HR Director EMEA, Steelmaking Support

Which measures did your organization take from an HR perspective to keep operating during the lockdown?

Initially we focused on safety for our employees on site (office staff and operators) by enhancing our safety measures, enforcing social distancing and facilitating personal protective equipment.  At the same time, we started restricting access to all external personnel to ensure our employees were not exposed and as things gradually deteriorated, we restricted travel.  Finally, we mobilized our IT teams to ensure that everyone who could work from home had the necessary tools and internet access.

What particular challenges has your company faced through Covid-19?

The main issue we face is that our sales force needs to be present at the customer as we provide specialized support to their manufacturing processes.  With the travel restrictions in place and borders closed.  Most of our sales teams have had to adapt in order to virtually provide the support to the customer.

What impact has the Covid-19 crisis had on your Talent Acquisition planning in the last months (hiring freeze, slowdown, only replacements...)?

Most of the non-critical roles that we were recruiting have been put on hold as a company wide hiring freeze has been implemented.  However, there are a few key roles that we continue to recruit.

What will be the impact of the Corona virus on your Talent strategy over the next 12 months?

The main focus will be to ensure that we can retain the current talent we have in our ranks as motivation and engagement will be a big challenge as we adapt to the new reality of work.  We will continue to look for the best talent for our key roles that are vacant or have been created to support our business strategy.

What implications do you see for your resourcing needs due to the coronavirus? 

I believe things will be more or less back to normal in terms of recruitment but one thing that will change, for many roles, is that working remotely has been proven extensively as an option so we may not look to relocate people to some of our sites as we previously did.

How have you managed your messaging and internal communications across the region? How have you maintained employee motivation?  

There have been two key developments in this area, a weekly call with our CEO and senior leaders to review the current state of things as well as an internal newsletter detailing the major developments for the group.  On a regional and local level, senior leaders have engaged on weekly or even daily calls to ensure people remain engaged and connected to the business.

Are there ways in which your company has been able to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 (not necessarily financially)?

We have had several initiatives by local teams where we have supported local hospitals and health professionals with protective equipment, manufacturing alcohol-based disinfectant but more importantly, making sure every member and their families are informed and conscious of how they can contribute to stop the spread of the virus has been key.

What measures are in place for the return to work (or to the office)?

Social distancing and clear messages are key at every company site that is open.  We have provided the necessary protective equipment and instructions to ensure these measures are respected.

How do you view the next 6-12 months from an HR / TA perspective?

The biggest challenge I see is going to be related to the risk aversion many candidates will have due to the uncertainty of the current situation.  If we try to engage candidates who are currently employed, they may not be inclined in taking the risk of leaving their employer for another opportunity.

Will the crisis make any lasting changes at your company to the way people work, or the way they are allowed to work?

I believe it should as the office space as we know it needs to adapt for a mobile work force that has proven to be effective remotely.  We can definitely reconfigure our spaces to facilitate collaborative work and not necessarily for permanent physical presence.  Business travel as well should be reduced as we now know that not all meetings need to be in person.

What have you been surprised by in a positive way from an HR point of view?

The solidarity everyone has shown to make personal sacrifices to help their colleagues.  Either by sacrificing salary, bonus or working time in order to save employment, it is a very strong message that we are all together in this.

What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

I am looking forward to embracing a new way of working and to learn how this challenging period has had an impact on the way we do things.  Every day there will be more and more stories about innovation and progress that we would have not imagined before this crisis.

What changes will you make to the way you live or work after things get back to normal?

My work was already remote and virtual in a very high percentage before the crisis but it will definitely change in the way we collaborate with the rest of the organization going forward.