The first 2021 physical edition of HR One Breakfast took place last July 1st at Etablissement Namur in Luxembourg. Local and international HR leaders and experts were reunited to share their experiences and best practices on the topic “The ultimate hybrid environment to foster employee experience”.

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The first keynote speech of this HR dedicated morning was entitled “The growing need to improve Employee Experience” and was presented by Romain Gossent, Chief Human Resources Officer, East-West United Bank. He joined East-West Bank United Bank in 2015 as Deputy Head of Human Resources, where he looks after recruitment, budget and strategy for the department.

First, Romain Gossent explained that startups are being created every year to answer a simple need: improve customer experience. And companies are spending billions to buy FinTech. But “what about employee experience?”, he asked.

To support the fact that employee experience should not be overlooked, Romain Gossent quoted a Recent Microsoft Work Trend Index according to which 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year. Based on this observation, Romain Gossent defined the process of employee experience’s improvement as follows: “How can companies retain their employees? How to motivate them? How to make them highly engaged?” And if 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer, it is proof that improving the employee experience is essential. But improvement is not something that falls from the sky. No, “improvement is a journey”, as Romain Gosset said.

He then described six stages of improvement for Human Resources professionals:

–Train your managers (“because managers are made, not born”).

–Digitalize what you can (“it’s less work for you, it gives back control over employee data and improves empowerment feeling”) and Romain Gossent recommends to HR to give access to their data, to let employees be aware of what they know about them.

–Think process not product (“consider your employees’ journey from recruitment to off-boarding”).

–Push management towards direct communication (“make sure the employees are happy, make them feel that they have been chosen”).

–Create opportunities and interactions between humans

–Feed your employees because being empowered does not mean being forgotten.

Human resources professionals need to be reminded: “Our own customers are our employees.

With the Covid-19 crisis, a new question emerged: how to manage people when they work remotely? “You have to address every employee generation, to show to everybody that it is easy to connect, to talk to colleagues, that you don’t disturb them because they are at home.” East-West Bank United Bank thus set up in 2020 its first digital team building and in 2021 its first digital town hall.

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Juliane Nitsche and Michel Moutier (co-founders, MLC Advisory) then took the stage and focused on a case study: “Resilience as a response to Covid’s challenges”. They presented how MLC Advisory supported resilience intervention for employees at the end of 2020 for an international tech company based in the US where 24,000 employees around the world were forced to work from home.

It is with a smile on her face that Juliane Nitsche started the presentation of this success story of MLC, “small company in Luxembourg”, responding to a request from a large international firm.

“The client had to face a huge increase in workload due to Covid-19 and had concern for people’s mental health and performance. We had to create training for employees, to keep a social link between them, with a moment to share and meet”, explained Juliane Nitsche.

MLC Advisory’s response has been to develop resilience skills to enhance wellbeing, face challenges and bounce back faster. In this frame, MLC Advisory developed “short but long-term formats to offer support during the long period of home office, teach strategies that are immediately applicable to the person’s private and professional life to help establish a healthy work-life-balance and designed team challenges to create engagement, a team spirit and break the silos because the most important thing is that people will apply what they have learned”, explained Juliane Nitsche.

When we talk about resilience, what are the protective factors? With humor, Julian Nitsche said that there was a time when for her, the symbol of resilience was the Hollywood actor Bruce Willis: “Someone tough who doesn’t talk about his feelings. But resilience is not about toughness, not at all”, she declared. Michel Moutier took over to list the protective factors of resilience: self-awareness of your thoughts and emotions and their influence on your behaviour and your performance; auto-regulation; optimism; self-efficacy and mastery; connections. “Resilience is soft”, said Julian Nitsche. “Resilience are skills”, added Michel Moutier.

The MLC Advisory program consists of 30 minutes sessions per week for eight weeks “with the application of a new skill each week”. The program focuses on concepts such as optimism, “mind monsters”, anxiety, positive emotions.

Their client evaluated that the topics treated were so important for wellbeing and mental health that they decided to take the MLC Advisory program global and offered it to all of the 24,000 employees worldwide. Julian Nitsche draws the conclusion “mental health will be a key topic in the future”. The original training will stay the same because “no matter where you live, no matter your cultural background, human needs are the same for resilience”, concluded Julian Nitsche.

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The organizers also welcomed virtually Justine Esteve (Learning Consultant, 1to1PROGRESS) and Alexandre Gas (Executive Director, Brucher Thieltgen & Partners) who discussed “Distance training in a hybrid environment, finding a balance for language learning”.

Justine Esteve started with a brief history of distance learning. In fact, the story goes back to the… 18th century when the first universities in the US started to send exercises and lessons via mail. A first revolution took place in the 1960/1970’s with the first computers. In 1999, “e-learning” was mentioned for the first time in a conference and during the 2000’s, companies started to see the potential of distance learning.

What changed for Justine Esteve with the Covid crisis is that she has to interact with employees working remotely. “I have to adapt to people who are not used to this way of working. It brings new challenges.”

She then reviewed the different modalities (MOOC, virtual classes, live chat) and advantages of distance learning: the main asset being the price, the global scope and an interesting return on investment.

Law firm Brucher Thieltgen & Partners, 35 employees, was 1to1PROGRESS’ client. “The solution provided by 1to1PROGRESS perfectly meets our expectations”, declared Alexandre Gas.

“In the legal field, you need to be continuously trained. And the basic ingredient is motivation.” What Justine Esteve confirms: “Motivation for remote learning and keeping this motivation up is very important. You need a proper follow up with mail, with the coach.”

To ensure that your employees are still trained during this difficult period, “you have to be present without being invasive. It is not about adding stress, it is about bringing humanity in this unusual situation”, said Alexandre Gas. And in the same vein, to ensure employees’ attendance with distance training, “the human factor is crucial”, stated Alexandre Gas. 

To conclude, Justin Esteve said that “human interaction with teachers is an important part of success and also providing a positive collaboration between the company, the learners and the learning institution”.

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Employee mental health – why it matters and how to effectively support it?”: was a question raised by Barbara Beros (Adviser to Director for HR Support and Social Services, DG Personnel, European Parliament). “Total cost of mental ill health in Europe is 240 billion euro per year”: it is with these raw figures that Barbara Beros began her intervention. “The financial impact of not taking care of mental health is high and that is without counting on non monetary costs as lower performance, impact on the rest of the team specially on senior role.”

Despite all these consequences and the fact that 20% of the world population will have a diagnosable health in any given year, mental health is overlooked, why? “It’s very common, it affects colleagues, families, neighbours but there is stigma, there is shame around mental health issues and there is also a lack of knowledge”, said Barbara Beros.

In the case of European Parliament (EP) and its 10,000 employees, on the preventive aspects, a Mind Matters project has been launched in 2018, including, among others, Mental Health First Aid Courses (MHFA) with the goal of 10% of EP employees trained. “The goal is to combat stigma, to educate people on how to talk to each other, to create a compassionate leadership, a culture of safety, to foster a strong and cultural change.”

During the pandemic, EP has set up a psychosocial support based on four pillars: medical service (medical and psychological consultations), “talk to me” (talk to a colleague trained in psychology and counselling), “listening ear” (support for managers offered by in-house coaches, trainers) and the Mental Health First Aiders.

In the future, EP will continue its psychosocial support and comprehensive psychosocial risk assessment.

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The next topic raised was “Digitalization of the HR Department - 7 reasons why HR management software is indispensable” and was delivered by Lukas Borsboom (Account Executive Benelux, Personio).

“HR is the core of all organizations, without people, there is nothing.” It is from this observation that Lukas Borsboom began his demonstration with a simple question: “What makes good HR management software?” According to Lukas Borsboom, “good HR management software should support you in all aspects of your work, saves you time and money and makes you, your supervisor, and your employees happy. That’s asking a lot but it is possible”, he emphasized, before giving some numbers: “84% of HR professionals use HR management software and 77% consider software to be crucial for successful HR work.”

He also listed the 7 reasons why HR management software is indispensable. Lukas Borsboom finished with a reminder: “People are the biggest tool for success. HR should be the first priority.”

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Cyril de Bazelaire (Vice President, Human Resources, NTT Luxembourg) finally took the stage to discuss “Future of work: how to combine performance & employee's health”. He described the way NTT group, present in 57 countries with 50000 employees worldwide, and its Luxembourg branch responded to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Efficiency is a key and we have to provide profitability with monthly reports to the headquarters in Japan. But we have to take care of people because if employees are not in good health, in a good mood, they won’t be able to provide a good service customer”, said Cyril de Bazelaire.

He specified that before the Covid, “100% of employees worked in the office. We had to move to remote mode only in a few days in Luxembourg. We have been able to give employees the tools to organize themselves to work together. We received firm recommendations from the top. Every meeting had to start with the question: ‘How are you going today?’”

For employee wellness, NTT encouraged employees to have one or more digital detox days, leaders not to be reachable after 8pm, organized fitness and meditation classes, set up a webinar about wellness.

Coordination between the head office in Japan and the local branches was essential to manage the Covid crisis: “In Luxembourg, we had meetings with all managers to get their feelings about the group’s recommendations and how to relate them to local rules. We needed flexibility. We never closed the office because it’s NNT’s DNA to work together, to have human interactions.” This coordination functioned according to the “principle of subsidiarity” as applied in the European Union, said Cyril de Bazelaire: “It means choosing the right level for a decision. Sometimes managers are the best level to take decisions instead of the top. It pushes people to be smart and flexible.”

Article by Nicolas Klein

Publié le 02 juillet 2021