In a recent interview for HR&M magazine, Maja Rojšek, Managing Director of Human Resources Management at Medis, expressed pride in receiving the HR Team of the Year award and delight in our HR team's commitment to placing employees at the core of their work. She emphasized the importance of fostering a positive work culture, individual development of each employee, and talent retention in the diverse, international environment of our business.
Right at the beginning of our conversation, Maja Rojšek, Director of the HR Department at Medis, expressed her excitement that this year at the #loveHR Summit, for the first time, we presented the HR Award to a team rather than an individual. A good HR manager is certainly an important factor in shaping the HR strategy and aligning it with the company's business goals, Maja says, but even the best HR manager has trouble moving things forward and changing things for the better without a good team.
Therefore, every colleague in my team contributes to the overall successes and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them for their numerous excellent ideas, positive energy and hard work,
added the manager of the HR Team of the Year in the large company category. We talked to Maja Rojšek about the noteworthy HR processes at Medis.
What does the title HR Team of the Year in the large company category mean to you? Which recent projects are you particularly proud of?
We are of course very proud of the award, especially because the profession has recognized our work as excellent, as outstanding. At the same time, it also means that we are on the right track, or rather that our decision to put employees at the heart of everything we do was the right one. With a well-thought-out HR strategy, we are more successful in supporting the company's business goals, as showed by the good business results of Medis.
We are constantly growing and today we have almost 400 employees in 18 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, covering the region from the Baltic to Bulgaria. Over 34 years, we have become a very important company in the region for comprehensive marketing of innovative prescription drugs, hospital and over-the-counter medicines, food supplements, medical devices and medical equipment.
But the fact that we are successful and have effectively established HR processes both centrally in Slovenia and in the other countries where we operate is due to our management, which is aware of the strategic importance of the HR department and constantly encourages us to further optimize and improve our activities and processes.
Among these activities, we are particularly proud of Medis’ work culture, openness at all levels, and the well-being of all employees. This also includes onboarding, i.e., the process of introducing and integrating new employees into the Medis environment and culture, a uniform selection system for new employees in all countries where we operate, the Medis education system, the successful digitalization of all HR processes, and the provision of a stimulating work environment where employees feel comfortable and safe.
How does Medis face the challenges of employee development in the different countries where you are present?
Ambitious, creative and competent people choose to work for us. Good relationships and healthy values, constant investment in development and education, creative work in an international environment, a broad portfolio of innovative pharmaceutical products – these are certainly some of the main reasons why they choose us. Let me add that it is our colleagues who spread the good word about Medis and recommend us further. We are very proud of that.
As I mentioned earlier, all HR processes are carried out centrally from Slovenia. Although the processes are standardized for all countries, we always take into account local specifics and individual needs of employees in each country. These needs are regularly communicated to us by managers, but also by the employees themselves during regular annual interviews with the HR Department. We have regular annual interviews twice a year with the direct manager and once a year with the HR Department, where we receive first-hand information.
Within the Medis Academy, employees acquire the basic skills that are important for their work. These are specific skills that pertain to certain work positions. However, the individual development plans are always unique and tailored to the development of selected competencies and skills of the individual. We monitor and evaluate this development precisely to ensure that there are no differences in knowledge and quality of work between countries. Last but not least, it is our responsibility to ensure the highest possible level of safety for patients, which is why we set high standards for the expertise, competence and training of our employees.
How do you select the most suitable candidates for a position in your company?
We have a streamlined process that is thorough and fully digitalized. It usually starts with an advertisement on local job portals. This is followed by filling out our questionnaires and the first test, which helps us narrow down the pool of suitable candidates. The process continues with interviews with the HR, the manager and local colleagues, followed by another short test and a team decision on the selected candidate. By including local employees in the selection process, we try to reduce the risk that the new employee will not fit into the local team. In addition, we use LinkedIn to find candidates, and we have also developed our own career portal.
A good start in a new working environment is important, which is why we invest a lot of effort in a targeted and tailored onboarding of new employees to make their start with the company welcoming and as stress-free as possible. On the first day at the new workplace, the employee receives a welcome e-mail with all important information and instructions. Immediately afterwards, we assign them a suitable and qualified mentor (mentors are also regularly evaluated) and prepare an individual introduction plan. The aim of the introduction plan is to equip the employee with all the knowledge they need for their new job.
The new employee then attends a mandatory three-day introductory seminar at the company's headquarters in Ljubljana, where they learn about the company's strategy, values and mission, as well as the individual strategic business units and support departments of the company, from Finance and Controlling to the HR Department. At this seminar, we aim to give the new employee an overview of the company's activities.
After about two months, there is an interview with me (the start interview), where I want to get an idea of how the new employee feels in the company, whether they have integrated well into the company culture, how satisfied they are with the mentor, how they get along with the manager and colleagues, how we can help them if they have any problems.
Because performance feedback is crucial, we train managers on how to provide high-quality feedback when evaluating their employees at the midpoint and at the end of the probationary period. This information is very useful for our new employees, as it enables them to advance faster.
When an employee starts the job and also afterwards, we constantly check the key roles of each individual in the team, both according to information provided by the employee themselves and the feedback from their closest colleagues. It is important to us that the new employee fits into the team and how well they fit the job position based on their natural roles.
Can you describe some of the training programs the company offers to help employees grow?
We have systematized trainings in the Medis Academy, within which we have created the Sales Academy, the IT Academy, the Management Academy, and the Soft Skills Development Academy, and we are also preparing the Finance Academy and the Marketing Academy. Within each academy, we have defined various content modules that are held either once or at regular intervals, depending on the job position and content.
The Sales Academy is intended for all colleagues whose job it is to inform the professional public about the pharmaceutical products we market. It covers the theoretical and practical part with role-playing, as well as includes various content areas such as communication, negotiation, identifying customer needs and closing sales. The IT Academy covers areas such as IT safety and training for working with various IT programs. In addition to internal trainings conducted by the HR Department, the Management Academy also includes several modules related to acquiring management skills, as well as individual coaching with top management upon starting the job and after six months. If necessary, trainings are also carried out by external providers.
In addition, we conduct numerous soft skills trainings and mandatory trainings for all employees, such as business compliance, pharmacovigilance and business code of conduct. Last year we introduced developmental mentoring to promote knowledge transfer between employees, and this year we launched an internal online platform to provide our employees with access to a wide range of e-content.
In addition to systemized trainings, we also co-finance studies while working, various language courses and other trainings. Training providers are internal or external, and the courses can take place as e-learnings or as classic trainings. We encourage key employees to attend international conferences and trainings at the best business schools at home and abroad. This is otherwise a very attractive form of rewarding and motivating employees.
How else do you retain talent?
In the race for the best employees on the market, we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of retaining key employees and talents. It is important to recognize them in good time, which is why we work with managers to identify exceptional individuals as part of annual evaluations and succession planning.
In addition to competitive financial compensation, we strive to provide our employees with the opportunity to develop, grow and have enough challenges offered by working in an international environment. We offer them the opportunity of both vertical and horizontal promotion, hybrid forms of work and flexible working hours, thus adapting as much as possible to their needs so that they feel good, as well as develop and acquire the right skills.
We regularly measure how satisfied and engaged employees are with annual satisfaction and engagement surveys, and we also monitor these two categories through interviews between the manager and the employee and between the employee and the HR Department (with stay interviews). Here it is crucial that we constantly implement improvements based on feedback.
What about the challenges brought by the post-Covid era? What experience do you have with working remotely?
After the Covid-19 epidemic, we noticed that employee turnover was slightly higher, and although it has somewhat stabilized, it is higher than it was in the pre-epidemic period. Finding and retaining quality employees is already a major challenge and will be even more so in the future. That is why we try to create the best employment experience and maintain a work environment where employees feel comfortable, are satisfied and motivated. We were working remotely even before the epidemic, but it is true that colleagues used this option less often. Now it is quite common for those colleagues whose work allows it to work two days from home and three days in the office. This way, they can better manage their time, and the basis for hybrid work is definitely trust in employees. I must add that this concept works perfectly in all countries and in all teams where hybrid work is possible, and we have no problems anywhere.
How do you face the challenges of younger generations entering the job market who advocate different values? How do you intertwine teams/individuals of different generations so that they are efficient, collaborative, engaged and belonging to the company?
For younger generations, money is no longer the main motivating factor. They want a job which they enjoy, feel good about, where they get promoted, manage their own time and place of work, free time is important to them. More experienced employees want stability, specific skills they can acquire at Medis, an international environment and a good salary. That is why we place special emphasis on the individual experience of each employee. This is our greatest competitive advantage.
The fact that we are working in the right direction is confirmed every time by new colleagues during the start interviews, especially those who have experience from other companies, as they can compare different work environments. Their feedback confirms that the people, culture, values, onboarding and everything related to working at Medis are something special. We constantly encourage internal knowledge transfer from more experienced employees to less experienced ones in the form of mentoring, developmental mentoring and coaching. Knowledge sharing also goes the other way, from younger employees to other employees, as it is the case in our internal millennials’ podcasts. The culture, as well as onboarding, development, rewarding and motivation processes help the most in ensuring that employees are collaborative, engaged, efficient and loyal. None of this can be taken for granted. It is something that we have been building for years and something that appeals to every generation.
You mentioned that with hybrid work, you enable employees to better manage their time. In such a large and international company, how do you give individuals a voice in terms of their expectations and wishes regarding the workplace and work-life balance?
We want our colleagues to have a quality life outside of work as well. Raising awareness about a healthy lifestyle (nutrition, physical activity, the importance of quality sleep) is part of the introductory seminar for new employees. Additionally, various lectures on this topic are also available to employees, and we encourage them to participate in sports and join our internal sports group.
Working from home, flexible working hours, the possibility of absence from work due to various personal commitments – all this helps employees maintain a work-life balance. How important this is to employees was clearly demonstrated during the Covid-19 epidemic, when many colleagues thanked us for helping them organize their time and coordinate work with their family commitments as efficiently as possible.
I sincerely wish that legislation in this area would be more life-oriented. I understand that the field needs to be regulated to prevent potential abuse, but I see no problem if the legal restrictions are observed in a more flexible way, with the basis being trust between the employee and the employer.
I would like to add that we really do our best to make every employee heard. In addition to interviews with the manager and the HR Department, we have an open-door policy, there is no strict hierarchy, as is typical for multinational companies. Any employee can come to any director or manager and talk about anything. Employees also have the option of submitting questions or comments anonymously (through the online portal or in physical form), they can request a consultation with our psychologist. In short, anyone can make their voice heard and we are pleased with the proactivity of our colleagues, especially when it comes to their development and growth.