COSMOS INSIDE: Maria Golota from Luxoft about how Thomas System helps managers to understand themselves better, and how a pink bike protects against burning out

Maria Golota, Head of the HR business partners group of Luxoft

The IT market is the fastest growing in Ukraine. Market dynamics leads to peak competition. In a dynamic sector more than anywhere companies seek talents, try to retain them, and in the ideal scale them to the level of managers. Maria Golota, Head of the HR business partners group of Luxoft, tells Leadership Journey how to find your type of people and not lose them with time.

Leadership Journey (LJ): What was your career path at Luxoft? What were your expectations?

Maria Golota (MG): I came to Luxoft from retail in 2011 to work in the recruiting department. I was engaged in analytical work: market benchmarks (compensation, benefits), a market analysis of specializations. I was offered to try myself in hiring, but I realized that I prefer working with people in the long term. In other words, when I do not just hire a person and pass him on to his job, but participate in his development within the company. This was my path to HR.

From the first days, the company impressed me incredibly: everything flies, the speed and quality of processes are simply cosmic, and changes are regularly introduced to keep pace with the market, with each task ending with a specific result that you can evaluate. The results could be in the form of certain achievements of a person or the creation of a developmental program. Yes, over time, the memories fade, you stop comparing with the previous company, you raise your internal standards and you think, “Here it could be done better, here – faster.” But I still remember my first impression of the company, “This is cool!”

I was offered to try myself in hiring, but I realized that I prefer working with people in the long term.

LJ: What is your area of responsibility in HR department?

M.G.: I work in HR Operations; we supervise employees from the specialist level and to managers at all levels in the business units. In Kyiv, Luxoft is located in two offices, and I head HR Business Partners (HRBPs) in one of them.

Our key tasks are the development and retention of staff because our employees are knowledgeable and in demand in the market. The IT market has been one of the most competitive in Ukraine from the point of view of the struggle for talents for several years now. The industry is actively developing. Now many small IT companies have emerged, which only stirs up the situation on the market.

It is important for us that people who have received expertise in our company could continue to implement and develop their skills with us. As HRBPs, we regularly do many projects: we create leadership programs from scratch, rebuild processes and people practices, digitize HR processes, introduce modern tools to make talent management easier for managers, help develop feedback within projects and we are agents of change at the company level.

We pay special attention not only to “big bosses”, but also to local team leaders

LJ: What level of management do you have to work with most often?

M.G.: We focus on mid-level management, but also cover all levels below. We work from team leaders with 10 subordinates to division directors with 600–700 and more employees. We pay special attention not only to “big bosses”, but also to local team leaders. Strategically, this is beneficial, team leaders are numerous at the grassroots level and they supervise many people.

Direct interaction with managers allows the HRBPs to influence the implementation of changes at the grassroots level. We can check, correct and assist in the implementation of various programs and accomplishment of tasks set by the company’s top management.

A “C” level manager, on average, has four to seven people in direct subordination, and these subordinates are responsible for communication of tasks and information to the lower levels.  Coherence, trust, and communication have an impact on the quality of information transfer and perception in the company. Mid-managers and team managers do not need to push through many hierarchical layers. They communicate directly with employees in their teams.

We may say the HRBPs work with the implementation of operations; we “earth” strategic decisions to guarantee the decisions are implemented on a scale.

LJ: Surely, you regularly measure eNPS. How often do you do this? What trends do you observe?

Every manager forms the company’s reputation in the eyes of the subordinates.

M.G.: We measure eNPS once a year. This is enough to assess how well the company feels. A company is the people who work in it. The trends depend on the market, business development and specific projects that are implemented in the company. What does a regular programmer or manager see? His team, his leader: for him, this is the company. Therefore, if a project is interesting and develops actively, the level of satisfaction of the employees working for the project also grows.

If you ask any specialist about the company as a whole, he will think of it and remember the company’s growth, new projects, processes, significant events of the year. In addition, eNPS of any person is influenced by the manager personality. Each manager forms the company’s reputation in the eyes of the subordinates. We all remember that people come to a company, and go from a manager. It is a shame, but they use to forget the name of this manager in a couple of years, but the impression of the company stays with them.

People come to a company, and go from a manager

Therefore, we invest in the development and awareness of the management basics of our managers at their first steps in the job, when they are just beginning to go up the ladder. It is too late to “educate” leaders who supervise hundreds of employees. At this level, you immediately encounter a resistance. “I am the one to make decisions here, why should I take your recommendations?!”

LJ: When a person becomes a leader, a paradigm breaks down. How do you teach people that now their result is not only their personal result but also the result of their team?

M.G.: Just to this end, we have created the Leadership Academy program. The program has been working for many years and has proven its effectiveness. Leadership Academy helps the guys who yesterday were developers or testers, and today have become leaders. When you, as a novice manager, were quite recently equal to your colleagues, the team may have an ambiguous perception of you in a new role. “Why should I take him as a leader? He was sitting next to me yesterday writing codes as myself!” This program teaches to cope with such and similar situations, to develop soft skills necessary at every stage of becoming a manager.

THE THOMAS SYSTEM HELPS US VERY MUCH IN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

In the Leadership Academy, the Thomas System helps us a lot. First, the input system allows you to understand which profiles of people you work with. With the program participants, we are doing the job profiles for novice managers to understand what kind of a person they want to see in their team, what skills are a priority, and what features could be ignored.

Secondly, thanks to the Thomas System, managers increase their self-awareness – when they admit their strengths and weaknesses and know how to interact with people from this position. Of course, at some point, everyone gets tired and says, “I probably will fail. To be a manager is not my role.”

Thanks to the Thomas System, managers increase their self-awareness

To leave the comfort zone is very painful. In this case, a person is supported not only by HR specialist and the manager but also by the basic knowledge that the training program in the Academy provides. In advance, the program provides new knowledge and cautions against the obstacles in a manager job.

LJ: Do you work on your own or do you hire consultants in the Academy?

M.G.: Mostly on our own. We cooperate with the Learning & Development Center. They lecture on training and methodology, and HR Operations specialists teach in people’s practices and the company’s processes, organize training, evaluate participants, and revise training materials. This approach allows having two perspectives. The trainers work with all participants and can evaluate them in general and in comparison with others in the group.

HRBPs, on the contrary, know the trainees, their personal features, their problems and successes in their job. In addition, HRBPs can observe the progress the trainees make in team management. This perspective helps to give objective feedback to trainees to improve their skills. At the beginning and at the end of the program, we conduct a 360 assessment to evaluate the efficiency of the program by the managers, colleagues, and subordinates of the trainees.

LJ: How long have you been using the Thomas System? How often do you give feedback?

M.G.: The system has been used since 2014, and not only in Ukraine but in the whole company. Almost all HRBPs are certified. We use the Thomas System not only in leadership and in training programs but to improve inter-team interaction, to support managers, to recruit people for management positions, to analyze teams, and to profile jobs.

We have an internal Personnel Assessment Center that supervises the process and approaches of using the Thomas System and other company-level assessment tools. Each location has its own representative of the Assessment Center, who knows the specifics of teams and business processes and can advise on an efficient application of tools in particular business situations.

LJ: What are you doing to make working in the company interesting for employees?

M.G.: I think we have learned to create for each business line its own unique work environment, an internal culture that attracts a certain type of people. Therefore, our company from the inside is not perceived as a faceless entity, where the system digests you. Each business line has its own image.

For example, we have a Banking business – focused, rigid, with a systematic approach to work and stable processes, not every IT person would like to work there. However, some people like this kind of work. We have an Automotive business – innovative and dynamic, where everything is connected with modern technologies and fashionable devices. People work with the latest developments in the automotive industry. The processes “are flying”; you can “touch” everything with your hands. We also have socially significant projects.

For example, we have Healthcare Science projects. Our employees develop and test hardware and software for the products used in hospitals around the world. These employees understand they do not just code, but benefit society, and this is very motivating.

LJ: How many years, in your opinion, can a person work in one company?

M.G.: Until the person realizes that in this company, there is no opportunity for development. There are different directions of development. Someone people prefer to go up the career ladder, while others prefer to upgrade their professional competence and expertise. If the company cannot provide you a higher staircase or you are not comfortable with the stairs, you look for a better choice to continue your career. The same is true for horizontal development.

LJ: Do you face employees’ burnout? I think IT specialists are creative people, and this problem sometimes arises. How do you prevent burnout of employees in your company?

M.G.: There are many ways to prevent burnout in the company. I will give an example of the LuxGood program, which works on a global scale and promotes a healthy lifestyle and work life balance.

As part of LuxGood, we are actively developing sports communities: football, basketball, and table tennis. We organize seminars with the invited speakers – coaches, consultants, and medical doctors who speak about active lifestyle; about creative self-realization in leisure time.  We invite famous people as speakers. They have their own deadlines, business trips, flights, but when they show up, they look great (beautiful-healthy-energetic) and share their secrets on how they manage it.

We also help our employees “to branch up”. They take care of and teach talented children in unfortunate circumstances. We are launching Corporate Social Responsibility projects, including buying presents for Christmas or just a gift to a child from an orphanage. Many people are willing to help. “A girl wants a bicycle: look. I have chosen a cool pink bicycle, let’s buy it.” Our colleagues are always ready to make a fest for these children. Such activities suit S- and C-factors, which are numerous in our company. They are stable and calm and attached to their families.

LJ: Has it ever happened in your practice that a burned out person is ready to go, and you have managed to retain him?

M.G.: There are many of such cases in my practice. I will tell you about my favorite case, which I am proud of. A business analyst was working on one of my projects. He was ready to leave the company because he wanted to develop in the direction of management. At that time, we had no management position for him, besides he had no sufficient management experience. As you know, the market does not like to recruit a manager with no experience. Well, we do not leave our people behind. So we offered him an opportunity to participate in our leadership programs as preparation for the future management job. Soon a suitable job was found for him although in a different location. He moved, started from scratch as a project manager in a very small team. He grew the team, worked actively for several years, achieved excellent results, and anchored clients. Then, as part of the internal rotation, he moved to another business line of business in the company and grew up to the Delivery Director.

We do not LEAVE OUR PEOPLE BEHIND

I directly participated in these processes. I am talking about this person because he still works with us and continues his development in the company. Many people have already left the company, but this man is with us, and it is enjoyable. Thanks to such examples, I understand the value of my work. We could have lost this person, but we believed in him, made efforts to keep him, and now he brings impressive business results to the company.

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