As Head of Human Resources, Melissa Uljevic is responsible for all things HR at Broad Horizon. And it’s a challenging and interesting job, because each subsidiary has its own HR policy.
The key HR trends in 2021
‘If I had to single out just one trend, then it would have to be employee vitality,’ says Melissa. ‘This vitality affects all areas of my work as Head of Human Resources. From employee engagement to productivity, from employee onboarding to the “war on talent”, which is actually a hot topic right now. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, vitality is a top priority for us. The majority of our employees have been working from home for over a year now; more and more of them were starting to feel burnt out and wanted to return to the office.
Working from home is incredibly functional: you open your laptop in the morning, have one Teams meeting after another until the end of the working day, and there’s no relaxation. When you work at the office, you can just walk over to someone, have a chat, and crack a joke. And it’s precisely these things that have an impact on vitality and motivation: being able to brainstorm with someone, exchange ideas. When you work from home, all interactions are planned and functional. Another downside is that no one really knows how other people are getting on anymore. And although we offer corona coaching programmes, we still seem to be too late in detecting issues. The employee is often already on the brink of a burnout before we are able to do anything about it. So we are really happy that we can go to the office again, albeit with some rules in place.
“Fun and Energy” is therefore one of our top priorities this year. In the first year of the pandemic in particular, we sent our employees a lot of gifts: a summer package, an Easter package, and all kinds of small packages in between, but the fun of that has worn off a bit. So now we have launched the “Back to the Office” project involving lots of fun activities – all in accordance with the current coronavirus measures, of course! At Easter, for example, we organized an Easter Drive Through and we also recently had a Drive-in Lunch at our locations. That was fun and good for the “spirit”. People also had the chance to get used to each other a bit again.
But if, after eighteen months of working from home, you suddenly say: “Come back to the office”, people will be completely overwhelmed and they’ll end up feeling burnt out again. So the return to the office has to happen gradually. We also need to create the right expectations of what people will be able to accomplish at the office. You can’t expect to achieve the same high level of productivity in the office that you have when working from home.’
Office of the future
‘Now I don’t expect for one minute,’ Melissa continues, ‘that everyone will be working full-time in the office again any time soon. It’s going to be a hybrid form of working: everyone will work from home for a few days and in the office for a few days. I think that the majority of our employees will use our offices as a place to meet. A place where they can meet like-minded people to have meetings, brainstorm, and share knowledge. The younger generations especially tend to become friends with their colleagues. So there is a good chance that people will want to come to the office more often. That makes no difference to us: everyone is welcome again! We try to create a similar atmosphere in all our offices, so it doesn’t matter if you go to the office in Amsterdam, Bunnik, Den Bosch, Maastricht, or Naarden.’
Coronavirus kills culture
‘That atmosphere is hugely important at Broad Horizon,’ Melissa continues. ‘Because although we consist of many different companies, we also have many shared values. We value all our employees, and we work hard to make sure they are as happy as possible. Culture is an important part of that. If most of our cultural rituals disappear as a result of the coronavirus measures, you will see that employees will be more likely to think, “work is work, and I could earn €100 more working for somebody else”. Yes, the coronavirus kills culture.
But we are doing our best to keep our culture alive, through the events we organize, the online events we organized especially in the first year, such as online escape rooms and bingo nights. And we have added a new functionality to Teams, IceBreaker, for which employees can sign up. Every Monday, employees who are interested are then paired up with someone else and they schedule a one-on-one meeting in Teams. This allows them to catch up informally with colleagues they no longer bump into, and for new employees it’s a fun way to get to know their colleagues. We are getting a lot of positive feedback about this.’
Need for physical workstations and contact
‘To help our employees stay healthy, we now also offer them the opportunity to order a desk and office chair at our expense. This new scheme is already very popular, but we want to do even more to help our employees. For example, by providing instructions on how to set up an ergonomic workstation at home, but also by saying: “Come to the office if you are going crazy at home”. Unfortunately, we can’t say that to everyone, so we use an app to organize that. You reserve a workplace and have a nice lunch with everyone, but there are only a limited number of spaces available. We have set a safe maximum capacity. This way, everyone has the opportunity to meet their colleagues in person again, because there is a tremendous need for this.
This was something that we really picked up on during our Easter Drive Through. There was a huge turnout; people even travelled to Amsterdam from Zwolle. We had done a test drive beforehand and estimated that each of the three stops would take about five minutes. At the first stop, everyone was welcomed by the management, at the second stop they received a “Happy Meal”, and at the last stop they got a delicious treat. But, as we saw from the evaluation, five minutes wasn’t enough: everyone was so happy to be able to talk to someone face to face that each stop took a good 20 minutes per car. And when our employees spotted one of our traffic controllers after the third stop, they often assumed that was stop number four… and they opened their window again,’ laughs Melissa.
Everything for healthy employees
‘At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we were still very cautious about organizing events for fear of an outbreak. But now we are seeing that other aspects of our employees’ wellbeing are being affected. So we will keep organizing events. Within the limits, of course, but with as much face-to-face contact as possible.’