Magazine “TOP-100. Ratings of the Largest” November 2021
How to create comfortable conditions for the employees to keep them with the company as long as possible? How did the crisis affect the corporate culture of one of the oldest international banks in Ukraine? What does the up-to-date social package include and how did the role of HR specialist change? Olena Urusova, HR Director of Credit Agricole talks on these and many other issues.
— Please tell how the crisis caused by the Covid pandemic affected the labor market in general?
— Distinct boundaries between the industries in terms of labor market have disappeared. I call this trend “competition of everyone with everyone”. The bank has very few specific positions that can be of interest of bankers only. Our IT specialists, business teams, HR and lawyers interest everybody.
Another thing is massive digitalization. Banks used to lag behind the trend due to tough market regulations, but now they join the process more actively than ever.
And of course, this defines what specialists we need. This is all about the analytics, IT, and development.
Banks used to be rather hierarchical, but now we observe the opposite trend. Organizational structures are upgraded, units merge, and number of managers reduces. And this is the global trend.
Your company is one of the most reputable global brands with its standards and criteria. Has the value offer of your company changed?
— Globally, this crisis forced all companies to define whether they stand up for the good or bad. What I mean? It is all about values. One should decide: either to stand by the side of employees, support and protect them, or to announce headcount reduction and cut salaries.
For me personally, as for the HR Director, this was the most important lesson. At the very beginning of the crisis Credit Agricole stated that our key value was to support customers and protect our people. At the start of the pandemic, we made a simple but important statement that remains relevant today: You can rely on Credit Agricole! We supported it with real actions. People felt our support and trusted us. As a result, the bank even launched new business areas and services during the crises, for example, leasing and mobile application СА+.
The pandemic added one important word: protection, since it concerns the most valuable thing – human life. As an employer, we do everything to protect human lives.
One more issue is confidence when the company trusts the employee and the employee trusts the company. In fact, caring, protection and trust are the basics of our corporate culture.
— How does this corporate culture help you survive crises, retain people and keep the lights on?
— Internally, we call it “warm corporate culture”. It means very close communications in the team. Average life journey of an employee with us is 6 years both in sales network and in the Head Office. This is quite a lot, and we are proud of it.
It took long to create such culture. Credit Agricole is one of the oldest international banks in Ukraine. Next year, we will turn 29.
Corporate culture became even stronger during the pandemic. We keep focusing on our social responsibility and caring about the staff.
Good health insurance package is must have for us. We expanded it, increased dental care limit and caring about newborns. Not many Ukrainian companies, let alone banks, do it this way.
For several years now, we have the program of support in crisis events. It covers severe diseases, cancer, and death. We pay annual wages to families of deceased employees, and plan to increase such amounts.
Moreover, we have a social fund. It is a kind of benefit association, and each employee transfers a tiny amount from each salary to it. The company doubles it. If any troubles happen in any family, we help.
Last year, we provided a strong support to our hospitals struggling with COVID-19, especial children ones. We purchased medical equipment and oxygen concentrators. As a socially responsible business, we want to contribute to the national health and wellbeing.
— The market knows that your company has its own wide-scale HR projects. Which of them are key?
— 2020 was indicative because we changed the system of motivation for all levels of employees.
This is a long-term project that has a big impact. It is about our attitude to the clients and the way we want our cooperation to develop. It was important to run a general communication campaign that explains and teaches our employees how to be helpful for every client every day and why it is important for each of us. This service culture is based on three pillars: to be efficient, to treat customers well and to exceed their expectations. Over the year, Credit Agricole has substantially improved its CRI (customer recommendation index). We are number two in the private individuals segment.
We now work on one more project that was launched in 2020. It provides for simplification of hierarchy – delayering. We want to reduce the number of hierarchical levels inside the company to make it easier and faster for the customer to solve any issues.
We launched the Young professional project in 2021. We engage students with a clear profile in digital and bring them up in the company.
We will soon onboard a new wave – 15 second and third year students – and train them as future analysts, IT professionals, and process robotization specialists.
They work with tutors, we engage them right away in the important flagship projects, and build succession plan of the company.
— How has the work format changed since the beginning of the COVID pandemic?
— Head Office moved to remote work very quickly. We learnt to work in a mixed format. Only 70% of staff can work at the office together, but usually there are 4-5-% maximum.
Middle management turned out to be the most vulnerable to the remote work as they had to arrange a brand new life behind the screen.
To help them adapt, we held special webinars and trainings to show how the role of middle management changed in the company, and what should be done in a new way, what should not be done at all, and how to recover in the new conditions.
— How did the crisis change the profession of HR specialist? Which competences are required for a professional of the future to keep everything under control?
The pandemic stopped the discussion on the role of HR specialist in a company. HR moves from tactical, operational level to the strategic one. Another thing is that HR is a carrier of ideology. It is all about visioning – where we should be, how we see our future, how we are seen by candidates and employees, how to react to market changes. These are all tasks for the HR professional.
HR specialists have a new role of career development consultant for employees. The biggest value for today is to identify talents, key players who move the company forward. We create the environment in which they develop.
— What HR projects does the company plan to develop in the future or, the other way around, which existing projects will be enhanced?
— The bank has recently launched a new development strategy in Ukraine by 2025 – AIR (Ambition, Innovation, Responsibility). It covers main focuses and target indicators, our commitments to customers, employees, and society. We aim to act ethically, transparently and responsibly, achieve leadership in the target markets, support expertise of our employees and development innovations, and to improve relations with customers.
With respect to HR ambitions as part of AIR 2025, we clearly focus on internal promotion of our staff. We have an internal target: 80% of managerial positions should be replaced by existing employees. Therefore, we need to increase the expert base.
We have a unique educational project – the Agroschool where we enhance the agrarian expertise of our staff. This is one of our flagship projects, our value proposition. Last year, it was recognized as “The Best Leader Development Program” in the framework of the HR Brand Ukraine award. We will keep investing in the development of agrarian expertise of our employees.
Additionally, we will develop all digitalization related skills, which is a must have for today.
We will develop everything that concerns empowerment, promotion of entrepreneurship mindset in the team. We see leadership from the angle of entrepreneur approach of the employees: when being an employee you treat the company as your own business.
Many young people come to the bank, and they are really focused on diversity and everything associated with it: equality, work-life balance. They appreciate the feeling of equality in relations and employment without any hierarchies. Last year, we adopted the Charter of Equality that guarantees our compliance with such values as diversity and equality regardless of gender, age, health conditions, color, ethnical or social origin, etc. A good evidence of the gender equality is the fact that 42% of the bank management are women. Being governed by the inclusiveness principle, the bank employed 111 people with limited capabilities. Our doors are open for everyone who wants to achieve professional development and is ready to work hard.
Another feature of young people we like a lot is the high level of involvement in various social projects of the bank, environmental initiatives, and volunteering. We also plan to enhance our social project in terms of well-being programs, in other words, everything that concerns mental and physical health of our staff.