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Go hybrid in a smart way

Lesson learnt from second International HR webinar

We’d like to draw your attention to the second lesson learnt from the webinar focused on engagement and motivation. This time we put into the spotlight Dora Szasz, the HR Manager of BAT Pécsi Dohánygyár Kft (BAT Hungary).

The core topic of Dora’s entry were the retention of employee engagement and the hybrid virtual model in which some employees are on premises, while others work from home.

Dóra has been in HR for 14 years, fully dedicated herself to FMCG, working for a brewery, Coca Cola and now a global tobacco firm. She has made a special point of dealing with talent management, leadership development and Employer branding. She strongly believes that the role of HR is to be a partner to business to support the strategy. As a matter of curiosity: Dora has completed the El Camino in 2018 – a 780 km hike. Just after returning from the pilgrimage in Spain she got her current job. So, the effort bore fruit for her.

The tobacco business is rather protected and stable these days but the pandemic brought some challenges due to the changes of both consumer behavior and employee expectations.

Listen to people but keep what must be kept

Spring lockdown brought for BAT a positive experience in some sense – it demonstrated the benefits of working from home for company and employees. People, encouraged by the experience, articulated their wish for a flexible system in which they have more freedom to work in home office.

Still, BAT praises and thrives on the strong corporate culture. The great team cohesion and innovation are not built easily in an all-remote setup. Therefore, BAT wanted to retain some face-to-face communication. The onboarding of newcomers is also more efficient if it happens mainly in person. Thus a full home office was not on the table. 

Therefore as a conscious reaction to the situation, BAT decided to switch to hybrid operation on cluster level – neither fully remote, nor all-in-office solution.

The framework and principles of hybrid operation was set up on area level and under the supervision of the regional HR Director involving a diverse group of local HR specialists whose responsibility was interviewing functional leaders to assess business needs and the specific expectations of the local managers. 

Three pillars of BAT hybrid working system

The hybrid operations solution that the BAT implemented stands on the three pillars. 

The first is their norms, like eligibility, responsibility and meeting culture. If these are observed, hybrid collaboration can work, because everyone can count on others.

The second is the culture that includes developing leaders, empowerment and engagement.  

Environment – the third pillar –  means the proper home office set up and IT tools. This is critical to make sure that whether you are home or in the office, nothing hinders your ability to perform.

The office set up should have been aligned to the hybrid operation as well with less office space with hot desks and other elements to ensure the collaboration and efficient work regardless where the colleagues work.

“We tried to find the balance between organizational, functional and employee needs, getting suggestions from the various functions helped us a lot. We built our recommendations on these needs and functional heads still have the freedom to alter to a certain extent which boost engagement on department level.”

At the end of the story, Iryna’s team evaluated all main KPIs again and saw that even though they managed to keep the EE index on a very high level, they managed to decrease the attrition rate dramatically, as well as all other HR related KPIs, which looked absolutely fantastic.

The future will judge

During the summer period, BATpiloted the system live. Both managers and employees have expressed their appreciation of the efforts invested and they welcomed the new way of operation. 

However, the second wave forced people back to the 90% home office in Hungary. So the full roll-out and evaluation of this hybrid operations setup is a question that time will have to help answer. 

We wish Dora and the BAT team – and also all of you going for hybrid – success. We believe that hybrid is the work style of future, if done smart.

Stay in the conversation

Have you read the first lesson learnt from Iryna Bryzhak of Metro Cash & Carry about Driving wellbeing for engagement? If not, read it here.

In the meantime register yourself or notify your HR head to check out the third International RE/Think HR Webinar here.