Interview #22 Valeriia Volkova: "We need to be fast in recruiting, open in employer branding and open-minded during interviews to win the "war.""
📌 Read the interview with Valeriia Volkova to find out who drives the world now and what war are we still in.
Good day everyone!
We are ready to present you with a new interview with the People and Culture Manager from finAPI GmbH (Schufa Company).
In 2008 Valeriia received a Master's Degree in Management (Specialization: Human Resources Management) in the National Technical University Kharkiv, Ukraine.
In 2010 she moved to Germany and in 2016 received a Master Degree in Management & Marketing (Specialization: HR Marketing, Employer Branding) in the University of Hohenheim Stuttgart.
Since 2016 Valeriia was in different positions in the HR area and IT Recruiting and in June 2020, she started working in a finAPI company.
AO: Hello Valeriia and welcome! We usually start interviews by asking about the first steps in the HR field.
Did you work somewhere before becoming an HR professional, why did you decide to become an HR?
V: When I was at school, my favorite task was Literature because it is fascinating to discover new people and their characters. At the end of school, it was clear that I wanted a job where I could continue to discover people and their characters. I vacillated between journalism and Human resources and since then, Human Resources has been a part of my life.
During my second master’s degree in management and marketing at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, I decided to try something completely new and did an Online-Marketing internship. There were interesting tasks for me there, but they were not really my cup of tea – so I decided to combine these two, at first glance, very different subjects. I expanded my knowledge in the field of human resources and focused on studying employer branding. That is how I have been involved in HR, Recruiting and Employer Branding my whole professional life and I am still fascinated by it.
AO: Can you share your thoughts on why HR is an important function in any organization?
V: People/humans are the soul of every organization. They drive the world, not machines. Each of us has knowledge, talents, potentials, dreams, and the unique function of Human resources to find the right people for the company and help them apply their knowledge, open their potentials, and develop their talents. It is a very small job, but it is worth it. Jack Ma once said, "You need the right people with you, not the best people," and finding them is the most important HR function in any company.
AO: Nice quote, Valeriia! Now let's jump into the future. Where do you see the HR industry in the next 5 years?
V: It is quite difficult to make any predictions in these strange times. COVID-19 has shown us that work-life balance is not only possible in HR books, but in reality – and it works very well.
It is no longer necessary in many jobs to have fixed working hours, work completely from the office, and travel halfway around the world to attend a meeting with a US team. I am convinced that this balance between office, home office and family life is our future.
Many companies will keep this new work model and it will be beneficial for them. Many studies show higher productivity, better concentration, and less personal conflicts while working in a home office. And, as working life changed in 2020, HR's tasks will evolve and change accordingly. In my opinion, HR does not develop alone and independently of other areas because HR has an advisory function, but not an autonomous one.
AO: Recent research by Gartner found that 74% of companies they surveyed expect some of their employees to continue working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Valeriia, the HR sphere is quite challenging, right? What difficulties do you usually face working as an HR specialist?
V: Most difficulties I face are not really difficulties. I would name them challenges 😊
About 20 years ago, McKinsey first mentioned the definition of the "War for talents." During these twenty years, nothing changed – we are still in the war. Technologies are becoming more complex, and companies need better educated, talented, and motivated people who can bring new ideas to drive the future. We need to be fast in recruiting, open in employer branding and open-minded during interviews to win the "war." That is not difficult, but yes – it’s challenging 😊
AO: Can you name three areas that you feel need the most improvement, based on your understanding of common HR practices?
V: Listen and understanding – We should try more to understand candidates/potential new employees and focus on what they are really looking for, not what we can offer them.
Less paper, more automation – More processes should be automated, especially when working with government institutions.
Transparent communication – It is strange that we still find new employees frequently through word-of-mouth recommendations. Despite all the modern technologies, it is still quite difficult to find reliable team members and work partners. This makes open, transparent communication between HR and all other stakeholders even more important.
AO: Valeriia, I think there are some personalities you look up to. Can you name one (or several) HR experts whose work do you highly appreciate or take as an example?
V: People who can go beyond the ordinary fascinate me. One of them is Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and one of the most successful people in China. Fifty years ago, China was a purely communist country. Jack Ma grew up in this very strict system, started his company at 33 with very little computer skills, and became one of the world's richest men. To achieve these goals, you must be able to think beyond the obvious. Besides the quote I mentioned earlier, there is another one of his that I really like: "It's easier to win when you have people who see things from different perspectives."
Angela Ahrendts is another impressive person for me. Our careers even have one thing in common – moving from luxury retail to a tech company 😊 I still remember very well her speech as the senior vice president of retail when Apple launched the iPhone. It made the world turn upside down just because she wore a pink Burberry jacket. At the time, it was a very daring move in a man's world, which triggered many discussions, also about the topic of "women in technology" and how tolerant we are when someone does not meet our expectations.
AO: Let's now discuss the employee onboarding topic. How does the onboarding of new employees go into your company?
V: I am working for finAPI, a small fintech company that has grown very fast in the last year. And I guess that our onboarding process is the same as in most companies – we organize a working place, a buddy team and a warm start with small presents, a welcome presentation, and a small office tour.
As an established company in the fintech industry, finAPI is an experienced provider of software for banks and other financial service providers. SCHUFA Holding AG acquired a majority stake in the fintech finAPI at the beginning of 2019. At the company headquarters in Munich, they develop sophisticated solutions for data integration and analysis based on artificial intelligence technologies, which are made available to our customers via online access (cloud service).
What is very important for me as an HR person is to give new employees this feeling that they are not alone in a new company. We are there and open (even in Corona time) for any topic, question, or problem. Joining a new company is a very important and stressful step for everybody. We try to create an atmosphere that shows that we are happy to have new employees on board and integrate them into our company life right from the start.
AO: Nice and what traditions your company has and what is your favorite one?
V: It is not easy to keep traditions during the corona time. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have organized home offices and most of our employees are still working at home. But our company is very human, and we cannot imagine our lives without any personal contacts with the colleagues. Therefore, we organize a company online lunch where colleagues meet remotely and just chat or discuss interesting topics from time to time. We celebrated Oktoberfest together and sent gingerbread hearts or sent little advent calendars to start the Advent season. Last year we organized a Christmas party remote, sent the Christmas presents by mail beforehand and it worked very well!
But my favorite tradition is still to play Mario Card together in our meeting room after a long working day. I miss this friendly, shared competitive spirit, the fun, the jokes, and the team support. I am looking forward to playing again when we all are allowed to get together again.
AO: I am happy when companies have such great traditions. Traditions actually make teams solid.
Valeriia, what is the most valuable professional development advice you have ever gotten?
V: "Do not try to move monoliths. Try to make small changes first."
AO: Good quote! And now a bit allegorical question. If the company you work on now were a person, what kind of person would it be?
V: Of course, this person would be a collective image of all of us – smart, ambitious, open-minded, goal- and customer-oriented, friendly, and open for new opportunities – especially in the fintech sector.
AO: I don't doubt it. Let's get back to the topic of the future. What types of tools do you think every HR should be using in 2021?
V: This depends on how big your company is and on the industry. If you are writing two recommendation letters a year, it does not make sense to have a special tool for it – you can do it manually. If you have just ten employees, you do not need special HR management software – you also will manage it manually.
But I would highly recommend recruiting management software. Even if you have only one position to fill, you can get 20-30 CVs and it is quite complicated to deal with that without a special tool considering all the data processing and privacy restrictions. My professional life changed and became much easier when I got such a recruiting tool.
AO: And what HR trends do you think will emerge in 2021?
V: HR as a consulting function will follow the trends of other areas and industries - flexibility, open-mindedness, new work-life models. Employees and their needs will be in focus just as much as the companies’ customers.
AO: Thanks a lot, Valeriia for such an interesting and inspiring interview. We wish you all the best in your career!
That's all for today, friends. See you at the next interview!
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