A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

Events Interview

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