Engine that drives human potential

Engine that drives human potential

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We are continuing the series of talks with SG EBS executives on the subject “The engine that drives human potential”, together with Daniela Vercellino, HR director.

Carmen Oprea – Daniela, from the current position you hold within the company for over 2 years, you have a vital role for an efficient deployment of human capital and its development, for supporting the culture and the mission of the organization. What is the strategy you are developing in this direction?

Daniela Vercellino – The times we live in bring to light a predominant individual behavior that makes the difference between success and failure. This differentiator is the behavior we approach the change with. In our personal life, as soon as we want to find out an information, we open the internet and look for it – we read articles, news, studies, opinions on the respective topic. It is interesting, however, that this is not the first instinct we act upon in the professional environment, although the humanity has evolved enormously in the research area and the studies are now available to everyone, if there is interest to find them. Currently, I want to develop within the organization a strategy for bringing research as a resource among the teams. To give an example, a topic of interest for HR is staff attrition, we are interested in this indicator, we follow its trend, we report it, we look for causes and propose measures, without necessarily thinking that there are already numerous studies done on this subject, since ’50s and up to the present. In this direction, I have started an initiative HR team – periodic meetings to go through research studies and we come up with ideas, interpretations, concrete actions that we can bring in our daily working environment. From my point of view, it is a powerful niche that we can all benefit from. I strongly believe that each person is responsible to develop individually, while the company must create the framework for both individual and collective developments. But evolution has not the same meaning for everyone – some want to advance hierarchically, others want to change carrier often, others simply prefer to do a single long-term job, in an efficient manner, and we ought to respect choice and needs of each person.

In general, people as a species function based on the principle “maximum result with minimum effort” and that is why change is generally so difficult. When we want new results or behaviors, we need to allocate extra effort to replace the old patterns.

Carmen Oprea – For more than 4 years, SG EBS values include team spirit, innovation, responsibility and commitment, values that have been reinvented from year to year, allowing the company to grow from 1,000 employees in 2017 to over 2,000 employees as of now. How will these values animate in the future SG EBS teams?

Daniela Vercellino – From my experience, the values of a company must be “spread” continuously and committed, to be lived and shared by all teams, so that they could stay alive. Employees of a certain seniority know and practice these values better than the new ones and it’s normal somehow. I think we need to refresh them in the collective memory using new and attractive methods, not just by publishing them. In the end, they are human and Christian values, but nevertheless everyone can understand and approach them in a personal manner.

Carmen Oprea – HR specialists and not only, are facing the characteristics of the VUCA business environment (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), with rapid changes in the structure of the workforce and jobs. How do these changes impact the working climate and HR policies?

Daniela Vercellino – There are innovative and bold ideas to face the current business environment, such as mobility of the human resources in the new industries where they have no background. For example, a creative manager from an advertising agency appointed in HR industry would certainly do things completely differently, would lead to a change in the existing paradigm and way of doing things.

Carmen Oprea – Your professional career combines a doctorate in psychology at Babes Bolyai University, an experience of over 6 years as an associate professor in the National School of Administrative and Political Studies, articles on topics such as communication, occupational and career counseling, and over 10 years of HR management in the shared services industry. How did this experience influence your leadership style?

Daniela Vercellino – I remember my first lesson with the students, about which the coordinating tutor has announced me it the same morning. When I asked what the lecture should be about, he simply told me “about what you want.” I learned from that experience that one must always be prepared, informed, on the subject, but in the same time always allow things to happen spontaneously. Groups can self-organize in a given framework and thus create strong synergies. To summarize, my leadership style is to allow the team members the freedom to organize and come up with their own solutions to the problems that arise. Of course, I do intervene when there are crisis situations or that require specific interventions, but generally I prefer to empower those around me to act by themselves each time they have the opportunity.

Carmen Oprea – I have noticed your passion for working with the young generation through the partnerships developed with universities from Bucharest and all over the country, through internship programs or by attending specific conferences. What is the role of promoting the business environment among young people and what benefits does it bring?

Daniela Vercellino – Young people can bring a fresh and genuine air of passion and motivation, that may have been lost by the elder ones. With this energy, they can positively contaminate the atmosphere within the teams. We have developed an internal program named “Reverse mentorship”. Within this program, young people meet management team members and share their vision and ideas on topical topics they are passionate about. It is fantastic to see their spirit and drive to do things, and in the same time to discover innovative and useful ideas that can support us in changing paradigms.

Carmen Oprea – I have found in your research studies a recurring theme – gender and cultural occupational stereotypes. Are there differences between women and men leadership style? How abou between colleagues of different nationalities? How do they influence the synergy within the teams?

Daniela Vercellino – Contrary of the general opinion, at the management level, there are not necessarily stereotypes of women / men or leadership style differences determined by leader’s gender – female or male. It is more the perception that intervenes at the basic level of the organizational pyramid, where repetitive workload (mass recruitment, massive onboarding, etc) leads to the creation of the stereotype idea. At the level of intercultural diversity, there are major differences between employees with a powerful impact on the teams’ synergies. For each company it is valuable to have multiple gender / nationality spread. Each person has its own motivation and reactions and diverse teams can create that unity in diversity that will lead to evolution and performance.

Carmen Oprea – What does performance represent for you and the SG EBS team?

Daniela Vercellino – For SG EBS the performance should mean first of all the ability to retain qualified and dedicated staff, and then to offer better and better services, to become more and more known at Group level. I think we can perform in the service sector only by recruiting and retaining good quality people. Going further, for me personally, performance represents the degree of openess toward the new, the capacity  to innovate and to be agile. For HR specialists, it means being able to always bring something new, attractive and benefic for employees.

Carmen Oprea – Do you think the novelty maintain the drive and the dedication?

Daniela Vercellino – For the present generations, surely. If we want to keep their drive, we have to bring permanently something interesting and appealing into the working environment. The main reason routine work has been automating is the lower appetite of younger generation’s for repetitive jobs. It is understandable if we consider that teens and children up to 15-16 years old have been raised in a rapid and fast-changing era.

Carmen Oprea – The role of HR departments is constantly changing, they have the mission to support companies both from an administrative point of view (through legislative topics, payroll or personnel administration), but also from a behavior point of view (through motivational/learning/development programs). How does a human resources manager combine these needs into a multinational company as SG EBS?

Daniela Vercellino – In the HR team, there are colleagues specialized for each area and I think this is beneficial and effective, because SG EBS is already a large, complex company, with challenges to measure it. In this context, the classic role of human resources generalists was replaced gradually by specializations and niche jobs to address the current needs of the employees.

Carmen Oprea – Leaders from all industries are constantly concerned with developing human potential. In your point of view, what is the engine driving this potential?

Daniela Vercellino – I would say that this engine is the human DNA, because I do consider that the composition each person is born with is very important and no matter how hard we try to model a preexistent profile, we will not succeed 100%. I do consider that finding and performing those activities that are close to our personality, those we resonate with and we can put our passion into, is the engine that helps us in the continuous development.

It is essential to discover that thing that will interest us, and that something is different from person to person. When we have implemented the Benefit platform for example, we noticed the behavior changes of users over time. Initially, everyone bought meal tickets. Then, there was a change, from meal tickets to transportation, then from transportation to vacations vouchers. Statistics there were no identical orders, given that we are over 2,000 employees in the company. Each had a specific buying behavior, even if a general trend exists. By this example, I wanted to underline the unicity of each individual and this unicity is an important resource of the company as a whole.


Interview by Carmen Oprea | ICF ACC (Associate Certified Coach)