Development, Upskilling, and Mentoring Key Factors in Workforce Retention - HR Academy Session 3 Report

On 11 November, we held the third session of our HR Academy event series, which aims to address critical issues HR leaders must confront today and showcase industry leaders’ best practices and tools to help prepare the foundation of HR professionals’ post-pandemic success. For the first time, the event was held in a hybrid fashion: the audience had the option to either attend in person in the AmCham office or take part online. This time, our guests were Zsuzsanna Emri, HR Director at KPMG and Tamás Zemlényi, Division HR Leader at UPS Hungary. The discussion was moderated by Judit Forgács, CEO & Managing director of FOrgXpert. The session focused on the topics of Development, Upskilling, and Mentoring.

These three are essential skills of any HR professional – indeed, they are abilities which contribute greatly to any measurement of an HR leader’s performance. Hence, an exchange of best practices and good tips is especially beneficial.

Labor shortage was the first topic of the discussion. To combat this issue, Ms. Emri recommended an approach that addresses labor shortage from a retention and resourcing point of view. On the one hand, companies should strive to retain their workforce, as much as possible. As she put it, HR professionals should establish a constant dialogue with the workforce and pay attention to what they are saying, followed by a continuous reflection on employees’ personal priorities and about operations as a whole. Addressing labor shortage requires a structured approach and innovative ideas, Ms. Emri argued. For example, mental health has become a serious topic at KPMG, and to that end, a series of online workshops and trainings have been established in which employees can partake.

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As Mr. Zemlényi put it, a steady supply of workforce is essential at UPS, due to the nature of the company’s operations. Although the company is situated in a sector on which the pandemic has had a mostly positive impact, there is still a myriad of challenges Mr. Zemlényi’s team has to face. For one, much of the workforce at UPS works part-time, with a very high turnover rate – from the perspective of engagement, this presents numerous difficulties. To combat these, UPS’ shift model has been challenged, workers’ compensation packages are now receiving more consideration, and operators are now receiving better training to also become good team leaders. Here, Ms. Forgács also underscored the effectiveness of such training, sharing her experience with skill-shift programs, designed to make employees prepared and qualified for their next role.

Career paths are a hot topic of discussion currently, and as such the speakers were asked the questions: what is a ‘good career’? Does it mean becoming a leader, or is becoming a well-regarded professional ‘enough’? As per a worldwide survey conducted by Universum, ‘career’ was only the third most important priority after flexibility and wellbeing amongst young graduates. Ms. Emri argued that finding a balance between all priorities is very important, otherwise if employees look just for flexibility and wellbeing and not challenge themselves professionally, they may start to get bored and unmotivated. To this end, KPMG established a system that promotes development culture, focusing on three main aspects: making an impact, driving growth, and inspiring trust.

At UPS, the focus still has to be mostly on the previous generations, which have different expectations regarding their careers, Mr. Zemlényi argued. Among people of these generations, leadership abilities are seen as essential, and thus 90% of UPS’ development curriculum deals with these skills. However, the company does realize that newer generations might have different views, and some would rather become esteemed experts than leaders – providing ample development opportunities to such employees is something UPS works on still, according to Mr. Zemlényi. The UPS leader also shared the company’s leadership framework with the audience, the vision of which is: Customer first, People led, Innovation driven.

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Asked about the company’s experience with the pandemic-induced shift to online, Ms. Emri said that KPMG was in a fortunate position, as it had already experimented with home office possibilities and equipped its employees with digital equipment many years ago,  the transition was not as hard as the other aspects of the pandemic. As for efficiency, Ms. Emri argued that the fact that KPMG is growing is a good sign of the new model’s effectiveness, adding that a hybrid system is probably the most optimal in the long term.

On the other hand, working from home was an entirely new concept for UPS, and the company had to learn how to handle the situation, evaluated Mr. Zemlényi. Naturally, warehouse workers could not be exempted from in-person work, and thus the changes only affected the white-collar workforce. They are going in the right direction, he argued, but it has been difficult to change the reigning culture within the company – that managers could only attest to whether people are working if they can see and monitor them physically. On a different note, many employees at UPS have requested to come back to the office, and in-person community events after some time.

Finally, both guests outlined their respective companies’ approaches to mentoring, followed by a discussion with the audience regarding the difficulties of teaching employees effectively.

We would like to extend our thanks to Róbert Dobay, CEO at Menedzsmentor and Head of AmCham’s HR Committee for sponsoring, Judit Forgács, CEO & Managing director of FOrgXpert for moderating the event, and to our speakers and audience for their invaluable input.