Webinar: How to translate Purpose into People Strategies

We are delighted to have hosted on the 23rd of March the first event of our Transforming HR series: How to Translate Purpose into People Strategies having as guest speakers: Mrs. Andreea Mihnea – Chief People Officer at First Bank, Mr. Daniel Reisenauer, Managing Director at Visma Software Romania & Ireland and Mr. Sorin Banulescu – People & Culture Director at Heineken Romania.

We wanted to challenge different perspectives, therefore we invited three speakers from diverse industries, namely Banking, IT&C and FMCG. Read the summary below to find out how the past year has been for them, what challenges they faced with redefining organizational purpose and how this impacted the people strategies in the companies they work for.



“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


The concept of organisational purpose has never been more prevalent than now, even one year into the pandemic, and leaders around the world have been confronted with countless challenges. Businesses have become so engaged in redefining their direction because this period demanded of them a moment of contemplation: What is our mission as a company? Why do we do the work we do?

Re-evaluating the people strategies is, to say the least, as critical as addressing other business areas such as marketing, sales, financial, etc. People have been through the biggest disruption to their employment since the previous 2008 crisis, and most employers have implemented more changes to their organisation in 2020 than they had in the past years, cumulatively. The challenge is to see this as a huge opportunity to step forward.

We live in the future now

In order to stay competitive in the new business and economic environment, most leaders recognise technology’s strategic value. Digitalisation has been a hot topic over the years, but it has taken a global event to trigger changes that were only ideas in the last decade. The pandemic has launched all of us into the digital future and practically overnight, remote working and many other online processes have become realities. A good number of employees have rapidly embraced the digital era, in some cases leading to more engagement and productivity.

For some industries, especially in the IT&C, the changes were embraced faster, as Daniel Reisenauer states about his company: “Even before the pandemic, it was easier for employees to carry out their activities digitally, as we are an international software company, and we use a lot of tech’ applications to interact across teams and cultures, so, this helped a lot from a mindset perspective to transition into the digital era”. 

But what happens in other sectors and especially if we talk about a more traditional kind of organization as opposed to a digital native one? Do I make my employees climb the stairs of digitalisation or is it something they can do for themselves? And especially if we are referring to an organisation not accustomed to technology, then the process is massive and messy and it’s usually in the hands of HRs and Managers. People need to understand the “why’s” and the “what’s” behind these, and also to receive the most support, so as not to get stuck on the way because they did not have trainings or IT support” challenged Andreea Mihnea.

Further on, we would like to tackle some drivers to better prepare for digitalization1:

  • Mobilisation which needs shared ownership, accountability and responsibility
  • Clarity of commitment on the digital transformation
  • Sufficient resources devoted to it as a core organisational priority
  • Investment in the technical talent
  • Flexibility & Agility

1 – McKinsey Global Institute “Twenty-five years of digitization”, May 2019

“Despite being a great promotor of technology, which I genuinely think is necessary and it can get us far, if we don’t get it right and are forcing it into people’s lives, we could hit a wall. Although we communicate virtually a lot, life should not be just a screen. The feeling of belongingness is not the same” – continued Andreea Mihnea.

Daniel Reisenauer shared with us about the initiative of completely changing  the purpose of Visma Software from the organisational growth to the safety of the people. One of the examples he highlighted was related to promoting people’s health and networking, by adopting a new concept on meetings while “walking in nature” to take a break from the digital environment.

Service to others as driver of motivation

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” – Aristotle

Now, more than ever, businesses also have an opportunity, and a duty, to engage in the needs of the planet. The potential is extraordinary for organisations to serve for the greater good and initiatives such as giving back to the community, remain a powerful force.

Daniel Reisenauer and Sorin Banulescu shared a few examples on how they’ve organized the teams to pursue higher goals.

In Visma Software the team identified an opportunity to use existing equipment for a different purpose and decided to use their companies’ 3D printers to build medical equipment. They were also involved in numerous activities to help the environment.

Sometimes the biggest impact comes under the form of a small change, as Sorin told us. During his HR Director mandate in Heineken Haiti, he established a medical centre to compensate for the poor medical services available in the location and facilitated the instalment of an ATM machine on site to ease the living conditions of his colleagues.

The above represents a wonderful depiction of how we can bridge a purpose gap between people’s desire at work versus what they actually experience. But how do we connect people to purpose?

We, as individuals are increasingly looking for meaning and the workplace should be one of the sources where we derive it from.

As a conclusion of the insights collected from our speakers, we should begin by  taking a close look at the relationship between our social and environmental impact and our strategy and purpose, and then connecting this with our tremendous employee potential. This will unleash and boost motivation, helping organizations to implement effective people strategies.

“My people have been involved in helping the environment and the population, not because it was part of their performance objectives, but because they understood that giving back to their community was what made them tick and it was also something they could do on a daily basis in their personal life as well” – mentioned Daniel Reisenauer.

Connecting people’s individual purpose with the organisational one is the missing puzzle piece and although we may not yet have all the answers on how to do this, we’ve collected some recommendations from the speakers:

  • Adapt your perspectives and your references to the new reality (don’t complain about why things are happening in a certain way but rather ask yourself what you can do to understand the bigger scheme of things)
  • Never start by judging – be mindful of the context
  • First give and then expect to receive – in this way you, as a leader, become credible and earn genuine respect
  • Engage, help, enjoy people and cultural connections
  • Create community cohesion and promote external activities for a better engagement
  • Use technology wisely and don’t force it into your people’s lives
  • Listen to your colleagues, be transparent and ask for feedback
  • Make the mental health of the employees a top priority as well
  • Let your people go out as often as possible

Content by Ana Maria Popescu

Can artificial intelligence replace executive search consultants?


This month marks one year since our lives we­­re completely transformed, both professionally as well as personally. Although we all faced the same common threat, each of us lived this experience differently, learned certain lessons, and perhaps reconsidered the priorities and path. From a professional point of view, for me this year implied a reconfiguration of the way I manage my activity, as I work in recruitment of senior management and I previously relied extensively on face-to-face interaction with clients and candidates. Whereas before the pandemic we only had online discussions with candidates from other countries (and even in that situation we always saw them in person before proposing them on the shortlist to the client), digital recruitment suddenly became the standard, the only viable option for us to continue to exist in the market. This change came with a number of challenges varying from technical issues to interviews with cats or children in the background. We moved from the formal environment of an office, to the personal space of our houses, the time spent in traffic was eliminated, and the overall dynamics changed completely. At the same time, the screen does not allow the recruiter to see the candidates as a whole, to get a real sense of them, making it much more difficult to outline a full picture.

Thus, even though digital activity has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives and we have adapted, and recruitments will certainly look different in the future from the way they were conducted before the pandemic, I wonder how it would be for the whole recruitment process to be completely replaced by technology or, more specifically, by artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a topic on everyone’s lips, a promise of a simpler future, based on increased efficiency and profitability. At the same time, it is a concept that generates fear – how will things change in the coming years? Will the labour market require the same jobs, the same people, the same skills? What happens to the professions we have prepared for at a time when no one anticipated the extraordinary evolution of technology?

AI is represented by the system or machines that mimic cognitive functions generally found only in humans, such as learning and problem solving. From the Automotive sector to Retail, Medical and Manufacturing, artificial intelligence is used in countless forms – speech recognition (e.g., Siri and Alexa), self-driving cars, customer profiling, predictive technology, or chat bots. But what happens in the area of ​​professional services, such as audit, law, consulting, recruitment? How much can you make use of technology in industries in which the capabilities and experience of employees have always determined the quality of services provided by the company?

How artificial intelligence is used in recruitment 

As companies progressively understood the value that smart recruitment and good employee retention bring to the organization, technology has found its place in human resources as well. Investments in the development of talent management tools have increased over the years, so today we see smart systems that automate significant parts of the flow being used in recruitment, such as CV screening, searching for candidates on various channels, matching candidates experience with job descriptions by using keywords, contacting them and even conducting the initial interviews.

Recruiters can use tools that analyse the job description of the open role and search the database for candidates who have applied for similar positions. They can automate reports for clients / employers, use chatbots to interact with candidates and virtual reality in simulating work situations, as well as tools which analyse in video interviews elements such as facial expressions, voice, tone, and micro-expressions.

All these and more are used in the hope that the volume of employment will increase in the labour market, the process will be simplified for all parties and there will be less administrative / routine responsibilities for recruiters. However, the risk is that, exactly in those initial stages, the company loses sight of valuable candidates.

Why artificial intelligence cannot replace people in executive search 

Before anything else, a distinction should be made between recruitment and executive search. Although both have as their ultimate goal finding the right person for a particular role, there are considerable differences in the business model, methodology and level.

Recruitment is suitable for roles from junior to mid-level managers and is based on promoting the position through different channels and targeting candidates who are actively looking for a job. The recruitment service for top level managers (executive search) represents the process of placing candidates in Board, top or middle management roles (GMs, financial directors, COOs, marketing directors, etc.), namely strategic placements in executive positions and proactive search for potentially suitable professionals. In executive search, the activity is more complex and nuanced than in recruitment and often we do not even use CVs in the first phase, because we approach people we identify through a variety of channels (using the company’s or the consultant’s network, recommendations, references from previous projects, the database, but also various platforms).

For this reason, human interaction in C-level recruitment, at top management level, is essential; people are always approached directly by consultants on the basis of a prior assessment taking into account the experience and professional skills of the candidates, the industry in which they operate, the business models to which they have been exposed and the potential fit of all these elements in the ongoing recruitment project. Thus, a human mind is needed to understand beyond titles and responsibilities – someone who knows the market and the context in which the respective candidates worked, who can read between the lines, who understands the challenges, opportunities, and trends in the industry.

As an executive search consultant, I coordinate placement projects for top and middle level managers, both in Romania and in the Eastern Europe region. Preparing for such a role takes years, and it is done through study, but especially through the contact with hundreds of clients and thousands of candidates. We are discussing an educated ability to understand the strategic impact that a person will have in the organization based on detailed knowledge of the industry and the customer, and the ability to assess the potential fit of a person in a new company, beyond skills. Because at this level we are transcending professional abilities: we evaluate alignment in terms of vision, values, ​​and culture, but also the ability to solve problems or critical thinking.

During the interview, we correlate all these aspects with the candidate’s personality, energy, and motivation, as well as with other interpersonal skills (empathy, emotional intelligence), analysing previous performances and evaluating his/her potential, so as to ensure long-term strategic collaboration between the employer and the placed candidate.

The usefulness of technology 

Artificial intelligence, as a selection tool in executive search, can be extremely useful, but only as a support for the work of consultants and the improvement of the recruitment process, not to replace the human interaction, which will always be the epicentre of our work.

For example, we use systems such as ATS (Applicant Tracking System), which helps us monitor the correspondence with our candidates, the stage of recruitment processes, but also to record details about the professionals we interview. This type of tool allows us to provide better services and manage data efficiently, without diluting the essence of our business, namely the important knowledge about the market, the relationships we develop with candidates and customers, and the vast experience in working with people for people.

I estimate that the future of top management recruitment will include an important component of technology, but the most important input will remain that of the consultant, who can put in context all the elements, from the candidates’ experience, to their skills and personality, to the overall matching with the role and organisation of the future employer.

© Alexandra Ene

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

This month marks a year since the Covid-19 pandemic caused the fastest and largest shift in human behaviour change at scale. Such an unprecedented upheaval completely challenged the dynamics of the collective, and it pushed most of us to reflect on concepts such as purpose, mission, values, both from a personal and professional perspective.

The dictum “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste” creates momentum for analysing organizational practices and tests the hypothesis about leadership, adequacy of existing governance structures and also requires deployment of new ad hoc initiatives.

In the light of our upcoming Webinar on March 23rd: Transforming HR: How to translate Purpose into People Strategies, we, at Signium – Stein & Partner, considered an opportune moment to sit down with our speakers Andreea Mihnea – Chief People Officer at First Bank Romania,  Daniel Reisenauer – Managing Director at Visma Software Romania & Ireland and Sorin Banulescu – People & Culture Director at Heineken and harvest some reflections from them, in an attempt to pave the way for a meaningful event interaction.

What was the most valuable take away for you as Leader from the past 12 months?

Andreea Mihnea: Last year asked for a complete reprioritization of the people agenda. It did not mean that we stopped doing what we planned for our people. The pandemic was a wake-up call for the “why” we do what we do and if the business as usual still made sense for people. When employees begun having to compensate on the life areas that they were taking for granted such as childcare, education, availability of services and even personal care, some of the things they used to vocally demand from their employer became “nice to haves” or even obsolete.

Before the pandemic, expectations for a more meaningful work, the possibility to advance quicker, being exposed to multiple experiences and being provided space for socializing and experimenting were the norm. As the pandemic progressed, they started looking into more basic expectations such as: extensive flexibility of working schedule, remote working, access to good medical care, stability of jobs and business.

In a nutshell, the past 12 months taught us all to put our lives and work into perspective. And all of a sudden, work was no longer the playground of grown-up children but a place where grown-ups were forced to look the truth in the face: organizations too need a solid partnership with employees that demands transparency, dialogue and ownership for each side. As HR leader I focus on putting those 3 principles at work.

Daniel Reisenauer: 2020 challenged all of us in terms of how we work, think, act and interact. 

I would like to start with a huge thank you to all my colleagues, for the way we embraced change and enabled a smooth transition to work from home in less than 1 week 

We have kicked off a new era of transforming how we work, which is more flexible, employee-centric and at the same time more efficient.

Despite pandemic and global economic situations, we managed at Visma Romania to grow existing business, start new ones and increase overall team to almost 600 people

Priorities have changed and safety of our people and taking care also of our communities became suddenly amongst the top priorities

Sorin Banulescu: The most important take away during the last 12 months was that old beliefs we all have, that most times appear undoubtable in the context you are at a specific moment, actually can be changed easily and rapidly if you really want it. This is especially the case if you are more or less obliged to accept the novelty of a different context. I am considering here the way the pandemic made us rethink most of our activities.

What has helped you personally to keep the balance through uncertainty?

Andreea Mihnea: It was a return to the human condition that we had been spoiled to forget recently. Life is unpredictable and all the more valuable for it. Focusing on the present paid off as well as the assurance that it is just a phase. Humanity has been through much worse and this too, will pass. I take the long lens when things get difficult.

Daniel Reisenauer: The support of my family, manager, acceptance, embracing change, being able to help local communities.

Sorin Banulescu: Well, first of all, I have to admit I was “luckier”, as I was trained in crisis management. In my last 2 assignments in The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti, I’ve been exposed to a continuous context of poverty and social unrest, and to a few important epidemic outbreaks and that influenced heavily my agenda. So, all in all, I had a different perspective on things. Personally, my family, the virtual drinks with colleagues and friends and doing sports regularly (even if at home) helped me keep mental balance.

We feel empowered by our guests’ leadership commitment that comes from challenging the process, enabling others to act, modelling the way, and encouraging the heart. But beyond all these, we heavily appreciate them for acknowledging their humanity as this creates a safe space for their teams to experiment, take risks and revise the thinking.

We’ll be delighted to have you with us for more reflections on Purpose and People on Wednesday, March 23rd, 14:00 EET.



Content by Ana Maria Popescu


Leading for Recovery – Mutual trust and support will matter even more

Raluca Modoran, Senior Leadership & People Advisor at Signium – Stein & Partner, invited by Mr. Viorel Panaite, Managing Partner at Human Invest & Ken Blanchard Romania, for the following interview.


Viorel Panainte: Raluca Modoran is now Senior Leadership & People Advisor at Signium – Stein & Partner. We started working together more than 5 years ago on projects we were building for Vodafone Shared Services, where Raluca was Global Talent & Development Manager. Always active, with ideas and initiative, she sought to connect our programs with the company’s strategic priorities. The main themes of an organization are clear to her and that is why she was invited to do the next interview.


You have over 15 years’ experience as a HR manager, in several industries: FMCG, Telecommunications, and Distribution. You went through the 2009 financial crisis occupying such a role. What were the employees’ concerns then? What are the similar ones now? Which are the differences compared to the current crisis? What leadership lessons from the crisis years of 2009-2010 are now useful to you?

I perceive these 2 crises differently, both from a starting point of view as well as a subsequent manifestation.

The crisis that started in 2008 in the US generated consequences which were felt in Romania only after 6-12 months. I remember a slightly “arrogant” attitude and comments such as “it will not reach us”, “it cannot impact us”, stemming from employers and employees as well. They then continued to focus on their daily activities, few of us were actually concerned about the future, because we had no benchmarks on the reverberations that such a shock could produce. When the effects of the crisis began to be felt in Romania as well, the employers’ response was mainly to reduce the staff and costs associated with employees, without showing any particular interest for the consequences of such decisions. The employees were on their own, the impact was for everyone, at all levels and across all industries.

The crisis of 2019 came as a global wave, which was felt from China, Europe, and the US in less than 3 months, blocking the entire ecosystem. At that time, I think many of us remembered 2009 and what we noticed around us was an employer-employee coalition against this “common enemy”. I have seen much more consideration for the employees, support programs, flexibility, increased level of communication in both directions. As a natural consequence, companies that were not impacted by social distancing registered a productivity of up to 180%.

“People work for people” was a saying and I’ve seen this very present in the last year when managers were much closer to their teams, listened more, and showed understanding. In 2020, leadership really was with and about people, about authenticity, about “togetherness”, although from a distance. And this created expectations that will have to be met by leaders in the next period as well.

From your point of view, what are some of the priority systems and processes of an organization and which should be as strong as possible in this crisis?

During this crisis I’ve seen industries severely affected, but also others for which this change actually meant a huge opportunity. Each one harnessed it to their best abilities, but that’s another discussion. A crisis foresees a need to change or adjust mentalities and review practices. Therefore, I consider some directions of action important for the leadership teams and the opportune moment to ask some questions:

  • Reviewing the organization’s mission and vision, values, ​​and behaviours. Now is a good time to revisit concepts such as purpose and mission or to take the first steps towards articulating them. What is important for the company? What do we really want as a leadership team? Why do we do what we do? What do we offer to our customers? What do we offer to our employees? Are the established goal and mission still relevant? Do the established strategy and objectives help us in the new context? What new set of behaviours do we want to see in the future? What beliefs and values ​​do we need to change both at management team level as well as at the level of the entire organization to generate new behaviours? What will we do differently?
  • Organizational redesign. Do systems and processes support us in the new strategic direction? Do they respond to the new business demands and our employees’ needs? What impact will technology have on processes? What degree of adjustment do we need? How to design the new organizational structure to ensure the skills we need and the clarity of the new roles and responsibilities?
  • Constant feedback and validation from employees. The fact that change is the only constant in our lives has been a long-known fact. What is different now is the speed with which these changes are taking place and the increased need for employee involvement in decisions and much faster validations to ensure their implementation. What is the level of employee confidence in the new strategy? How does it support new initiatives? How much / how little are they willing to accept the new direction? What do they think we should aspire to?

What would now make employees be available for prolonged intense effort and contribute proactively to the constant cultivation of mutual trust, of collaboration where they work?

It is time for a paradigm shift. It’s not just about finding new ways to keep doing the same things, but I think it’s essential for employers to revisit the purpose for which we do certain things. It is possible that by prolonging the old practices we get the opposite of what we want, despite our best intentions. We can take as an example the traditional Christmas party: in the past years, employees used to meet at the office or in another location and celebrate the end of the year. In those get-togethers, they connected informally with their colleagues, they relaxed, stress was released, and this led to  building engagement. In the context of the pandemic, these Christmas parties were moved by many companies online, turning into an excruciating 4–5-hour marathon of smiling (or not!) in front of the laptop. Thus, I wonder if keeping the same habits (namely organizing a Christmas meeting) has really achieved the commitment of employees? Or is it time to reinvent ourselves and understand how to actually be close to our people and make them happy? I remember the example of a company having employees with an average age of up to 28 years that sent them complete menus for Easter and Christmas meals, because they could not be with their families.

In other words, by truly understanding the profile of our employees, listening to their opinions, and integrating their ideas into retention and development programs, we will achieve a partnership based on mutual trust and support.

From this point on, the results will come readily.

What are some of the changes you think will happen in the coming years on the labour market? How do you think labour relations will be made more flexible? What beliefs in this field will be considered outdated and will fade? What new beliefs do you think will emerge?

I think the pandemic will accelerate the trends we have already seen in the last 3-5 years in the labour market. Roles will be further impacted by automation, robotics, digitization, and many of them will disappear sooner than we expected. Companies will need to continue their plans to adjust the work schedule and conditions to the employees’ needs. I am referring here to what I used to call well-being initiatives, and which were optional, and I think they will be part of the basic offer package for attracting valuable candidates. On the other hand, employees will be even more attentive to the company’s culture, its ability to adapt to new trends and the importance given to them, and depending on these, they will choose to stay or change rather than for financial reasons.

I believe that the pandemic has given us the opportunity to settle down and re-evaluate why, where, and how we want to continue our activity and relationships, as well as what defines us both as employers and as employees.

To read the full interview and find out more about Human Invest, please click here.


©Raluca Modoran