[Interview Done in June 2020]
I had the chance to have a chat with Minka Driessen - Group Manager People Development @ SBM offshore. The company has around 4.400 people worldwide spread over offices in their key markets, operational shore bases and offshore fleet of vessels.
"It's a very challenging time" says Minka "because the worldwide, economical crisis has of course also a big impact on our business. Oil prices were already low before COVID19 and it will be a challenge to keep our business steady in these strange times."
Next to the economical consquences, an important element for HR is supporting the exit-strategy where people are allowed in the offices again. One of our core-values is 'Care' and taking care of our people is more than ever important at this moment. We try to look at individual situations to create a smooth and safe work environment (eg a parent with 3 small kids might prefer to get back to the office where a single person prefers to work a bit longer from home).
And we are looking what new competencies are needed for the post-corona-world. We're quite sure that leadership at a distance requires a different skills et then leading a team in an office and we have to make sure that our leaders get access to improve those skills.
We need new competences for the post corona world
Next to the negative elements of this crisis, we have also seen beautiful initiatives. It was great to see that several collagues started to organise online social meetups (and in the Netherlands - the 'vrimibo' is very famous (friday afternoon drinks)). And suddenly, there was a sense of urgency for online tools and applications. Some colleagues were already trying years to get started with these kind of initiatives but it was hard work to get the right attention. This changed in a few days time where all at once, the whole organisation was interested in those tools. Great to see that those people also stepped up and took the lead.
As an organisation, we focussed in the first weeks more on dealing with the uncertainty of people instead of focussing on productivity. Our leadership team got support to spend extra time on people issues. And we were able to launch a global social network between our employees where they could share some things from their personal lives. Eg One colleague from Monaco shared that he had installed a cycling home trainer to make sure that he would make at least the same distance that he normally would cycle from home to his work. The sharing of these kind of personal stories created a social bonding between our people.
The organisation is quite a technical operational environment with lots of engineers who love structure and hierarchy but one of the positive elements is that managers have experienced first hand that they can trust their team members if they are working from home. Productivity stayed at the same level or even improved. Hopefully this can also lead to get rid of some bureaucratic procedures and systems in the long run.
Trust in team members working home has increased
One of the HR initiatives that we want to 'lighten up' are our annual peoplereviews. This process is always quite a big challenge in large international organisation but this year, we strive to launch a 'light' version where we give our leaders a clear vision of the end-result that we expect and give them some guidelines of the playing field but leave the exact shape and form how they do it open. Some people will probably come back to us in need of a more detailed process where others will take full responsibility and create a process that works for them. We're curious how this will work.