high-tech and aesthetically perfect workspaces

Igor Kurapov, Pridex: "we have never made decisions aimed against our own personnel"

27 April 2022
HR Director of one of the largest fit-out contractors in the Russian market — about how to maintain a high level of motivation and employee involvement in a crisis, what changes are taking place in the labor market in the construction industry, and what is the importance of HR work during difficult periods for the company.
  • Igor Kurapov

    HR Director

Is the experience gained by you as a result of the previous crises relevant now? Can you give any recommendations from the point of view of working with personnel that will be useful in the current situation?

Since we have been on the market for almost 15 years, of course, over this time we have managed to overcome more than one crisis. First of all, I would note the importance of building a systematic HR work with the existing staff — this perfectly illustrates the experience we gained in the crisis year 2014. At that time, Pridex was experiencing rapid growth, and we were making the transition from the stage when you personally hire and know literally every person in the company to the stage when you may not be familiar with half of the employees at all.

It was then that we began to communicate more with young managers who had recently worked in the company as specialists, on the issue of how well they are managing teams, whether they face any problems. As a result, we decided to start teaching them some things specifically — not just from our own experience, but from a professional, I would even say, scientific point of view: how to properly select people for a team, competently build management processes, resolve crisis situations in a team, etc. We also began to study engagement, loyalty, satisfaction with certain options (training, career growth, team performance, etc.) more deeply, digitize all these metrics.

And when the crisis happened, we realized that this approach also helps us to remain effective against the background of competitors: in some points we understood a little better how to motivate employees, in other points we reconfigured the team a little faster to meet the changing demand. As a result, we had the opportunity to take on those projects that others did not dare to take on.

This approach surely proved useful during the pandemic?

Yes and no. Another important thing that we learned: despite all the HR tools at your disposal, sometimes the best thing you can do is to let employees set up certain processes themselves.

I think that during the pandemic, each company worked out various options for how to maintain discipline and control efficiency in remote work. We also went through this: we tested a huge number of task managers, tried to administer cumbersome reporting tables. However, the most effective solution turned out to be at the same time the simplest — to trust the managers on-site. After all, no matter how you try to control the number of hours worked or tasks completed as an HR, in the end only the immediate manager fully understands the specifics of the subordinates' work and is able to adequately assess their contribution.

Of course, over time, we have worked out in more detail the conditions for the transfer of employees to remote mode — in particular, we have a separate contract for the so-called "flex mode". However, I am sure that in the absence of a pandemic, events would have developed in a similar way: any business is interested in understanding the effectiveness of its employees, because in the end it allows it to fulfill its obligations to them — to pay salaries, bonuses, etc.

Anyway, we have never made decisions aimed against our own staff: any tools that allow us to better analyze people’s activities are always born in dialogue with teams and are primarily aimed at understanding the big picture of business development.

And what can you say about the current situation? How do you keep staff motivation and engagement at a high level?

I think that in the market you can find a variety of internal support measures that companies use in crisis situations, but the most important thing is the fulfillment of financial obligations to their own employees in full. And here I can say with confidence that even in the most difficult periods, we did not reduce headcount or cut wages. Moreover, even in the current conditions, we continue to pay bonuses to employees — although from a financial point of view, it would seem logical to many people in our place to temporarily freeze these funds. We are well aware that, given the rapid growth of inflation, this money may be much more valuable for many people now than in a conditional six months, and we believe that in the long term such "investments" in our own team will pay off.

Another important initiative for us is a focus on results, and not on hours worked for specialists who are directly employed on construction sites. It is important to understand that unlike classic construction projects, fit-out is a more creative process, and sometimes changes to the design and related solutions can be made several times a week based on the wishes of the customer. This affects both the amount of work and the timing, so companies often resort to hourly pay, which, of course, affects overall productivity. However, thanks to digitalization at Pridex, we have the opportunity to develop a fundamentally different approach.

For example, we have recently completed a pilot project to introduce wearable equipment for workers that collects information about their activity during the day. Having objective data on hand, we can change the motivation system by offering bonuses and other rewards to both construction crews themselves and their managers for achieving certain indicators.

Earlier, the market discussed possible problems with personnel employed directly at construction sites, due to the fact that a large proportion of people working there are foreign citizens from neighboring countries and rouble depreciation reduces the value of their earnings in Russia. How do you think this situation will develop?

We really assumed that such a problem might arise, but this trend, if you can call it that, turned out to be a short-term one — primarily because the fall affected not only the rouble, but also the currencies of other CIS countries. Now we can say that this situation had practically no effect on Pridex specifically — on the contrary, some of the people who worked in small projects that suffered greatly in the current conditions have eventually transferred to us.

Nevertheless, we have been actively working for several years to attract Russian specialists to the company and popularize the building trade as a whole in our country. For example, we are developing a program to find workers in the regions and arrange their work in shifts — we pay for food, accommodation, etc. We also work closely with specialized colleges, providing employment opportunities for promising young professionals. This, by the way, is directly reflected in the average age of our company’s employees: for example, over the past three years, this indicator has decreased by five years for engineering and technical workers, and by almost three years for representatives of trade jobs.

Are there any positions or skills that have become more in demand in the current conditions?

In my opinion, it is difficult to single out any specific specialties or skills which value has increased dramatically — there is rather a certain long-term trend in the market that will begin to develop faster in the new realities. In particular, the value of engineering and technical workers is increasing, who have competencies not only in their narrow field, but also with regard to the introduction of new technologies, management, and the ability to focus on the client — such multidirectional specialists. If we talk about specific positions, I would single out designers, especially those who work with BIM — this technology is in great demand now.

Source: cre.ru

Read also