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Impact of COVID-19 on the company and employees
27.08.20 4 min to read
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Maria Tsihotska The Ukrainian association of business leaders
Valeria Zagoruiko HR Director of ACADEMY SMART

The Ukrainian association of business leaders interviewed with Valeria Zagoruiko, HR Director of ACADEMY SMART, about the impact of COVID-19 quarantines on the company and employees, as well as the positive aspects of the crisis.

COVID-19 has put the business in many countries literally on the verge of survival. How does your company plan to survive this period? 

 The Coronavirus epidemic has affected the work of almost all companies and the IT sector was no exception. The current situation has made it clear that people remain the key capital of the organization. As for ACADEMY SMART – we almost didn’t lose customers, some of them even expanded. We haven’t made any staff cuts, but, like most companies, we have implemented more rigorous cost optimization without attracting a salary fund. In my opinion, the IT segment is in a rather advantageous position, among other areas, because it has the advantage to being able to still have work conducted remotely.

Did you switch to remote work? How have you been affected by this change?

Remote work is a new reality for all IT companies in general. Corporations like Google or Facebook don’t plan to return to the office at least until the New Year. For our employees, switching to remote work wasn’t too shocking news. Some employees who didn’t practice remote work felt a certain discomfort, and we tried to make the transition as painless as possible. Some employees, if necessary, continued to come to the office, observing all recommendations of the Ministry of Health. According to our analysis, the overall quality didn’t deteriorate.

What is your recipe to survive the global pandemic and economic crisis?

Let’s be frank, there are no universal recommendations on personnel management during the crisis period, so the main questions we can quickly find answers are to:“What are we doing?” and “How are we doing?” A clear understanding of the availability of current resources allows us to respond quickly and effectively. For the company, quarantine became a point of no return for many projects that had to be postponed. Now we continue to actively transform our processes under new conditions. The main things we are focusing on are business optimization in case different development scenarios occur, maximum formalization of processes, and the readiness of the company for possible new challenges related to the epidemic.

What is the quarantine info spam for you? Did it have an impact on you?

In my opinion, in this case, it is necessary to develop critical thinking and filter information, which is now freely available. In this situation, it is logical to trust official statements, as well as to monitor foreign news sources. As for the office work – we follow the official recommendations of the Ministry of Health, we communicate with our employees about their wishes, suggestions, and fears. Timely and complete feedback gives good results.

What innovations have appeared in your company under the action of quarantine?

Most of our staff work remotely, some in the office. If this mode of operation will affect your productivity, we can review it. Now we are looking for more relevant and modern means of communication within the company, which will help employees to communicate more efficiently and in a more automated way.

Do you carry out certification of your employees (training, professional development), do you require certificates when hiring? How important is the phrase “it’s never too late to learn” for you? 

Training and development are some of the priorities of the company. We need to develop employees inside the company for many reasons – it is not always possible to find the necessary specialists outside quickly, and the loyalty and cohesion of all existing teams are much higher. Besides, we need to make employees feel comfortable and in demand, especially in such difficult times. The IT sphere is developing rather rapidly, so we need to develop at the speed of the market, and sometimes a few steps ahead. We have events such as Tech-talks, where experts share their experience, and we also invite external speakers to help improve the skills of our employees. There is a system of compensation for external training at the request of an employee, focusing on the goals of the company. As for the interview – we do not require certificates but pay more attention to the practical skills of the candidate, relevant experience, and of course, we focus on soft-skills. However, passing certification by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. – adds bonus points to a potential employee and favorably distinguishes him/her among other candidates.

What have you learned from the crisis? 

It seems to me that nowadays most of us have re-examined our attitude towards our health and safety, and some have tried to broadcast the importance of  actions of those around us. I was no such action around us, I was no exception. Employee safety should be a key priority for the company, and as a subsequent result, the need to create effective communication policies and develop online communication channels. The second point I “take with me” is flexibility and the ability to see opportunities,to not collapse, in negative moments. New challenges can make us weak if we are not ready to work with them, or they can cause us to step up and overcome complex situations. I choose the second one.

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