In this interview, we talked with Svetlana Gildebrandt, VP of People, Culture and Engagement at Innovecs. She is an experienced HR professional with strong work ethic, and deep experience working in a multicultural environment in big corporations.
Innovecs: Successful businesses are those that attract, develop, motivate and retain the best people. What are your key tools to achieve this in IT business?
SG: IT business is a highly competitive one and constantly experiences a lack of talented and loyal emloyees, therefore, the initiatives of attraction and retention have the highest level of priority for successful IT companies. The key tool is arranging the environment that allows employees feel and see their job as meaningful and with prospects to grow. In the meantime, salary should be on the level with the market so the employee is not interested in considering other opportunities. High responsibility here lies in the hands of the direct manager of an employee who links the company with employee and HR who helps manager to develop his teams and suggest options addressing teams’ specific needs.
Innovecs: How can companies successfully manage the performance of their staff that is outsourced to other countries?
SG: If we speak about people management, the outcome expected by both the outsourcing company and its client are to ensure their teams are happy while working on a specific project and that they deliver work of expected quality. To achieve this common goal, we at Innovecs speak with our clients to suggest the tools to follow teams’ performance that also require our client’s involvement. Having regular mutual feedback sharing process is one of the things that helps identify performance issues as soon as they emerge.
Innovecs: Can you name five effective management practices of IT leaders? How can you become a better manager?
SG: There are different leaders, and each of them has their way to work with their teams. At the same time, there are some tips to keep in mind once you see yourself as a great leader. Great leaders are those who practice what they preach which means you need to be exemplary for your teams. Praise your teams when they deserve it and be open and transparent when you need to provide feedback that is not that nice to hear but is still constructive. Whatever the role is, respect your teams and their contribution, be ready to listen to them when their opinion is different from yours. Not necessarily each of your team members will be constantly happy with all project (and not only) related decisions, but they need to know that they can initiate changes. And last but not the least – let your teams know where the company is going and help them understand their role in it. When they have clarity of the processes, and are empowered you’ll need to spend less time engaging with your teams.
Innovecs: Where do you get your inspiration to introduce new people management practices? What conferences/events do you attend?
SG: There are so many online and offline resources nowadays to get inspiration from! To be honest, the most inspiration I get day to day is while meeting with my colleagues, ex-colleagues, my team, clients, etc. There are so many fresh thoughts that you can put into practice right away. Apart from that, I enjoy visiting global conferences within gamedev and IT industry, like GDC in Cologne or San Francisco that are very useful not only from networking perspective but also to get the latest updates specifically on management practices in the industry.
Innovecs: Can you tell a few words about your W@W program that is aimed to thank and reward employees. How did this program start and is it successful in boosting people’s morale?
SG: W@W program had started before I joined the company and we still do our best to enhance it. We look forward not only to keep it the way it is now but also keep in mind some new great initiatives for 2017 to enhance it and promote healthy lifestyle beyond. I will be happy to tell more in April when we plan a W@W program relaunch. It also has a special recognition outside Innovecs as the program received HR Branding award back in 2015 so this focus on healthy lifestyle is of great interest and is supported by other companies in the industry.
Innovecs: What about monetary incentives. Do they help employees be more vigorously committed to company’s success?
SG: Unsurprisingly, salary is one of the top factors that influence employees’ productivity. At the same time, according to the Genesis Associates survey, apart from salary worries teams are interested in other incentives like extra time off and paid vacation. For every team, you need to understand what are key drivers for them and once you’ve done this research, you can create a comp & ben program that fits with their interests. To me though motivation is more the result of internal factors and even with regular salary increases, employees who are not driven by their project will unlikely to perform better. So before starting with the comp & ben program development, hire those people who are passionate about what they do.
Innovecs: Agile practices are being introduced and cherished all over the IT business. Does such flexibility really help in achieving goals?
SG: I think there is no better way to answer a changing and volatile environment than introducing a process that puts agility and customers needs at the forefront. Being agile doesn’t mean that there is no process in place, it just has more regular iterations and a highly flexible approach towards planning. In the IT industry, a lot depends on how the customers perceive the project, therefore, I think planning considering clients’ feedback really helps.
Innovecs: Not every employee fits the bill, especially when you have to manage over 300 people in one office. What are the disciplinary measures, if any, that work well in IT outsourcing?
SG: IT industry is more about quality rather than some hours you spend in the office, but at the same time, it is about teamwork and collaboration. From project to project, we need to work as one and this involves specific work schedule overlaps. If the employee doesn’t follow the schedule, we have to explain why it is important and how such absences may harm the project. If there are no improvements in the area, we can think about replacing these employees and placing them in the project that allows more flexibility, a project where we need an individual contribution rather than a team effort. I am sure there are some ways to use the knowledge and experience of such specific employees without making them leave the company in such cases.
Innovecs: Finally, providing regular and meaningful feedback is of the essence. What are the advantages of good employee communication and what are the best ways to improve communication between management and employees?
SG: In my previous interview about employee engagement, I made specific points regarding the importance of communication, its channels and the way we arrange communication processes within Innovecs. I can just add that having a clear, transparent communication strategy, as well as accessibility of top management whenever questions arise is an essential component and a powerful tool in people management.