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Female leadership: Julia Andronovskaya, Director of Staff Recruitment and Development at Polyus

22 July 2021
Female leadership: Julia Andronovskaya, Director of Staff Recruitment and Development at Polyus

Julia Andronovskaya, Director of Staff Recruitment and Development at Polyus, shared her views with RBC Trends how to create and implement a culture within a business based on strong beliefs and values. Julia believes that setting clear rules and common values are vital, while not forcing changes on employees will help them to accept these.

Julia has worked in HR for almost 20 years, and has extensive experience developing recruitment and training systems, corporate cultures and internal communications. Julia previously worked at SUEK, RUSAL and Bails Recruitment Agency.

Why change a corporate culture?

A few years ago, Polyus transitioned into what we deem to be the next stage of its development. Two particularly vital areas for this were digitalization and increasing the capacity of existing enterprises. Initial resistance to change is inevitable, however the situation was complicated further by the fact that Polyus operates across several regions of Russia and most of our employees are localized within their particular region. It therefore became difficult for them to understand the need for this change, hindering our internal processes.

It was important for us to involve employees from all levels of the business, therefore giving them a sense of ownership in the process. Since Polyus has never been an authoritative company, we engaged in an open dialogue with our employees which allowed us to understand how much the changes that we considered would impact their day-to-day responsibilities.

Each business unit had its own processes, including recruitment processes and guidelines. It was only when we explained the advantages of a uniform approach and listened to their concerns that they understood and accepted this decision. This is a process that Polyus uses when implementing all of its projects, including those employees affected by the decision in the process.

What is included in the Company’s Code of Conduct?

We decided to create a Code of Conduct, which would become the foundations for our new corporate culture. Creating this consisted of the following stages:

  1. An employee survey
    The primary aim was to find common ground between workers of varying levels of seniority. Before conducting the surveys, we highlighted the importance of agreeing on how to best communicate internally and understand each other’s values, with everyone’s opinion being considered equally.
    Over 10% of Polyus’ employees participated in the survey, we even had people approach HR representatives requesting to take part. Employees were asked what their motivation was when interacting with their colleagues, what kind of company they want to work for and what values are currently being delivered, as well as which are not. The answers to these gave us the core values of the Code of the Conduct, being efficiency, personal development, professionalism, cooperation, safety and stability.
    In addition to this, we defined standards and rules of corporate conduct, which cover interaction with colleagues and business partners, as well as stating our social responsibilities.
  2. Training and education
    We organized face-to-face meetings with multiple employees attending each session from all levels of the Company and developed an online training program, enabling employees who are unable to attend the in-person sessions to participate. These are now compulsory for all new employees and we also organize seminars focused on the Code as part of the induction program.
  3. Conduct coordinators
    In order to effectively implement the Code, we have introduced the role of Conduct Coordinator. These are existing employees who have a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of the Code. The purpose behind this was to give employees a point of contact that they can approach whenever they need to clarify a point or resolve any issues. Our coordinators regularly complete training programs that focus on effective communication techniques and problem solving.
  4. The Polyus hotline
    We established a hotline that employees can contact when they require guidance. For example, the Company received multiple complaints via the hotline about ineffective methods of communication from a line manager in one of its business units. We began a thorough investigation, discovering that the issue was a poor management culture within that unit.
    This allowed Polyus to remedy the situation, developing a training program for line managers that would enhance their communication and team management skills. This training program was compulsory for all line managers. We received positive feedback from many participants in the program and, as a result, the number of complaints about misconduct declined dramatically.

Evolving to solve new problems

Every two years we conduct an employee engagement survey. This takes a year to complete, then another year to correct the problems raised. Following the completion of the survey, each business unit develops an action plan to solve any issues raised.

We ensure to outline the decision-making process behind each policy for our employees. For example, some of our employees who live on-site and away from their homes were concerned by the lack of ways to communicate with their families. To improve this situation, we significantly improved and expanded Wi-Fi access to allow for more video calling.

What communication tools are needed

Along with the changes to our corporate culture, we attempted to alter the methods of internal communication to maintain an ongoing dialogue. This had to relate to both the interaction between managers and employees, as well as among the employees.

One initiative to help this was expanding the subjects included within the Company’s corporate newspaper. In particular, we incorporated more stories about social and living conditions on-site. We also introduced a system for face-to-face meetings with managers. A “direct line” with Polyus’ CEO was held where employees could ask Mr. Grachev questions. Another initiative was setting up systems that are aimed at improving horizontal communication between employees of similar seniority. The Company has also launched a “Random Coffee” initiative, which allows an employee to get to know their colleagues better. After the employee expresses their desire to participate, the system randomly assigns them to a colleague and they then meet for a cup of coffee. We believe this gives them a better understanding of what the other does, helping them to become more sympathetic to each other.

Our achievements

These innovations under our corporate Code of Conduct have aided internal communication and provided Polyus with tangible results. Over the past five years:

  • Employee engagement has increased from 43% to 51%
  • Employee loyalty rose from 54% to 79%
  • Awareness improved from 34% to 67%

These achievements have emphasized to us that we had the right approach of not forcing people to do things and listening to their concerns.