Interview by Ângela Santos, Board Member and responsible for the development of Human Capital at Abaco Consulting, for “RH Magazine”: https://rhmagazine.pt/angela-santos-abaco-consulting-nao-vamos-ficar-a-aguardar-o-fim-da-pandemia-para-tracar-o-nosso-rumo/
The world of human resources has undergone profound changes since the pandemic began. And although we have planned to return to the offices, we now realize that this will not happen, at least in the near future. So, what are the best practices that can be implemented? What can we expect from the future?
Abaco Consulting is a company that works in the implementation and maintenance of SAP information systems, and that already has 15 years in the market. To understand what good practices should now be implemented, according to Abaco, and also to understand how technology has made all of this possible and how organizations will move forward, RHmagazine spoke with Ângela Santos, Board Member and Responsible for Talent Development at Abaco Consulting.
This new reality is changing and shaping the future of HR. As Abaco is a company in the technological sector, would you say that technology is helping to manage the problems that companies have faced?
Yes No doubt. Technology has been asserting itself as an essential tool for any organization, and technological evolution has been beneficial for almost all sectors, especially for companies, which see improved human resource management. What is one of the most difficult areas to manage has now become simpler thanks to the development of new software that, by itself, introduces important changes in the work process – especially with regard to motivation and productivity. We are not only talking about employees, but also about managers and / or other administrative bodies, who recognize that their work has been visibly improved with the implementation of these systems.
In this sense, human resources software introduces important added value, mainly in terms of integration, relationship development, learning and even recruitment.
Do some companies, and essentially in the HR area, also see some obstacles in technology?
Quite possibly, because for many companies this “new beginning” will be quite different from what they knew. Covid-19 came to drive and even accelerate the digital transformation of many companies, many of which were not yet prepared or had not yet assumed the importance of digitizing themselves, despite the fact that this is an increasingly global issue. In this sense, it has become essential that they have the capacity to reinvent their processes and invest even more in the digital transformation of their businesses, because only then will they be able to overcome this crisis that we face.
This new normal that is now rising will undoubtedly be more digital, both in the way we do business and in organizational processes, with technology playing an even more important role in the life of organizations. Despite the technological evolution that has occurred in recent years, there are still many obstacles that limit our action, but because of the force of habit, we have never bothered to change them, in this case, to digitize or even prepare employees to take on more digital. That said, I believe that, for some companies, especially in the HR area, they still feel some reluctance to integrate technology in their functions, as they have not yet identified their true advantages. And when I talk about technology and digitalization, I don’t mean e-mail flows and chains and excel / word / powerpoint documents and stored on any intranet. But, it is urgent that they start looking at these issues with different eyes and eliminate everything that is not agile, scalable, dependent on person A or B, and that allows the consumption of information by those who need it, at the right time, in a that allows them to have a fast business model to react to.
It is essential that companies prepare themselves to be digital from the sales process to the start of the expedition, from the purchase of raw materials to production planning, from recruitment to compensation and career development models.
Is it important that companies now bet on upskilling and reskilling of employees, in an even more technological aspect?
While technological advances have been accelerating increasingly, directly affecting the workforce, companies must, of necessity, focus on qualifying their professionals, in order to obtain the greatest possible benefit from innovation and digital transformation. On the other hand, skills such as flexibility and the ability to learn or relearn are increasingly sought after, both by organizations and by employees, since professional requalification is increasingly valued.
In this sense, successful organizations will be those that see this new era as an opportunity and have the capacity to be innovative, leave their comfort zone and develop disruptive products and services.
It is essential to add technological skills to the catalog of traditional skills. And it is important to change the mindset to a Learning in the Flow of Work, which is only possible with the technological Learning platforms serving the workforce.
What has it been like to care for and manage a team of around 140 employees?
We are making every effort to overcome this crisis. Of course, we are all concerned with the future, with what will come after the epidemic enters the declining phase. There are clear signs that a crisis is coming. But first, we must overcome the epidemic. We have to look after people’s well-being. Act responsibly and continue to avoid being a vehicle of transmission to others.
Managing people has never been an easy task and, given the context in which it was lived, it has become even more difficult.
There were several challenges that arose during these 9 months, namely, to remain faithful to our values and principles. In our case, taking care of employees first (for example, not embarking on easy solutions to dispense people as an immediate solution to problems, assessing all others before this). Another of our values is the development of relationships. How can we keep together? How to continue to empathize with the client’s people? How can we show solidarity with these people? Another challenge is to be able, in the midst of uncertainty, to point the way. To maintain tranquility and pass confidence. And teach that. What we know and what we don’t know. What we can or cannot control. Gather information, seek to share data, points of view, ideas, actions, with other people and other sectors, and put them into practice with our people.
Finally, it is making an extra effort to get closer to people. Communicate a lot more. Give and collect more context about each one. Understand each person’s situation and adapt actions and communication to their needs. Develop more actions to foster contact, whether in a professional context or for socializing.
For Abaco, what are the best practices that should be implemented, keeping in mind a strategic plan for 2021?
I think the main priority is not to focus on returning “to what was before”, but to adapt to a new reality, with new demands. But the most important thing is to continue to deliver our work to our customers with the same level of quality. It is possible that the main changes that we will experience are in the way companies will relate, whether with customers, partners or employees.
I think we have all realized that we are equally efficient in remote mode, so I believe that teleworking will increase considerably and we will see a decrease in the useful work space in the offices.
In the same vein, the fact that there are fewer trips will allow an increase in daily interactions and the pace at which we make (or receive) decisions will accelerate. I expect some pressure on delivery capacity and the need for tools to allow us to keep up with this pace.
On the other hand, network and application security becomes a major concern and one of the main priorities for companies, as well as their ability to manage the traffic of large amounts of information. The tools for monitoring and monitoring health and safety at work will definitely get on the agenda, as it is necessary to react quickly if a similar situation occurs.
I believe that the most important thing remains communication with employees, customers and partners. At this time, it is important to continue to give primacy to internal communication and to send messages that encourage tranquility and help people to maintain mental, physical health and focus on what we have to do. Now, more than ever, it is important to demonstrate to our employees that, for us, the most important thing is people and their well-being. It is equally important that between customer and supplier, partner and competitor, bonds of solidarity are established instead of each looking for individual survival strategies.
Success in overcoming this crisis can only be collective.
There are several initiatives that we are working on, specifically in adapting to a new way of working in a hybrid model, where the cross-relationship between people from different teams and contexts is an important challenge to overcome.
Has Abaco changed its culture and values in any way? How do you think companies will be able to maintain a cohesive and intact culture?
Teleworking forced us to be closer to our teams and to discover that, even physically far away, we managed to deal with unexpected, urgent situations, but also to find within us the positive force that guides us and that allowed us and continues to allow us reinforce our organizational culture.
Companies with a strong culture, who trust their talents the most and give them autonomy to improvise, adapt more easily. Therefore, it is essential to connect and bring employees closer to relevant discussions and share critical information about the organization.
However, never forgetting that each person is unique, has different experiences and expectations, and can contribute in different ways, it is therefore necessary to know them well to be able to lead them. A good HR manager articulates his people, opening the way for what they do best and complementing the various talents in a team, focusing on a purpose. If we add to this a general mindset of focus on employees, humanity in the organization, processes designed to improve people’s experience (whether together or distributed, but always connected) and involvement for contribution, talents will effectively be the central pieces in the process of constant adaptation to which a company is obliged today.
In this way, several tools have emerged in recent months to help companies manage their processes, both internal and external. Abaco has always lived with change and flexibility and is a company that adapts quickly. As a result of the services it provides, it has always had teams working in the office remotely connected to some of its clients, as well as some employees already working from home, in support activities in a nearshore model.
And this will be the main “tool” for us to maintain productivity, as well as for regular communication between the teams and to find work methodologies that help in the coordination, visibility and support in the development of each one’s tasks. Just as it is essential to create new communication channels and increase this communication with customers and partners, as it is essential that they realize that we continue to support and help them in whatever they need.
How will organizations hire in this new context? What has Abaco been betting on in this area?
Undoubtedly, it is here that the new challenges keep coming up, especially with regard to the integration of new employees in companies. If it was already a difficult task, now it will be even more so. At Abaco, as well as in all companies in general, interviews started to be remote, as well as the validation of references, research, selection and screening of candidates. Telecommuting has continued, but the need to integrate new talent into organizations continues, so it is inevitable to make recruitment and reception processes digital. To this end, technology has become an essential tool in the management of hiring processes. It made them more efficient, thereby increasing the likelihood of finding the ideal candidate for a given job offer, based on their own values.
After choosing the right candidates, a new (and perhaps bigger) challenge arises: how to integrate them into the teams and into the whole reality of the company? If it was difficult before, with the reality of distance work it became critical.
We must not forget that it is essential that these new talents assimilate, from the time they enter, what the company’s culture is and integrate into it. But, for that, it is necessary to implement some measures that have this purpose.
Thus, at Abaco, we continuously seek to share the company’s culture (mission and values), so that new talents are more quickly integrated into the company’s culture; assign them to a Team Leader, since that way they will always have someone in specific who can accompany them and give the support they need; daily video calls with the team to help them with the processes, to put them at ease to answer questions, and, last but not least, to foster team spirit.
What are Abaco’s plans for the future?
Abaco is working on its 2021 budget, as it would in a normal year. Discussing the actions and tactics to implement the strategy you defined in the first half of 2020 for years to come. Working on the program to adapt to the new demands of remote work, which is here to stay, redefining the roles and competences it needs for the future and the learning that people need to do, and seeking more feedback from its customers.
One thing we know: we are not going to wait for the end of the pandemic to chart our course. We will navigate in uncertainty, but with the planned path.
We may take a little longer on the way, but it is important to define where we are going and what we need to do to get there.