We had an enlightening exchange a little while ago with Madalina Anghel, Human Resources Manager at Anais Digital. With offices in Brussels and Bucharest, Anais Digital is a unique digital agency that combines expertise in User Experience, Lean Analytics and agile development to offer their clients solutions that their customers will love. Consequently, finding and keeping top talent is a crucial element of Anais's success. The multi-talented Madalina, who is also Managing Partner at architectural design and planning firm Atelier de Urbanism Manuela Negrila, has been helping Anais recruit and retain top talent for nearly six years.
What follows is an abridged version of our back and forth.
Tell me a little about yourself and your work in the recruiting field.
I started as an IT recruiter five and a half years ago and this job has kept me constantly busy. I saw a lot of changes working in a niche field recruiting junior and senior software developers, quality assurance engineers, and even business analysts and IT project managers. The approach to recruitment was a bit unlike any other approaches one might have on other recruitment fields.
How would you define your recruiting strategy before COVID?
The recruitment strategy as I see it now before COVID was a bit ‘old-school’ even for such a modern field as software development. We would target specific candidates based on their location and skills, have them in our office for interviews and then sign a deal with them to join us in whatever country we had our business in.
How has COVID changed how you operated?
It forced us to leave out the focus we had on the location of certain candidates and everything we thought we knew of how recruitment worked in certain areas of the country had to be forgotten. It gave us a certain amount of freedom in a sense, but at the same time we had to re-think everything we did. So, we had to change the way we interviewed people, the way we negotiate contracts and the way we plan our benefits package.
Were you one of the millions of businesses having to adapt to suddenly going remote?
Yes, absolutely. We were used to working remotely to a certain degree and running parts of the business remotely, but having everything move ‘’out of the office’’ or ‘’out of the building’’ was something very real and concrete that we had to face and adapt to quickly.
What were the challenges? More IT related or more culture and process?
The challenges were both in logistics and in the company culture. We had to ship equipment, to make sure everyone had the best working environment at home and to make sure everyone understood the new way of working. Our processes changed a bit, our style of communication had to adapt. We got more used to having online meetings and using tools that allowed everyone to see where every bit of information could be found globally. We also had to make sure we still maintained the work-life balance. In the beginning, it was an unexpected challenge to rebuild a routine in order to differentiate between home and office when both happened in the same space.
“The big challenge going forward is going to be the competitiveness employers are going to face as candidates are going to have even more options when choosing their team.”
Ultimately, how do you think this shift has impacted your recruiting? Made it easier or much harder? What are the big challenges going forward?
I believe this improved the way recruitment is done, giving us more options. Our company was always open to change and everyone quickly adapted to the shift. Recruitment now is different for sure, but I wouldn’t say it’s harder. It is so much easier to work with people all around the world as Covid happened to all of us and made everyone switch to a new way of acting on the job market. The big challenge going forward is going to be the competitiveness employers are going to face as candidates are going to have even more options when choosing their team. Everyone is going to have to fight even more to be attractive, to have a great benefits package, to offer the right resources to people, to become even more visible as a brand and to adapt their internal policies to accommodate remote work.
How has the change to working remotely impacted your culture?
Anais Digital always had a culture that supported transparency, open communication and collaboration between teams and individuals. Our culture was perfect for the change Covid imposed so all we had to do was switch to video call meetings instead of meetings in conference rooms and having online coffee talks instead of chats by the water cooler. We also already had the tools that allowed us to work with teams that were spread out globally as we have been working with clients and their teams in Western Europe since 2005. We were also always welcome to extend our core team with talented people from all countries.
“The lack of ability to keep up good communication with the employees and with keeping up the visibility on the market will lower the retention rate no matter where people work from.”
Do you think you are seeing better employee retention working from home?
Retention has always been based on the company’s ability to adapt to the changes happening in the market. Retention depends a lot on the level of communication present within the team to make sure people are motivated enough and on the connection the company has with what’s happening with its competitors. The lack of ability to keep up good communication with the employees and with keeping up the visibility on the market will lower the retention rate no matter where people work from. In Anais Digital the retention rate has been kept up even during the pandemic. We also managed to hire more people during the pandemic as it gave us the option to not be so limited to location anymore.
“We certainly threw out the window the option where things are going to work as they did before, meaning to have everyone present in the office Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.”
Lastly, people are talking about the “Great Resignation” wave - are you seeing that impact your company? Are there any tips you can share on how you are proactively addressing that?
The ‘’Great Resignation’’ wave has not been affecting us as of yet, luckily, as we adapted to the changes in the market and to people’s needs. To make sure that the wave will not be affecting us we conducted internal surveys to see how people want to work, what motivates them during the pandemic, what is most important for them during this time and how the company can help them. We also had management meetings to discuss how we can fully adapt our business to the remote era and how to make sure we remain competitive on the job market. We certainly threw out the window the option where things are going to work as they did before, meaning to have everyone present in the office Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.
A special thank you to Madalina for lending us her perspective from across the pond!
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