also see that many were missing being at the office ”


Bringing Back Watercooler moments

From an extra hour in bed to dodging the morning commute, working from home comes with many benefits. But, if there’s one thing that many people will have missed, it’s the ‘watercooler moments’. The impromptu conversation that happens seamlessly while in the office setting. 

For Mimmi and her team, maintaining an environment that cultivates this kind of conversation while working remotely has been a top priority. 

“So that is something that we find very challenging even though we have had successful digital events. But once again if we have 160  employees joining, the interaction is not quite the same.“

Instead, a focus on the channels that the whole organization is using for their communication - like slack - has enabled Nordic Morning Group to keep in constant, seamless communication.


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