Supported by the digital development, work culture is changing at a pace unseen since the Industrial Revolution. To explore what the implications are for the traditional workplace, I decided to talk with HR manager Jenni Alhonen who knows a great deal about hiring and retaining talents.
I’ve been knowing Jenni since my master studies in Sweden. For as long as I remember, she has always been so fascinated by human beings to specialize in HR management. Over the years, I’ve been inspired by her employment journey in organizations that fit her core values.
In this interview with Jenni, we talk about the process of hiring talents, the requirements needed to thrive today, and the challenges of eating at work today.
Tell us about you.
After gaining five years experience in various HR positions in multinational and small companies in Germany and Finland, today I work as a recruitment consultant at one of Europe’s biggest personnel service providers.
My tasks include searching for the right candidates and staff for projects lasting from one month up to one and a half years. My team and I specialize in headhunting IT freelancers based in Germany. We mostly work with IT developers, admins, and project managers.
I appreciate the fast-paced working culture, the team spirit, and the hands-on mentality of my current workplace. It is also the reason why I chose to work for this company. I enjoy providing solutions for our customers when they are looking for experts for their projects as well as providing exciting projects for the experts.
In which way does work change and what can we expect to see in the future?
As a headhunter, I recognize this shift in how companies hire talents. Business used to outsource maternity leave or sick leave covers to personnel service providers. Nowadays outsourcing also happens for highly qualified professionals for projects or interim management.
In the future, I believe this trend will continue to evolve. The personnel departments aren’t growing, and they don’t necessarily have enough time and resources to conduct the hiring process in-house.
Nowadays people tend to choose a company based on value fit rather than salary expectations. What is your experience?
My personal experience proves this. During the last interview for this job, I had the opportunity to attend a daily meeting at my department. When I saw how the employees communicated with each other, I knew right away that the culture would be a perfect fit. Most of the companies have a vision, some even a manifesto. However, in my work experience, I haven’t seen any that live by their values. Perhaps, those are regarded more as guidelines and goals rather values embedded in the company culture every day.
Which factors do professionals consider as crucial in choosing the best company?
The most important factors for freelancers are location and interesting tasks. I assume that compelling jobs, culture, and salary would influence employees who are looking for a longer term employment.
In which way does the current work shift affect the physical spaces where we work?
Many believe that traditional offices won’t exist anymore in the future since white-collars can work anywhere with their laptops. That is true for IT professionals. However, there are many professions and tasks, like project management and consulting, that require regular communication with colleagues and clients.
Besides, a physical workplace is essential to create an environment where to bond and to connect with peers, which is still an issue with remote work. The way work is changing has affected the workplace interior design. For instance, some companies have rejected the standard desk format to offer a variety of settings aligned with people’s activities and needs. That results in proven benefits for their creativity and productivity. On the other hand, we see a growing demand for the old-school private office space as opposed to open working spaces.
Which employer will be successful in retaining their employees in the long run?
Employers who truly care about their employees’ wellbeing will be successful over the long term. Work-life balance seems to be more important for the young generations. Until a few years ago, whoever stayed longer at the office was praised. But not anymore with countries like Sweden introducing the six-hour working day.
Flexible working hours and the possibility to work from home some days a week or every day will be very common. Of course, if some people want to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and commute daily to the office, this should also be possible. Flexibility will be a critical asset to organize work. In my current job, I have a core working time from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, which we call “productive oriented working hours.” It means that if you have accomplished your tasks, you are free to go home. If not, you should stay longer. This approach is more based on productivity rather than counting the hours.
Which kinds of challenges does an HR manager face at the moment?
At the moment, the labor market functions well, and there are not many people looking for a job. It isn’t always easy to find an available expert with the desired skills. Often the candidates wish me luck in my search. I appreciate their kindness, but their response shows that they understand how in-demand they are in the market.
Sleep, fitness, and nutrition are the three pillars of people’s well-being. How, in your experience, do you see these gaining traction to enhance employee wellbeing?
Many of my colleagues come to work around 9 a.m. to be able to sleep a bit longer, especially in winter. Also, many of them bring their kids to the kindergarten before coming to work. If there’s any delay, they can just call and say that they come a bit later. Flexible working time also allows doing sport in “unusual” times. Our department chief goes to the gym during the lunch break and returns to work a bit after everybody else.
Regarding eating, our office is in the city center. Nearby there’re plenty of different options where to eat. It’s up to the individual to choose whether they want to bring their food or go to a restaurant.
Sometimes we also have team lunches in restaurants. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know my colleagues outside the working environment. That enhances the team spirit, which, of course, is also the purpose of these moments around the table.
As a person with diabetes, you might need some small changes at your workplace so you can continue to succeed at your job. What is your experience?
In my daily work, I don’t have to worry about diabetes. The only exception is stressful situations–stress raises the blood sugar level–but they are difficult to foresee, and therefore you cannot do anything about them. I regularly have to time to time check my blood glucose level but it takes maybe 15 seconds, and I can do it at my desk.
Which tips would you give a business owner who plans to integrate a dedicated food space to engage the employees and increase their quality of life?
Do everything in another way than my employer! Our kitchen (called “Lounge”) is the allocated place to eat your food, which you can take from home or a restaurant. The Lounge is either empty or so full that it’s impossible to get a seat. If it’s crowded, it gets noisy. Since we’re working in an open space office, I’d love to have my break in a quiet area. On the other hand, I don’t want to sit alone in a big kitchen. To warm up the food, we have two microwaves, but they are incredibly slow, and only the plate gets hot, not the food. Also, the kitchen could be tidier, but I can’t blame my employer. Everybody should make sure to clean up after them.
I guess the poor planning is one of the reasons why most colleagues choose to eat outside but in the long run, it becomes expensive. A potential solution could be to rethink the space –smaller rooms or a big one with noise-absorbing walls would make it more enjoyable. Besides, there could be more (new) microwaves and even a stove if someone wants to cook their food there.