MEMBER IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Professional HR Agency

Interview with Cristina PASAT, General Manager

1. First of all… why Human Resources services?

We started Professional business in human resources field over 25 years ago, therefore, I can say that we are the first local company to provide such services on the Romanian market. The goal we set out was to provide services at high quality standards and to become a partner for both human resources departments of customer companies and for candidates. I can say that we have managed to achieve this goal, which is why we are among the top providers in the field of human resources in Romania, having the ability to provide a wide range of services nationally and regionally thanks to the network of local and international branches.

We have chosen to develop our services in the area of human resources, starting from the premise that people are the most valuable component in a company and the most important factor in terms of business development. Therefore, we offer customized service solutions based on specific working methodologies that focus on both the needs of customers and people.

2. What challenges should be taken into consideration by a new company in the industry?

The human resources department has become a strategic partner for business, in this context, human resources functions have evolved and diversified, becoming now quite complex and in line with the technological trends related to the digitization of flows and processes. Thus, for a human resources service provider at the beginning of the road, one of the challenges is to offer services adapted to the current standards at which the HR departments operate, which implies a significant investment cost. In addition, in order to provide a quality service, very well-trained employees in the field are needed, people willing to get involved and contribute to the development of the business together with the entrepreneur.

Also, from a competitive point of view, it is important for a new supplier on this market to identify those elements that may differentiate it and that are integrated in the working methodologies.

At the same time, like any other business, in our field, the risks, the investment of time and the ability to lead the business firmly must be taken into account, while maintaining a favorable and attractive working environment for employees.

 3. Is the Romanian market ready for outsourcing in HR?

Considering that Professional is the oldest local initiative in the field of human resources, the fact that one of the core business services are complete staffing solutions, which include both recruitment and temporary work and that we have been providing this service to our clients for many years, we can say that there is already a history on the Romanian market regarding the outsourcing of human resources functions.

Over time, the outsourcing of various HR functions has continued on an upward trend, which is still maintained today. In our experience, the reasons that lead companies to outsource are varied and consist in the need to benefit from the experience of a specialized partner in certain areas, to supplement the efforts of the internal HR team, to cover the necessary staff for certain specific projects or with determined duration of time for which it is necessary to increase the number of employees, as well as to identify in the market candidates for niche roles or for middle and top management positions.

Professional clients generally turn to us for several types of services, which has allowed us to develop long-term partnerships with them.

Among the benefits of outsourcing for companies we can mention the flexibility of the organizational chart, the optimization of internal budgets, the possibility that some activities such as recruitment, payroll, personnel administration, evaluation, testing to be taken over by the external partner.

 4. What is outsourced most often? And why?

In general, in the HR area, companies seek external support for those processes that require the allocation of additional resources or that involve the performance of administrative and / or routine activities. Depending on the outsourced process, the reasons behind such a decision are saving time and money, the need to have access to the knowledge of a specialist consultant in a certain area, the addition of internal staff for certain periods of time, the headcount being sometimes limited, or the elimination of administrative responsibilities that are usually time consuming.

Thus, most often companies outsource the functions related to recruitment, staffing (temporary work), assessment, training, payroll and personnel administration, but also those related to the implementation of processes, such as performance management.

 5. How much has the role of internal HR changed lately? How open are organizations to outsource?

If we refer to the post-pandemic period, the role of internal HR as a strategic business partner is very frequently discussed. One of the positive consequences of the pandemic in HR is that its role has become much more visible and increasingly important, given that most of the changes that had to be implemented, whether legislative, operational or organizational, sometimes in a very short time, were managed by human resources departments. In view of this fact, the members of the human resources teams have proved that they can adapt quickly and efficiently to all the changes that have taken place and thus HR has gained notoriety as a business partner.

At the same time, the focus on the digitization of flows, but also the increasing use of data analytics as a working tool and support in defining the HR strategy has brought remarkable changes in the way human resources work.

However, not only the technological evolution is the factor that led to the change of the HR role, but also the changes in the labor market, the diversification of the recruited roles, the change of the candidates’ views towards jobs, they being more interested in the employer’s brand and the opportunities offered within the company, the different characteristics of the new generations entering the labor market. In the face of all these influencing factors, human resources professionals have had to constantly adapt and rethink the approach to HR processes and functions. For example, if we refer to the recruitment and selection process, currently the role of recruiter requires much more creativity, in terms of channels for identifying and attracting candidates, interviews and selection tools applied. In addition, given the pandemic, much of the selection process has shifted to the online environment, with most interviews and assessments being conducted through online video communication tools.

Companies are generally open to outsourcing, but the main expectation of customers is that suppliers have the ability to provide a customized service that integrates flows and processes exactly as they are conducted in-house, so that the effort to adapt to change is reduced at a minimum.

 6. What are, from your perspective, the 5 most important trends that the HR needs to consider in the next period?

The current context has impacted the human resources strategies of the companies, shifting the focus of HR managers who have had to rethink priorities and adapt developed projects to current labor market requirements. Thus, the main trends that influence the agendas of the human resources departments and the planning of the strategy refer to:

–          Digitalization and automation of HR processes – even if this topic was previously in the attention of HR, the pandemic has accelerated the steps taken in this regard, and the solutions at hand are diverse starting from cloud data management applications, tools process automation (preparation and management of personnel documents, administration of personnel files, registration of contract changes), data analytics software, up to virtual assistants and chatbots used in employee relationship management or even in recruitment;

–          Employees view of work – today’s employee comes with a different approach towards work, this is no longer seen only as a source of income, but as part of the employee’s life, the concept of work-life balance gaining more and more scope – all the more so in the last year in which a large part of the employees spent more time at home with their families; and if we are to refer to the operational staff, who do not work from home, the perspective on the job has changed also in their case. The salary level offered is still important, but also the way employees are appreciated by superiors, the concern shown by the employer first of all to their health, but also to the personal situations they face;

–          Working in hybrid or remote systems – if before the pandemic work at home was seen as a benefit and gave rise to disputes over data security and confidentiality, companies have now found solutions in this regard, and work from home has become almost normal and the most probably, due to the fact that the advantages of this way of working are appreciated by both parties, employer and employee, most companies will continue to keep this way of carrying out the activity in the next period;

–          Creative, personalized and employee-oriented retention strategies – now employee retention is no longer just about salary increases or offering a classic benefits package, but involves a number of variables such as the work environment or attention to the employee as an individual. In this sense, the challenge for HR will be to identify a series of specific needs of each employee and to respond by creating a work environment and developing flexible benefit packages adapted to these needs; some companies have already started to offer benefits aimed at physical and emotional health and improving the wellbeing of employees;

–          Preparing employees for the work of the future – the context of technological evolution determines both the emergence of new roles and the diversification of skills needed for employees to perform the tasks of jobs in the future, therefore, HR should take into account in training programs of employees also the development of these skills so that employees are prepared to meet the challenges of new jobs.

7. What are the main projects you are currently implementing within your organization to meet the current challenges?

Within Professional, we constantly implement new projects designed to ensure quality, competitiveness and ethics for the services we provide to our clients.

The main projects we implement within our organization regard digitalization, good practices in the field, legislative aspects and maintaining the health of all employees in the pandemic context.

In the area of digitalization, we constantly update the systems we work with, in order to follow technological evolution. We aim to continuously automate the flows of documents and information and the stages from recruitment to the start of employee activity within the client company, operations that are related to the signing of documents and salary, but also the flow of recruitment and evaluation processes of candidates, who have now moved 90% online. Also in the area of digitalization, I would include the activities related to data security, a very important aspect for us who manage the data of thousands of temporary employees.

Regarding good practices in the field, whether we are talking about working methodologies or legislative changes, Professional consultants regularly participate in seminars and trainings aimed at knowledge, practices and legislative changes in the field. In addition, as a member of Cornerstone International Group, we participate annually in international trainings and courses aimed at optimizing recruitment, selection and assessment methodologies by learning best practices and information about new tools in the field.

We have constantly paid special attention to the health of our employees, but even more so during this period, so we have adapted to the new provisions on employee safety at work and implemented increased safety measures in our premises, including work in the hybrid system.

 8. How have recruitment and onboarding changed from new perspectives: remote or hybrid?

Remote or hybrid work has definitely influenced the recruitment and onboarding processes, especially for white collar positions. For the positions in the blue collar area, these two processes are still carried out in physical format.

Thus, for the white collar type positions, most of the interview stages and tests are carried out online. While some companies have chosen to conduct the entire process online, in others the final interview, before making the final decision, still takes place in a face-to-face format. This new approach to the recruitment process has a number of advantages, but also disadvantages. Firstly, the advantage is that both parties involved have flexibility in planning the various stages of the process, eliminating the time spent traveling to the company’s headquarters. At the same time, a major disadvantage is related to the fact that in the online environment the behavior and attitude of the candidates may be different compared to the way they act in a meeting in physical format. In the recruitment projects that we recruit together with our clients, although the recruitment stages and interviews were adapted to the online format in terms of content and methods for validating applications, we also encountered situations in which the ranking of candidates interviewed online was modified after the face-to-face interview stage.

Regarding the onboarding process, the companies have adapted the way and the content transmitted according to the format in which the remote or hybrid activity takes place. Therefore, for those who work full remote, the onboarding process takes place entirely online, through video calls, and the materials for new employees are uploaded on e-learning platforms that can be accessed based on a user and password. In the case of companies operating in a hybrid system, the process has been structured in order to include stages in physical format, especially those related to interaction with team members, and the rest of the stages are conducted online. The major challenge for new employees is related to their integration into the team, which is certainly more difficult in the context of a limited video call interaction or a limited number of days spent weekly at the office, usually in a smaller format than normally.

 9. How do you maintain a high morale and involvement of teams, departments / employees?

I have always had participation as a direction of organizational development. A very large part of the key employees in our organization have been part of the team for over 10 years. We try to work with our colleagues, to understand their challenges, obstacles and to value their results in the organization. Another direction has always been the individual approach to work contexts. Our organizational environment is based quite a lot on the understanding and customized approach of each team member in order to support him with the resources and the optimal approach to reach his maximum development potential.

 10. How important is technology for HR?

Technology is no longer a topic dedicated only to IT enthusiasts or specialists, nowadays almost everything revolves around technology, which has penetrated all departments within a company, including HR.

Its main contribution is related to work efficiency, especially by eliminating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, but also by reducing the risk of errors, if we think mainly of those processes that involve working with data or figures, such as payroll and administration of staff. The market already offers dedicated HR applications through which you can manage most of the departments’ flows from recruitment, employment, administration, salary calculation, evaluation, to training and performance management.

So, technology is certainly no longer just a fad, but has become a necessity, thus allowing HR people to focus on more important issues related to the company’s employees and the implementation of projects for HR software areas.

 11. Is the HR market ready to adopt the latest technologies?

HR is a field in which you have to keep up with the changes, and the challenges appear every day, therefore, the adoption of new technologies is essential, significantly facilitating the work of human resources specialists. The experience gained over time and the exposure to new working methodologies of the HR market in Romania have contributed to the definition of the profession of HR specialist and to the formation of an important pool of human resources people who are no longer at the beginning of the road and have the ability to constantly assimilate and adapt the elements of novelty to the requirements of the business.

The main obstacle that may arise in the adoption of new technologies in HR is not related to people, but the fact that sometimes their cost is not negligible for companies’ budgets, but HR leaders and senior management have already understood that investment in technology can be amortized. within an acceptable time frame.

12. A few words about Professional 

Established in 1995, the Professional Agency has developed against the background of the need for professional services and expertise in the field of human resources. Professional vision consists in understanding the needs of each organization and building solutions adapted to them. We want to contribute to the success of our customers and to offer them quality solutions through which to reconcile the interests of the company with those of the employees. Our goal is to become the best consulting company in the field of Human Resources, offering services at the highest professional and ethical standards.

Through the 8 national branches (Iaşi, Timişoara, Craiova, Cluj, Braşov, Ploieşti, Târgu Mureş), we cover all areas of the country. We also have two foreign branches in Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova.

Internationally we are members of the Cornerstone International Group (global executive search network – ).

Our main concern is represented by the most valuable resource of our partners – the people. We started providing human resources services in 1995, given that there are no “good” standard solutions only for the employer or only for the employee. The Professional vision is that the right solutions are different for each organization and result from a very good understanding of their own needs and a customized approach to the market.

Our mission is to make a significant contribution to the development of our customers’ business by providing staff solutions in line with their interests and needs.

The main services are recruitment and selection, testing, assessment, talent mapping, on-site HR, temporary work, executive search, organizational diagnosis.

 13. A few words about the person signing.

Cristina Pasat – General Manager Professional – I started working in the field of human resources in 1995, since the establishment of Professional and in a short time I focused my efforts to support the development of the company first at national level and then at international level. As the correct understanding and representation of the business processes and challenges of our partners has always been a priority for us but also a differentiator on the market, I have had and continue to have an active presence in the employer-specific activity to actively participate in the legislative field on the labor market. One of my goals over the years has been to develop that type of organization in which team members feel truly valued and pursue organic growth.