09 февраля 2015

An Earnest and Permanent Job

Business processes of a bank and a microfinance institution are sufficiently alike in general. There is a place for competition even for personnel. The corporate group "Bistrodengi" shows significant growth: geographical expansion, increase in the number of workers, technological development. The Office of HR-director Olga FILIPPOVA told NBJ about the personnel management nuances of MFI included into top 100 of best employers of the Russian Federation.

NBJ: Olga, the "Bistrodengi" company was founded relatively recently. Today the number of its employees is several thousand people. Which factors promoted such active growth of the organization?

O. FILIPPOVA: Today "Bistrodengi"employs more than 3 700 of people. Our offices are opened in 180 towns of Russia. Originally, the organization was aimed at geographical expansion, market share capture, forming and holding on the leading positions, opening retail stores. We achieved this by growing in number due to the regions. The headquarters of our company is located in Ulyanovsk, managing the whole business is carried out from there, but two thirds of the staff works outside of it. Nowadays we are concentrated on the technologies development and entering new market segments.

NBJ: The experts in microfinancing sphere notice staff shortages in the MFI market. Do you share their opinion?

O. FILIPPOVA: Staff shortages were really observed until recently, we dealt with the applicant market, not the employer one. We suffered from skilled labor shortage: there were applicants in the market, but they were not qualified enough for us. So we had to lower requirements for candidates and work with university graduates without working experience. We retrained and educated staff.

Now, against the background of economic downturn and U.S. dollar and euro growing in value, lots of companies announce their plans of cost reduction and headcount optimization. In here, we are forecasting a lower staff turnover in connection with the fact that workers will hold on their jobs and also a quicker and more qualitative vacancy closing due to a greater number of qualified applicants at the labor market and the fact that an employer will have better choice.

NBJ: How do you deal with the problem of line staff recruitment in "Bistrodengi"? Tell us about your human resources strategy, please.

O. FILIPPOVA: We worked out a system of the company’s corporate values and we got four of them – respect, responsibility for the result, ability to work in team and constant development. When hiring, we evaluate if candidates meet them. 

We have a strictly described competences profile for each position. We also have general requirements which apply to all the applicants; they meet with the company’s corporate values. Moreover, we developed standards of interviews on which our HR-managers in the regions rely. If a candidate does not possess qualities implied and does not share the company’s values – we do not accept him. 

Then we assess his or hers professional skills. If they are not high enough but the applicant satisfies general requirements, we hire and then educate him. It consists of a welcome-training and values and customer service training. Then an exam takes place composed of a test and a role play. A worker who passes it successfully then has a two-week internship after which he takes another exam and continues working himself.

NBJ: As far as I am concerned, “Bistrodengi” has a strong management team. How did you manage to create it?

O. FILIPPOVA: While building a management team we use roughly the same approach. We choose top-managers very accurately meticulously and during a long time.

The main challenge we learnt to deal with is that our headquarters is located in Ulyanovsk and we pick top-managers mostly from Moscow with compulsory experience of working in major federal companies. It assumes either a move or business trips and high skills of remote managing, accordingly. Such kind of approach stimulates us towards headquarters employees’ development – we reinforce their self-dependence and ability to make operational decisions.

You know, at one time I was greatly surprised that a lot of managers in major companies are oriented at the process rather than the result: they could not name digitized results of their activities. It is, firstly, about uninvolved people whose main motivator is money. We are not ready to work with such people because they are hard to hold on subsequently. We are also careful with the "runners" who have working experience of one-half years at every place. This period of time is not enough for a top-manager to show truly significant results. 

We are now glad with our management team – close-knit, responsible and enthusiastic about the business they are engaged in. 

NBJ: How is your manager’s job drawn up?

O. FILIPPOVA: I have one hundred subordinates, one part of them is working in Ulyanovsk, another one – in the regions. Most of the workers are specialists of the training center which is engaged in educating and retraining staff. There are four more departments in the center: selection and adaptation, corporate culture and internal communications, benefits and compensations which is occupied in material and non-material motivation, and HR-department. 

Starting up in 2011 we faced a range of problems: the micro finance industry was unclear and unfamiliar to candidates, so we noted negative attitude towards MFI. Nowadays the "Bistrodengi" brand is a synonym for the whole "loans before salary" segment for many in Russia. This level of popularity is often reached by "grey" firms, leading to negative effects of their work being projected on our company. Due to the lack of trust to industry and of understanding the essence of service, we found it hard to draw personnel. 

However, our prominence is frequently used by "grey" organizations, so called "pile" creditors. As a result, the negative related to illegal organizations’ activities impacts our company. Due to distrust to the industry and incomprehension of the service itself, it was complicated for us to involve ordinary employees as well as senior managers. We are working at changing stereotypes and attitudes towards MFI and we already see first results of the systematic work. 

That’s why in paticular forming a strong HR-brand and increasing the loyalty level and involvement of staff is the main aim of HR-department. Our entire performance is aimed at solving these problems.
All the processes related to human resources are improved, optimized and adjusted. The HR-direction is clearly digitized; we also have target key indexes we are oriented at. We are aware how much recruiting one employee costs, what are vacancy closing dates, sources of staff recruitment and testing results. We always work for results – trace it, analyze and enhance it.

Long run motivation applies to top-management, as a rule, as to us – we intended to apply it to the line staff as we did. There is a unique program "Reach a star" in our company. The main point of it is that an employee earns stars for professional and personal achievements, participation in various contests and competitions. The stars are viewed for each worker in the internal corporate portal, with the help of which we track employees’ rating. 70% of the leaders is line staff at the moment. The first place is occupied by a specialist from Ufa, Head of Financial Aid Office who aspires to win the main prize of one million rubles in the end of 2015. Within the framework of this two-year program cash prizes are provided for the best 50 employees.

NBJ: If I understood you right, the "Bistrodengi" company is counting on the good breeding of workers within the organization and creating staff reserve?

O. FILIPPOVA: Yes, if we speak about top-managers, then approximately half to two years ago we had a demand for external specialists, we wanted to enhance the company by another major federal players’ experience, that is why we chose the crème de la crème and asked them to work for us. Now we are focused on training and developing personnel within the company. To do this a large-scale work on assessing line staff and middle-level managers is being carried out at the moment, we are also forming staff reserve and programs on its training. That is way more efficient than getting someone from the outside: we know weak and strong sides of our employees and we motivate them for career growth within the company. In 2014 17% of our employees were promoted. We would like the percentage to be higher, we will make efforts to close at least 50% of our vacancies with the internal reserves.

NBJ: Do you educate staff by your own means alone or do you resort to the help of exterior consulting companies?

O. FILIPPOVA: We surely educate the major part of staff by own strength. For instance, each member of the retail chain takes at least 4 trainings organized by the corporate training center annually. Yet there is a range of fields where we engage various training companies and business schools. We are interested in the group corporate and individual professional education. There is good experience of cooperation with the school of executives training Samolov Group in developing regional and area directors, top-managers of the company. The program data is practical, it helps developing managing skills of workers.