March 2020, a pandemic, a crisis … The Pro-Trade company, like many others, fell apart. But in the end, the year showed even a slight increase. The founder of Pro-Trade, Oleg Nadin, is confident that solutions in personnel management that he had not tried before helped. Take a look and try to apply – what if they really are the secret of success?
– We entered 2020 with a good order base. Everything promised a successful year, and our actions in January-February were aimed at increasing profits. We actively attracted employees, planned advertising and promotion costs. In March, everything suddenly began to “pour in”. A continuous stream of problems began that needed to be addressed on the fly.
This is not the first difficult year in the life of the company – for 27 years of work in Belarus, we have found ourselves in various critical situations. Usually the first solution in this case was the introduction of severe restrictions: staff cuts, salaries, and the closure of unprofitable branches. Of course, I have always explained that these are temporary measures, we will definitely withstand and even improve our position in the market. But instead of understanding, he received only dull looks, lowered hands and almost complete uncontrollability. This year I decided to do things differently. I understood that in a crisis of unpredictable depth, the stake should be placed on the company’s ability to quickly respond to a changing situation.
In April, I listened to a webinar by Veronica Kopeck, a renowned HR business coach. She said that the peculiarity of this crisis is that it is complex and threatens from all sides, including the health and well-being of every person. And the main priority for the company should be concern for the safety of its employees.
Read also: Are you sure you are not stepping on this rake? This is how you cannot manage employees in a crisis
Either out of curiosity, or out of despair, I made the decision to do just that, and we practically did not forcefully lay off anyone. In practice, this was not easy to implement, but, as you can see now, it turned out to be effective. In March, we just wanted to survive for ourselves, and as a result, we not only stand confidently on our feet, but also show small growth. It is the work with personnel that I see as the main victory for 2020. I will share in more detail …
What have we changed in the work with personnel
1. Kept in the loop.
The usual format of meetings became unavailable due to the pandemic, and I started writing newsletters and sending them out to the entire company. He wrote about the current market situation, what it means for us and what we will do to improve the situation, including in the coming week. Such letters are a very time-consuming thing, one letter takes 1-2 hours. But on the other hand, all employees have their finger on the pulse and know why certain decisions are made.
2. Developed a personnel reserve.
We encourage the desire to learn. There is even an internal school of management (VShU) for managers and “young people”. Previously, external consultants and coaches often spoke there, but due to a lack of time and money, now only I speak. The project reflects one of the main principles of the company – the desire for self-development.
We create conditions for the application of new knowledge.
We are also very interested in the career development of our employees. Sometimes this career progression happens in unexpected ways.
For example, one of our employees of the sales department after refresher courses came with a letter of resignation. It seemed to her that with the same efforts she could earn more in some other place. But the manager, instead of persuading or simply increasing the remuneration, suggested that she expand her range of responsibilities – add the administration of daily procedures – and take the position of deputy manager. The move turned out to be successful: it increased the potential of the entire trading team and even had a positive effect on the financial result.
3. Worked on bugs.
Since April 2020, we have not charged a single penny from employees who made serious mistakes. But they definitely found time to analyze them.
For example, in our work we use a special furniture order form. Previously, it was inconvenient and unreadable, which is why, among other things, because of this, we have produced rectangular office tables for Chinese customers, although according to their traditions, they should only be square. The order was returned, we made new tables, suffered losses. They began to find out why this happened. There was, of course, guilt and an inattentive employee who processed the form, and we decided that such a risk in the future was worth averting.
So we have a new convenient special order form in the form of a table, in which a specialist simply selects the required product parameters: material, thickness, color, and so on. We have increased the space for rendering the sketch and added a prominent field for special requests. As a result, we have not only reduced the number of errors, but also increased the number of orders through a more “user-friendly” form.
4. Hired initiative to replace the disappointed.
Despite the decision not to lay off anyone, there was still a staff outflow. We were forced to reorganize from the format of a systematically working company to the format of a creative laboratory – with not always clear plans, not always regulated workload, a constantly large number of new tasks and the search for solutions. For such work, people-enthusiasts were needed. A process of careful and controlled replacement of personnel began. We changed the disaffected people who came to the office just to spend time there. Of course, they were experienced and literate, but no longer had the desire to implement something new.
The best way to test employee motivation is to assign them a non-routine task. A tired employee will talk about why it is impossible to do this, or will try to shift the work onto someone else. And those who want to develop will ask: “How to do this?” or “Who can help me with this?”
2020 just accelerated the process of leaving “tired” employees. And we need people who are interested, sparkling, ready to sacrifice their comfort for a new experience. Most often these are new people.
And I immediately warn candidates at the interview that our job is not for those who are used to a stable life. Overtime and even wage delays occur. We may not be suitable for those who are already more interested in “harvesting” from their knowledge and skills. But we are almost an ideal place for those who want to invest in themselves, grow themselves with the company.
How did our decisions affect the team?
All these steps helped the team cheer up. Profit dynamics compared to last year was not very impressive, but still positive. In terms of teamwork, we have worked as great as ever. We really managed to get closer to the one for all and all for one dream team.
Of course, there were “fires”. But there were also “fire brigades” who helped to extinguish them. Many employees took up other people’s responsibilities, went to work instead of sick colleagues, sometimes not even according to their qualifications.
Once it happened that all the fittings assemblers were on sick leave (pandemic!). But orders are still in progress, and no one has canceled our obligations to customers. Then an office worker came up to me and said: “I was doing something similar in my previous job, let’s try to cope.” And so they, together with the head of logistics, closed this gap. Not without errors, of course, but with full dedication. As a result, the customers received everything on time. And we tried to fix the mistakes promptly.
Such cases became possible because the share of proactive and responsible employees constituted a critical mass throughout the company. The others followed them.
Someone might blame me for being fascinated by new employees. But in a new employee there is always an opportunity for the company. This is a chance to change even the most ossified process.
5 rules for managing personnel in a crisis from Oleg Nadin:
Keep the team informed, involve in the process
Don’t be afraid to part with those who are disappointed and tired.
Hire people who want to invest in themselves
Empower your people to grow and apply the knowledge gained
An error is a reason to investigate the problem
What will allow the company to grow in 2021
The crisis continues – but we remain in it with the energy and desire to work hard. Although it must be admitted that our business has long become very traditional in a very unconventional time. And if you don’t change your product, then no team can pull it off. Therefore, we are gradually changing our directions.
Today we focus on large projects with individual designs. Given that the market is going through hard times now, here are three areas in which we also see the future for ourselves:
It is clear that remote work is a format of work that will stay with us for a long time. After our employee earned herself severe sciatica, having worked sideways on the sofa, we announced a competition in the company for the best project for a home office. Each was asked to draw the furniture that he would need. We promised to present five winners with furniture according to their design.
This is how we got the starting ideas for work for the “Home Office” direction. These ideas are valuable because they were made on the example of the most ordinary one-room-two in panel houses, where there is not so much space to equip a whole office for yourself. Such workplaces should be as compact as possible, while in no case losing their functionality and convenience. With our convertible coffee table, we went through four prototypes until we found a variant that met these requirements without compromise.
A completely new niche for us, but with great prospects. Now we are developing whole programs of furniture for shopping centers, brand stores.
Despite the fact that the hotel business is going through hard times, we still have quite large projects that were started before 2020.