How have we continued our work since the war started?

Mila Poberezhniuk
HR People Partner

My name is Mila, and I have been working and developing in HR for over 15 years. Neither my colleagues nor I could have imagined that we would have to face war in these years. As HR professionals, we worry about our team and employees in addition to ourselves and our families. Since 5 a.m. on February 24, we have been working for our colleagues' safety and peace of mind. This article is about the experience of adapting, making decisions, and being proactive during the war. Moreover, I am going to tell you how we evacuated people, changed communication, and how we keep recruiting our compatriots in Ukraine and abroad.

Old methods don't work when you're in a new reality.

Risk Management Project Before the War

Even before the war started, we started developing a risk management project. We created conditions for working abroad and analyzed living standards and prices in the nearest countries. We chose Bulgaria for its informational, technical, and legal assistance and developed a program of business trips to Bulgaria for 1-3 months for those who wished.

Also, most of our Odessa team was quite comfortable moving to Varna and Sofia. We began sending employees there about two weeks before the active invasion of Ukraine. By February 24, about 100 employees had already moved to Bulgaria.

The outbreak of war

From 6 a.m. on February 24, we kept in touch with our colleagues, providing information about the company's actions in this challenging situation we all found ourselves in. Our administrative team worked for more than 18 hours that day, processing all requests from colleagues and working on an action plan.

Our office manager gathered the information from all possible channels and websites to help Ukrainians, tracked the data, filtered it, and posted to the team only what was published with a phone number and no prepayment. More than 200 staff members could get out of the hot spots thanks to this.

But there has also been a hard experience. On February 24, in her own words, our office manager had the most challenging issue in her career in the company. As I mentioned earlier, we were collecting requests from employees to help, and our colleague from Kharkiv asked us to help. On the first day of the war, she ran out of water. At that time, finding water and food was an impossible task. All the stores and deliveries resumed their work only after a few days. So, our office manager was looking for a solution for two days: she called Uklon, Bolt, Glovo, and all delivery services (more than 25 in total), but nobody could deliver water. That was the situation we could not solve, though we were trying with all our might. We kept in touch with that employee and kept her informed. We were in close contact with her, and she thanked us for trying to do our best.

The transformation from within

One of the company's core values is flexibility. We transformed the following processes first and foremost:

Communication

First, we published and explained the communication plan in the company: how the information is transferred from an employee to the CEO, with whom and what questions to discuss, who is responsible for what, phone numbers of responsible persons.

We started conducting weekly general meetings with the CEO about the status and current issues of the company. Anyone can come forward with a question or suggestion.

We organized weekly informative rallies of team leaders with human resources to keep all teams in the same information field and to know all updates and decisions made in the company.

Daily rallies are held between teams, where the simple question "How are you?" is an opportunity to support each other and hear the good news when someone got out of the hot spots where battles are being fought or to know the team's psychological state and make critical decisions when they need help.

Start a daily debriefing for all employees. Take 2 minutes daily to know everyone's safe state asking them: How are you? What about your children? Do you need any help?

Salaries

Since the beginning, we have guaranteed the employees that salaries will be on time. That was our priority. We could not allow ourselves to leave people without money during the war. The employees, who had gone to Bulgaria before the war started, reported some problems with payment: PayPass didn't work, or they couldn't get cash out in some places. To solve these problems, the finance department gathered all these issues and started looking for a possible payment alternative, especially in case of failures in the work of PrivatBank. Our financial specialists analyzed available systems and chose Wise. We opened accounts in about a week. We are using it as Monobank abroad if we need to make transfers to each other, rent a house, or buy groceries.

Devices

All our work was focused on the issue of computers and laptops. In Ukraine, it was easy to send the necessary job equipment anywhere. For the staff members who left Ukraine before the war, we provided extra laptops or thin clients to monitors so that everyone could be as mobile as possible. We've faced the case when computers and related equipment that the employees have started packing in a go-bag. Everyone wants to stay connected and keep working, no matter how the situation happens next.

At the very beginning of the war, when people were evacuating from the hot spots, they needed to come to the office and pick up a few laptops/monitors for colleagues who hadn't had such an opportunity. However, we hadn't envisioned such a function at first. It was where team spirit, values, and support came into play.

At the same time, our IT department continues to work, technically supporting employees. I know there have been cases when equipment has already been bought abroad. Since our work is tied to a good Internet connection and a computer, we struggle to provide that as much as possible.

Hiring

We continue full-time work and hiring from the very beginning. Doubtless, we faced the expected lull during the first few weeks. People weren't up to it before. However, it allowed us to transform the system. We, like many companies, work in Ukraine with the U.S. market. So, the business we're working with is still functioning. Accordingly, we can still provide jobs for people in Ukraine. In addition, the company has a referral program, and our employees help their unemployed friends and acquaintances to become employed. These efforts are critical today when many specialists have lost their jobs.

The stages of the selection process are an English test and an interview. Then a candidate is invited to join a free training course after which he/she has all the necessary skills to start working in a few weeks. During the month of the war, we received more than 3,300 applications.

Of course, we have also changed our advertising communication. We are still getting leads from targeted ads, social media, media partnerships, and email marketing. However, the messaging and geolocation are somewhat transformed. We are now working with Ukrainians moving to Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland. Accordingly, our targeted ads are intended to reach these countries. We removed the Russian language from A/B-testing entirely, and we are now communicating in English or Ukrainian only. Now we are trying to complete a remarkably detailed description of positions and the terms of cooperation at the first contact with a lead. We are doing our best to support the Ukrainian economy and our compatriots.

My predictions for the development of the labor market

It is crucial to support our compatriots both in Ukraine and abroad. Our company has been working remotely since the lockdown began. Employees themselves play a significant role in hiring personnel through the referral program when they help their friends or acquaintances by recommending our working and payment conditions. So, the focus of our business processes turned to support our employees both at home and abroad.

All areas of life are affected by the new reality of war. And, again, the old methods are ineffective here. Some jobs are becoming irrelevant, for instance, office work, work in regions where there is active fighting, and many other jobs that are impossible to do today or not needed.

The most important professional and personal skills are those focused on supporting each other: defense, shelter, reinforcement, prevention, etc. Anything needed to maintain human security of life in war or displacement is valuable.

In addition to professional skills, hobbies can help you find a job: and discover your potential. For example, I usually take a few hours of drawing before I start work to help congratulate birthday boys and girls worldwide, and I ask that the money for the drawings be donated to the Ukrainian Armed Forces or volunteer organizations.

The following is the post in our native language, which is especially relevant: Since the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine, the number of people who learn Ukrainian on Duolingo has increased by 577% worldwide.

Appreciate and support our people. Help your friends and acquaintances in Ukraine and abroad with jobs and information about it. We have to continue doing business together in Ukraine, believe in victory, and do everything to accelerate it, win back our cities, build what we have lost, and rebuild our economy. And for that, we need our talented and motivated compatriots.

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