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Utilize the latest technologies and knowledge and become an HR partner with an impact

Strategic HR business partnering on engagement, #career planning, employer #brand, work-life balance, cross generations #talent management, #gamification, #big #data, #social #media, and much more. Explore more in an exciting interview with Brano Varic, an HR President at HRComm and executive HR leader.


Mr. Brano Vargic standing and smiling

Q: HR Business partnership resonates very often in professional forums. Is today's HR already a strategic business partner?

In my opinion, whether or not HR is a strategic partner of the business is directly proportional to what the CEO needs from HR. What does the CEO allow HR to do, how much the CEO trusts HR and the extent to which the CEO will be willing to listen to HR and then consider HR suggestions.


Sometimes certain things can be challenging to listen to the #CEO. On the other hand, the CEO is willing to listen to #HR when HR comes with reasonable and valuable arguments and suggestions, and there is trust between them. The relationship between HR and CEO is, in my opinion, a constant search for fragile symbiosis and balance like in the Italian' marriage. Everything is connected. The July issue of the Harvard Business Review has an excellent article on the subject, which says that "the CEO should create a triumvirate at the top of the organization, including CFO and CHRO. Forming such a team is the single best way to link financial numbers with the people that produce them."


HR has one significant competitive advantage in the context of building a strategic partnership with a business. Given that HR is a cross-corporate function, no one has a chance to know all the corners of the company better than HR. Of course, if you are interested in what is happening at HR. The question then is how HR and CEO can utilize this #knowledge together for the company's benefit. For example, in engagement.


Q:Engaged employees are driving the business. How can HR help companies to improve engagement?

In my opinion, the line manager is primarily responsible for his/ her team engagement. HR can be very supportive to managers, but HR will never solve people engagement on managers' behalf. In other words, engagement is not the topic of HR but the matter of leaders in the organization. On the other hand, HR plays many roles in #engagement. In the first place, HR should be very sensitive and listen to the whole company. To feel what is happening, what affects people's engagement, including working climate, remuneration, #development #opportunities, organizational fatigue, quality of leadership, and much more. Subsequently, HR should know as much as possible from these areas in some form for business quantification, which commonly happens through various surveys.


And last but not least, HR should - assuming the trust of business - along with line managers design #solutions and be an #agent of #change in their implementation. The role of the agent of change, in this case, is on the HR shoulders. But in close cooperation with business. In my opinion, the essential prerequisites for increasing engagements here in the company are two factors - the first is the trust between #HR and business, and the other eliminating the perception that engagement is primarily an HR issue.


Q: Do you agree that properly engaged employees are the company's best ambassadors of its products or services? How can HR contribute?

Absolutely. If people in the company do not believe or question their own company's products, it will be much harder to #engage them. I am not saying that they must be committed fanatics, but they should certainly be proud of their own company's products and contribute to their continuous improvement. In my opinion, #HR has a unique role in the process because it's the HR who helps to hire people for the organization. Today's trend in Employer brand promotion is the collaboration between marketing and HR on creating a company's employer brand. Today, in modern companies, the #Employer #brand is not presented as "come and work for us, because we will offer these benefits," but instead" come and be a part of our vision." In this respect, Steve Jobs was the best employer brand promoter. When hiring the sales director Pepsi John Scully for the Apple CEO role, Jobs asked him, "Do you want to make sugar water all your life, or do you want to change the world with me?" And that's what HR and #marketing should do. To promote and sell ​​corporate spirit. Suppose enthusiasm for the company's vision will be one of the criteria for selecting people. In that case, there is a strong presumption that employees will be the best ambassadors for its products.


Q: Over the last years, the usage of mobile devices and social networks increased rapidly. How can utilizing these technologies help to attract the Millennial generation?

Those who will not use mobile #digital and mobile #recruitment will sooner or later have a huge problem finding candidates. Demographic trends indicate that more than 30 percent of the workforce will be Generation Y in the coming years. At the same time, intelligent devices market saturation surveys show that their penetration will be geometrically growing shortly. If we combine these two pieces of information, it is clear that digital-mobile recruitment is no longer the music of the future but the real thing. Today, in my opinion, the classic job board is an ancient form of recruitment, or in several positions, it will only become a complementary recruitment form. And I also think that "hiring differently" is part of the company's #employer #brand. However, it is necessary to know that digital recruitment also has hidden pitfalls. There is a fragile line between a proper push notification for a job opportunity and annoying SMS, which is coming for the third time and is thus perceived as a "violent" form of sale.


Q: Gamification - a new tool for hiring top talents. What do you think are the benefits and challenges?

Hiring talents using #gamification is one of the new HR tools. HR is slowly moving to this area. There are many others. I can imagine the Assessment center for sales jobs, in which, for example, the game of monopoly is played. From its course, it is possible to identify the #competencies necessary for a trader's position. Today's e-learning training is no longer just "dry presentation," but often complex stories where the exam of the trainee is in the form of a game. The on-boarding process is another adept to gamification or, for example, an internal video game, where employees shoot and publish videos on the intranet about the best examples of behavior based on company #values. I've even seen a mobile application where managers compete in their leadership development to determine who will have the best development plan and implementation. I consider gamification and its use in the company as another element of unique employer branding. The benefit of uniqueness is, in my opinion, an inalienable argument in favor of gamification. Potential arguments against are the relatively high financial investments.


Q: How can Big data help HR to manage talents?

#Big #data has a great potential in HR, but it is not yet – at least in our geographical region - applied to the extent that it could. I think HR bears a part of it because it is more people-oriented than numbers-driven. I guess statistical analysis and working with data is technical competence that HR should quickly develop if it wants to be a strategic business partner. The second major factor why Big data does not bring as much value to HR is the limited amount of investments in IT HR systems. Suppose the company has to decide whether to invest the CAPEX budget in the new HR system (for example, #recruitment smart device application) or a new application or product. How does the company decide in 90 percent of cases? I am not saying that the company should not decide in favor of the client. Still, I think such decisions should have some reasonable ratio, for example, 3: 1. Every 3 euros invested in client systems or products, invest 1 euro in internal systems, including HR. #Big #data, which HR already has today, can lead to fantastic things if adequately analyzed. For example, Big data about external candidates can tell us a lot about who (what profile) in interest to work for us and why. Subsequently, this data can target and segment within the employer value proposition. Or, for example, a detailed analysis of specific information about #successful salesforce can help us define the future profile of the candidates. Not to mention the Big data, which can you can get today from #social #networks.


Q: Babyboomers – Gen X – The Millennials, each of the generation is unique with specific drivers and characteristics. What do you suggest on how to utilize the best of each generation?

I think that there will need to change the paradigm that only young people have the #energy or learn more and faster. I assume that this paradigm shift will link to two elements. The first will be a further extension of the retirement age due to demographics and the sustainability of the social system. The second will not enough candidates in the labor market. For this reason, managing multi-age teams will be one of the essential competencies of the leader, I think. Today we are talking primarily about cultural diversity, but we need to add to the age #diversity.


However, I do not think the essential elements of a leadership role should change. There will be more elements. I mean the skills such as #active #listening, #performance management, people #motivation. Diversity of #skills may be a challenge. If I had to use an example from the family, I will it this way. I actively listen to my children differently than my wife, my friends, my mom. And even though we still talk about competence, it has different forms and shades depending on the target groups.


Mr. Vargic standing having visionary look

Q: Freelancing is quite a popular way of work, especially in IT functions. Some people choose to be freelancers because of the freedom. How will freelancing affect traditional organizational culture?

I think we will see so-called free agents in the companies more and more. In my opinion, companies should not oppose this concept. Still, they should instead consider its fundamental principles - the autonomy of the freelancer and especially the #opportunity to get to know several companies and thus have #knowledge of best practices – companies should learn to benefit from these principles. Many companies are afraid that such an "employee" will "steal" some know-how from them and provide it to another company. I believe we live in a time when it's not a question of whether my competition will copy me or not; the question is just how long it takes.


On the contrary, companies would perceive #freelancers as people who can experience other companies or even economic sectors. Today's most significant #innovations are being made between different - in the past incompatible - economic sectors. Google makes cars today, and Apple is a serious competitor of banks.


Q: How does the work-life balance impact people's motivation and performance?

The impact is growing. The boundaries between work and private life are blurring dramatically quickly. #Technologies allow us to work virtually anytime, anywhere. The #degree of freedom is today one of the most substantial motivating factors. The key to this question is the trust between the company and the employee. In my opinion, at least today in Slovakia, companies trust only a few people. Specifically, even if our employees work from home or where they want, they will do their job on time and well. The concept of #ROWE (results-only work environment) is, in my opinion, the future. Its application clearly shows the link between this principle and increased motivation, performance, and commitment. Of course, nothing is black or white, and there will always be jobs where working from home is impossible. And also, there will always be a group of people who will not know how to work from home only because they will not have the self-motivation to work in an environment with many distractions such as TV, fridge, and others. 😊


Q: What is your opinion on long-term career planning?

A highly complex question. #Career #planning is certainly possible; I think it should be much more balanced in playing a vital role. In my opinion, parents should play a huge role in career planning. A parent should discuss with children career opportunities without having to fulfill the parent's career ambitions. Let's #educate parents in some way on how to make career planning for their children. Secondly, the school, whether primary, secondary, or tertiary, plays a key role. I think it would be within the curriculum and study programs. They should have much more space dedicated to various #diagnostics that would help #students find out who they are, their #motives and #predispositions, what they are interested in, and whatnot. Subsequently, career guidance should base on this information in the form of continuous #feedback. I even think we should leave the traditional marking format and focus on comprehensive assessment and feedback to students and their parents.


Last but not least, the student itself plays a crucial role in career planning. Part of the curricula in higher education schools would be, in my opinion, a separate subject on which students learned to think about their #careers, to determine goals, and to plan their development. All other elements - the parent, school, and company- should help students plan their careers. I did not mention the role of the company by purpose. In my opinion, companies essentially substitute what others — the parent, the school, and the students — do not do. In addition, career planning is a long-term matter, but companies will - logically - look at career planning only from the perspective of the employee life cycle within a company.


Thank you Brano

About Mr. Vargic


Brano Vargic is the President of HRcomm – Association for the management and development of human resources in Slovakia, still recently the director of human resources at Tatra Banka. Today, program manager at Raiffeisen Bank in Prague. Brano studied at Cornell University in the USA and accomplished IESE Business School in Barcelona and Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He completed his postgraduate studies at the Faculty of Management of Comenius University in the Department of Organization and Human Resources Management. He lectures at Universities in Europe and the USA.



A series of MENITY Leaders Talk interviews.

Interview with Mr. Vargic by Mr. Nemcok, a partner at MENITY.

Pictures © MENITY.