Corporate blog

LESSONS FROM THE CRISIS

A crisis is no reason to put on hold efforts to strengthen your HR brand. On the contrary, it is at such moments that the brand undergoes "strength testing," and the company's readiness to deliver on its promises and values is put to the test.

6 October 2015

It took us several years to build the UMG team by selecting ambitious and initiative specialists who can find innovative solutions to challenging problems. If we expect our employees to follow an entrepreneurial approach, the company must naturally perform. How do we do it? Let us explain this through three simple case studies.

Case No. 1. How can you attract the best people during an armed conflict?

Challenge. The crisis and hostilities in the east of Ukraine forced the company to "regroup". We faced a challenge: moving the management company from Donetsk to Kyiv. What problems accompanied this process?

It is always more difficult to retain good specialists than to recruit new ones because other employers compete for them as well. Moreover, a B2B company requires specialized experts, which are thin on the ground. So, it was important not only to retain those already employed at UMG companies, but also to attract new talent, and to attract these people, if we are being honest, to an area that is not especially popular with the digital generation — the mining of minerals.

Solution. We were aware that direct contact with talented students is required to attract young people. So, as they say, we cast our nets where we knew there were fish. Of course, we participated in the usual events, such as career days and job fairs. But what else?

Corporate recruiters showed their initiative by organizing a series of lectures and training sessions for students in order to present the company.

Our specialists were involved as supervisors in business games and case competitions for higher education students. They also mentored and supervised groups of students in business games simulating the actual conditions on the Ukrainian market. These events were organized by our partners, Case Championship Study&Practice. This helped us, on the one hand, to show ourselves in a good light by presenting us as a successful company that brings together top-notch experts, and, on the other hand, to evaluate the participants in the business games (and identify the best talents). What we were looking for was leadership, initiative, the ability to work in a team, and approaches to problem solving.

We have moved all our vacancies to online resources (our corporate website, educational institution websites, recruiters' accounts in social networks). You can complete an online form designed by our experts or send your original CV. Students now send infographic or video CVs. Our company cannot help but notice and welcome such an innovative approach to announcing oneself. We understand that we must speak the digital language with the digital generation.

This comprehensive approach justified itself: we manage to find talented student interns and specialist employees even at a challenging time like this.

Case No. 2. How can you boost employees’ confidence during a crisis?

Challenge. The conflict has posed a real challenge for companies in the east. Even when production facilities are located outside the Ukrainian government’s security operation zone, in neighbouring areas, the potential deterioration of the situation leads to unprecedented tension. This caused personnel loss, with people simply too scared to work in a high-risk region. In these circumstances, our challenge was to make sure employees remained loyal to UMG (or better still, became more loyal).

Solution. To improve loyalty, we developed several internal programmes:

Talent pool. The goal is to select top performers with highest potential for advancement.

Knowledge Workshop. This programme is widely popular. The Knowledge Workshop is conducted by the companies' top managers. They speak about their own experience, company operations and the industrial sector. The programme offers professional expertise and managers' success stories, which encourage pursuit of a career.

We help employees with high potential to earn a university degree.

Professional excellence competitions. Participation in these activities is an additional opportunity for all employees to be noticed.

Social projects. We decided not to use the crisis as an excuse to abandon them. The company maintains a social partnership programme with the Druzhkovka town council, which aims to improve the social infrastructure, support culture and sport and aid kindergartens.

Our responsible and comprehensive approach is already bearing fruit: according to an in-house survey, 58% of employees find their workplace conditions comfortable (compared with 43% in 2013). We not only retained our personnel's loyalty, we even improved it.

Case No. 3. How can a balance be struck between the HR brand and maintaining production?

Challenge. The crisis in eastern Ukraine directly affected our company's operations. Our flux dolomite business was split by a division between the Dokuchayevsk Flux Dolomite Plant, or DFDP (town of Dokuchayevsk), located in the area not controlled by the Ukrainian government, and the Novotroyitske Ore Mining (urban settlement of Novotroyitske) on territory controlled by the Ukrainian army. These companies constitute a single production site, but communication between them now is challenging. DFDP is essentially shut down; the railway infrastructure, power transmission lines and industrial facilities have been damaged, and many buildings within the town are damaged or destroyed.

Despite this, we set out to preserve jobs. It is important to note that these companies are the area's main employers, with every third resident of Novotroyitske working at Novotroyitske Ore Mining and one in eight residents of Dokuchayevsk employed at DFDP. This is why jobs are a matter not only of organizing production, but also of social responsibility.

Solution. To keep our business, we took the following steps:

First, we temporarily suspended social infrastructure development in areas close to the hostilities.

Second, we provided aid to the families of those killed or wounded during the conflict.

Third, we preserved jobs at DFDP, which is practically shut down, with some personnel laid off but retaining 2/3 of their base wages;

We transferred more than 300 DFDP employees to Novotroyitske Ore Mining, where they work in shifts.

The UMG management team made a principled decision to deliver on its social obligations to company employees, especially in the timely payment of wages. Moreover, a military bonus was paid for work during active hostilities.

From our own experience, we can say that it took maximum effort and involvement, and immediate response, to implement each of these decisions. In a difficult situation, it is important for the employer to be prepared and to promptly change its approach in promoting the HR brand, and never to lower the mark, especially during an armed conflict. As history shows, after all, it is during a crisis that strong brands are born.

Source:
HR Manager

Author:
Irina Kharrasova
Human Resources Director