The FOURLIS Group Human Resources Manager tells us how important the team concept is.
I’ll start with one important distinction: The FOURLIS Group was awarded the HR Awards 2019 Gold Award in the Most Innovative Use of Technology in HR category. Tell us a few words about it.
We have been awarded for the creation of a new, our own, mobile application that addresses the internal communication of our Group employees. We called the F2F application, that is Friend2Frend. F2F is easy to use, flexible, fast and personalized! It has already strengthened our culture, with the active participation of the majority of workers, 64% of whom are millennials! Our people have full access to new information, enjoy new experiences, feel like they belong in a great team!
How did this idea get started?
Planning for the creation of F2F was launched in July 2018, with the project outsourced, with the most important stage of the project being to explore the needs of the Group and users in order to develop appropriate functionality.
We needed a platform that the employee could:
- to have just one click access to all the tools at his disposal to keep him informed of the Group’s activities, as well as his online training and entertainment.
- to select the categories of his / her own preferences (tags) and receive targeted alerts for any announcement that specifically concerns the store and company in which he / she works and his / her personal interests.
- choose how to use the app and the features it offers, such as the groups it will participate in, the “friends” it will add, even if they are from other companies in the Group, to chat and much more.
- be able to translate posts into all languages
This is F2F! In February 2019, the application was officially launched with all the functions I mentioned above, for all 4,500 employees of the Group’s companies in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. In a subsequent upgrade it is already designed for employees to be able to connect to the HR Self Service platform so they can apply for their licenses, certifications they need, complete their self-assessment, etc.
How did the name of the application come about?
The full name of the application is Friend2Friend. Our Group is governed by the feeling of family and friendship. We needed this feeling to reach every store and office and the way our people were connected online in this context. Each employee can choose which groups to join, the “friends” to add, chat with them and much more. In other words, the application aims to bring employees closer and enable them to communicate as “friends” in addition to real-time information.
As a group, what other actions do you take to strengthen teamwork?
We are proud of the actions we take. If I can distinguish any of them, I will refer to training programs, various kinds of events, sports activities and of course volunteering. Apart from their primary purpose, that is, the learning, but also the entertainment of the employees, they are always aimed at disseminating culture, teamwork and of course, the well-being of our employees. Our close partnership with CSR is crucial!
For example, pilot lessons in Greek traditional dances and Pilates were launched at the Group’s headquarters, an initiative that was immediately embraced by employees. The nature of retail, the size of the Group, the dispersal of employees and the different shifts in which our people work, the creation of other such management departments is not easy. But not impossible!
How did you decide to start these actions?
It had been an idea for a long time. We wanted to launch it when we were 100% sure we would meet our people’s needs. Having the philosophy in our Group to “listen” to our people’s ideas – and when possible to apply them – the idea was discussed in the workshops following the Employee Engagement Survey. Reception from the employees themselves was warm both for this thought and for the other actions we take.
It is not a bad thing to “crumple”! On the contrary, I believe that showing who you really are helps you the most, changing the way you see and work with them the next day, the team becomes even stronger.
Are they responsive?
The two specific programs excited the workers and the turnout was great from the start. The great thing is that everyone can participate, regardless of grade, which enables us to get to know each other even better, outside of the day-to-day work, and to bond as a team even more.
You use a plural form. Do you participate in both of these activities?
I join the folk dance group as I love dancing! I find it to be an activity where you can not only express yourself but also get to know other cultures, customs and customs of the area, relax, even though dancing as an exercise can often be more painful than exercise or running!
Do you think this is the way relationships between colleagues are strengthened? Can we talk about friendships in the office? And if so, what impact does it have on the company?
Workplace friendships are created anyway, as you can eventually spend more hours with your colleagues than with your friends. By engaging in these or other similar activities, you begin to associate with people you do not have direct and daily contact with at work. So you open, you bind, you crumple! It is not a bad thing to “crumple”! On the contrary, I believe that showing who you really are helps you the most, changing the way you see and work with them the next day, the team becomes even stronger. After all, it is the strong and knit teams that bring the best results!
So do you think there is a correlation between wellness and performance?
Of course there is a direct relationship! If you feel good inside, you take it out, and those around you realize it! What a great way to work with people who are good, productive and smiling! It goes without saying that there will always be times of tension, but even those moments can be productive, as long as we all think that we have common goals to succeed!
Dance has taught me to concentrate more easily, no matter what happens around me, to be more relaxed and calm even in times of tension, to feel more confident in what I can do, to be even less hesitant to try new things, to “crumple”.
Have you noticed this change in yourself?
I started dancing a few years ago, except for the classes I now attend in the office. The occasion was a need I felt to exercise, to deal with myself! Free from my mom’s “obligations”, I was looking for something that would fill me in and relax me at the same time.
In the past I did gymnastics with my son who did tae-kwon-do. However, for a short time I gave up, because as it turned out, this way of exercising did not suit me! I prefer to be with people around me virtually, to be able to exchange experiences, to “teach” and to “teach” me. In a gym, communication, to my mind, is rather impersonal!
The idea of dance came from a girlfriend who had been going to dance school for many years. What I could see, talking to her, was her smile, the way she coped with things even in her most difficult times. That’s how I got started! At first I was hesitant! I couldn’t believe I could do what I was seeing! I remember one day the teacher said to the more advanced “schoolgirls”: “You have to pivot girls …”, and I was looking around to see what she was referring to … (then I only knew the excel pivot!). I will say that dance is “sport” and even painful and demanding! You must simultaneously measure the pace, step on the right steps, work all the muscles of the body separately, be “graceful” and of course smiling! You can’t forget a second! And all this on high heels!
I could talk for hours about the benefits of dance, at least what I see in myself in my daily life! Dance has taught me to concentrate more easily, no matter what happens around me, to be more relaxed and calm even in times of tension, to feel more confident in what I can do, to be even less hesitant to try new things, to “crumple”.
Strong and knit teams are the ones that bring the best results!
You have many years of experience in Human Resource Management. How much have the needs of the employee changed today compared to the past and what do you think the employee is looking for today?
Things around us are constantly changing, evolving at a much faster pace. I think all of us understand this and discuss it! We, as HR, are called upon to manage 3 to 4 generations of people in our companies at the same time, so we should always keep in mind that “one size does not fit all”!
Many of our employees still belong to the baby boomers generation, and as a matter of course millennials make up the largest proportion of employees. Different generations depending on their experiences, their experiences, their beliefs and their ‘wills’. So I couldn’t answer that simple! The only sure thing is that everyone is looking for respect, communication, meritocracy.
You talked about the new generation. Do you think that financial incentives for millennials are the strongest? Do you think that for this generation, wellbeing plays a key role in their lives?
Finance certainly plays a role in their lives, but for different reasons than those of their parents’ generation. It is the generation that seeks meaning and substance in its work, which it considers very important for companies to promote health and wellness. Millennials focus more on the wider social, rather than individual needs, are confident and feel like citizens of the world. They grew up watching Steve Jobs build on Apple’s omnipresence and Mark Zuckerberg uniting people through facebook. They dispute and reject what does not. She is a highly educated generation who wants to make a difference in the world, believes in her dreams and strives to make them come true.
In today’s circumstances, what are the most important skills of an ideal employee and in what areas should a company focus on training?
First of all we need to know the business environment in which we operate! One does not get good at what he does! He must know why and how he can influence the achievement of company goals.
We still have to act as agents of change. Embrace change and be willing to improve the way we work. To see change not as a threat, but as an opportunity. We should look for ways to continually improve our skills and technical know-how in order to develop ourselves. After all, we are all responsible!
Needless to say, teamwork is very important! You can’t work on your own. We need to be able to belong to a group and accept that we are equal members with the rest!
Do you think we can talk about occupational well-being? And if so, how can we achieve it?
Let’s clarify what professional well-being means! Inability to concentrate, fatigue, headache, injustice, ruthlessness, hard work, when not combined with a clever way of working, are characteristics that show that there is no occupational well-being! Everything is directly related to the culture of the company. When there is mutual respect and understanding, then things get a lot easier! When you stand next to the employee, support him or her even in a personal problem, this will have a positive impact not only on himself but also on those around him who will notice it.
Do you have any tips that boost your efficiency?
I think efficiency or empowerment is determined by two factors: whether you like what you do but mainly how you feel yourself, that is, whether you feel good inside yourself.
Both on a personal and professional level, I find myself very lucky! I know it will sound commonplace, but when it comes to the truth you have to say it … I have a wonderful family, good friends and doing a job I love very much! A job that has difficulties but mainly has “beautiful” moments! You create with people for people!
The “little secret” for me is to never leave for tomorrow something I can finish today. I believe that when you leave things behind and perpetuate situations, decisions, or actions, you get tired and the result, when it comes, may not be what you want.
“Technology” doesn’t tire me out or disassemble me! Instead it relaxes me and thanks me! Technology is not just e-mails! It’s the music I always have with me, it’s the movies I can watch, it’s the books I can read, even though I’m a fan of paper and its smell! I have everything with me and depending on the time I can quickly choose what I need!
Millennials are the generation that is looking for meaning and substance in its work, which considers it very important for companies to promote health and wellness.
How difficult is it to find a balance between personal and professional life? What do you do about it?
Until a few years ago most of my time was dedicated to work, in other words less time for family, friends and myself. Now, with my experience, I realize that my time could be equally shared. So I have found my balance and I know, under normal circumstances, what time I will leave the office to devote time to my personal life. This is the only way to be more productive the next day at work and to feel fulfilled as a human being.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Spend more time on yourself and what you love to do so that you can handle all your other obligations, both at work and of course to your family and friends.
Was there a time you got close or burnout?
Only once, fortunately, many years back. Moving away from the environment that created them was a one-way street.
What discharges you?
Reading and practicing. I read a lot. But I try to avoid hours when I’m not in the office reading things for work – I want to separate them now. My unloading is also done with the dynamic training, having now put into my life dance lessons and training, on average 8 hours a week.
You can’t work on your own. We need to be able to belong to a group and accept that we are equal members with the rest!
You attended the Thrive workshop. What new habits did you adopt after that?
For those of us who do sedentary work most of the day, the exercises – stretching, which I can do anywhere in the day, have been especially helpful! They were lifesaving I also try to improve my relationship with water!
Got a Thrive Goal?
Don’t stop exercising! Everyone has to do what suits him best. It doesn’t matter if you are running, walking, swimming or dancing! It is important to exercise, get up from the comfort of your couch! What I find today, now that exercise has come into my life for good, is that its benefits are many, both for physical and mental health and well-being!
One last thing. How do you manage a failure?
We all make mistakes and fail, either professionally or personally, and especially when we try to do new things. I believe that for our growth we have to get out of our comfort zone. We have to be willing to feel ‘weird’ and ‘uncomfortable’, not to be frightened of failure, not to be afraid of being crushed. ‘A small tip. To always be motivated, every time a “failure” comes, I have chosen to think of it as a doctrine. Instead of saying “I failed” I choose to say “What I learned from this experience.”
Only in this way do we learn and mature at the same time, we become better than ourselves yesterday.
It doesn’t matter if you are running, walking, swimming or dancing! It is important to exercise, get up from the comfort of your couch!
Natasa Spyrou has been the FOURLIS Group’s HR Manager since 2008, responsible for HR strategy across the 5 countries in which the Group operates, and for its total 4,500 employees. He has extensive experience in the Human Resources field having worked in different sectors: consumer products (AB Vassilopoulos-Delhaize Le Lion Group), industry (Pirelli Hellas, Mail Group) and telecommunications (STET Hellas, Tellas). Throughout her professional career, her motivation has been and is to meet new challenges as well as achieve measurable results through people. He is a graduate of the Department of Italian Philology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and has also studied Marketing. On a personal level, except for her family,