“Employers will need to rethink their people strategies. Not only in terms of how to attract new employees, but also how to keep them and what to offer,” says Beata Dobrowolska, Chief People Officer at AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG.
Over the past two years, the world has grown accustomed to intense changes like the Covid-19 crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Is the labor market also feeling the effects of these events? What awaits us next year? Where are we going? These pressing questions are answered by Beata Dobrowolska, Chief People Officer at AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG.
How does today’s labor market look?
A colleague from a previous company always said that the only things in life we can be sure of are change and taxes. Current labor market conditions are quite difficult. Many professionals are not looking for new jobs. And those that are expect additional incentives.
What are the most important job benefits for employees?
Younger professionals greatly appreciate additional free time to rest and relieve stress. They prefer home offices, flexible working hours, and additional days off. Recent reports show that the 4-day work week is likely to become common in the future.
Is AsstrA ready to take such a bold step?
Not at this stage. The transition to a 4-day work week must be preceded by a preparatory process. In Poland, several companies have now started pilot programs testing the shortened week system. A good way to prepare for the implementation of such a novel approach is to switch to flexible working hours. While keeping the weekly standard of 40 hours, a company can gives its people more freedom and allow them to decide when they will start and finish their working days. Some are more productive in the morning and some in the afternoon. Some prefer to work late on Monday in order to start the weekend earlier on Friday. Another option is the use of summer working time.
That sounds very interesting. What exactly is summer working time?
In the summer, we work longer from Monday to Thursday so that we can finish right after lunch on Friday. Summer working time is a great way to prepare for the 4-day week. We must remember that such a system will probably not work in the freight forwarding profession, as Fridays often turn out to be quite intense and a forwarder must remain available. Even so, a forwarder might choose another weekday to leave the office early for a well deserved rest.
Is AsstrA planning to switch to summer working time? Please unveil the secret!
I have many plans and ideas, but for the time being I’m afraid I will keep you in suspense!
In that case we are eagerly looking forward to updates. We talked about the current situation on the labor market. Recently, you yourself had the opportunity to become a candidate for a new job. Is the current economic situation conducive to changing jobs?
Yes, after 2 years of working in the Japanese environment I decided it was time for a change. It was a greenfield investment, and I definitely enjoy creating something from scratch. The style of work in Japanese culture is radically different from the American or British ones in which I have worked so far. It is characterized by micromanagement, which turned out to be tiresome in the long run.
At this point, I would like to express my appreciation for AsstrA's HR Department. During the recruitment process, I felt very cared for and informed the entire time. The candidate experience was very good.
It must be interesting when one HR expert recruits another.
That's right. In this case, there was immediate "chemistry" between us, a thread of shared understanding. I have very fond memories of the first meeting I had in the Warsaw office. I received some interesting questions that I had not had the opportunity to encounter before, despite being in talks with several other companies at the time. The recruitment process was based mainly on exchanging viewpoints. Logistics is a new industry for me, a chance to expand my experience. I want to add value to the company and use my capabilities to help it succeed.
It turns out that despite the unstable economic and political situation, it was not a bad time for you to change job.
I believe that there are no good or bad economic or political moments to look for a new job. The main criterion is how we feel in a given working environment. We should enjoy our jobs. Currently, a new role is emerging in many companies: the Happiness Manager. A person in such a position monitors what is most difficult to measure – i.e. the level of satisfaction among employees – and analyzes what needs to be improved in a given organization.
Now let's look at the other side of the coin. Are employers willing to look for new employees in the current unstable times, or are they tightening their belts and looking to get more out of existing teams?
The political situation may influence personnel decisions, but I believe that if the team really feels that there is a shortage of manpower and makes a convincing argument to bring in more capabilities, a sensible manager should agree to such a request. Being overloaded with duties adversely affects our motivation and leads to more human errors. Therefore, do not be afraid of talking to your boss about such things but prepare yourself properly.
In some industries, especially IT, there is a war for talent. So-called talent acquisition specialists come up with creative ways to encourage candidates to take a job with one company vs. another. Does AsstrA also have to fight for professionals?
Yes, especially in European Union countries such as France and Germany, where the AsstrA brand is not well known. Often, problems with finding talent also result from the fact that in some locations, for example Antwerp, there are simply no candidates with suitable logistics backgrounds.
It seems that it is difficult not only to find employees but also to retain them. Turnover has been remarkable recently.
That's true. In the United States, we observe a phenomenon called The Great Resignation. This is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have been leaving their jobs en masse since the beginning of 2021. It has already spread to Europe. Turnover at AsstrA has recently increased to 25%.
What is the main reason behind this phenomenon?
When an employee decides to leave AsstrA, we conduct an exit interview to find out why. The main motives are a desire to switch industries, earn more money, or get additional benefits.
Do people leaving AsstrA share any specific traits? Are they mostly millennials?
They are not only members of Generation Y. People with 3-5 years of work experience who are looking for a change often decide to leave the company.
Change is necessary for professional development.
That's true. Therefore, employers will need to rethink their people strategies. Not only in terms of how to attract new employees, but also how to keep them and what to offer.
What changes would you like to make at AsstrA? What are your plans?
My number one goal is to revise, organize, and modernize all our HR processes. Many of them are overly bureaucratic and too complicated.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed! Good luck!
Author: Agnieszka Krzepkowska.