Congrats on winning Global Employer Brand Leader of The Year Award 2022, Estera! We are very pleased to get this chance to chat with you.
Let’s start from the beginning – what is your background and what made you become involved in employer branding?
With a passion for the business environment I have always been interested in understanding the core of the company but most importantly the main motivation drivers of its people. For that reason, I followed an academic background in Business Administration and Innovation Management, while also focusing on my personal and professional growth, by participating in programs such as an MBA, HR Certifications and Employer Branding Leadership courses.
This led you to a career in retail, in Kaufland more specifically, where you seem to have found a great place to develop and grow.
Yes, my career of more than 18 years at Kaufland empowered me to have a complex overview of the company, having had various roles within several departments. My dedication to Employer Branding has constantly grown while working in Human Resources, as I noticed the need to develop the employer brand according to the fast and dynamic changes on the local and international market. As such, I initiated and coordinated projects with significant impact, for the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace for example and made constant efforts to address the needs of candidates and employees. Moreover, being a devoted supporter of gender equality and diversity in all forms has inspired me to persist in promoting this mission within the professional environment.
I believe these aspects are especially relevant when it comes to an employer’s core values, and finding them here, at Kaufland, has motivated me to continue the mission of promoting equal access in leadership positions, combating discrimination, integrating people with disabilities in the workplace, as well as attracting young and new talents in our team through various programs. Additionally, having the chance to spread these values to the public through creative communications initiatives is another reason why Employer Branding has appealed to me.
Your enthusiasm for these topics really shines through. What is your own personal motivator in your work with Employer Branding? Do you have your own personal EB “mantra”?
The desire for continuous growth, change and contribution to employees’ well-being is definitely my main motivator when it comes to Employer Branding. People’s everyday input drives me to have a solution-oriented approach, being motivated by the need to foster a desirable space for our colleagues. Both my academic background and professional experience have opened new paths for me in terms of Human Resources approaches and effective leadership. Furthermore, beyond the strategic perspective, on a personal note, I believe that another important motivator for my work in Employer Branding has come from understanding that my values align with the company values: performance, dynamism and fairness. For me, this is an essential criterion for an Employer Branding specialist who seeks to amplify the company’s mission, both internally and externally, through significant projects, activism and powerful messages.
When it comes to my “mantra”, I can say that balance is key to creating my personal brand, combining both my values and motivations with the organizational culture. Integrating the people around me and their ideas contributes to creating a qualitative Employer Brand.
That “match” between personal values and those of the organization is so powerful – when that values-based fit and alignment exists you can almost feel it and definitely see it in people’s behaviours. You mentioned earlier that you have a strong interest in diversity and enablement of those who have disabilities. How did your interest in this particular field come about? Can you describe the gains you have seen both for people and the business?
In 2019, when Kaufland Romania launched A.C.C.E.S (the Employment of Candidates with Special Requirements and Developments), we knew our work was meaningful – and that it would have a significant impact. This was the first program of its kind in Romania, designed to integrate candidates with special needs and requirements on the job market, and to offer them equal access to job opportunities. And we have made such a difference. Now, three years later, thanks to this program, almost 500 people work at Kaufland and this has changed their lives.
Although I can say I had always been aware of people’s diverse needs, it was only after starting A.C.C.E.S. that I truly understood the immense challenges candidates with special requirements faced while looking for employment, the difficulties they opposed, and the scope of our work. But its results have been so beneficial for our employees, for the communities we are a part of, and I would say for society as a whole. Because A.C.C.E.S also contributes to changing perspectives and attitudes, to educating people, and to sharing successful stories.
I’m very happy that through its many recent projects, amongst which Accessibility Hackathon - aimed at identifying and supporting solutions that offer people with disabilities opportunities for work integration, or celebrating Diversity Month – which has highlighted some of the beneficiaries of the program, we continue to make a difference. And the fact that this particular program not only enjoys internal and public recognition, but also peer recognition is a great feeling. In fact, it is currently being considered for implementation on an international scale within our retail group. It shows the increasing need for employees who promote and encourage equal opportunities.
Absolutely wonderful to hear about these impactful initiatives. If we look forward, what is your current focus area in terms of Employer Branding? What do you see needs to be prioritized in the times ahead?
I am a firm believer in the importance of mutual goals and core values shared by team members, as these are the main drivers for positive results, no matter the department or the position. Togetherness and working united towards the same objectives are the key cornerstones for me and for the company, that I firmly believe will lead us to growth. At Kaufland, we strongly believe that each member of our team is important for our day-to-day success, and we make sure all our colleagues feel appreciated and respected for their hard work and dedication.
For the next period, we aim to focus on retention and attracting new talents, given the current volatility of the labor market and the constant changes in this area at the national and international level. Keeping up with the needs and the requirements of both our candidates and employees is of utmost importance for fostering an inclusive working environment.
Do you see any specific employer branding challenges in your line of industry, retail?
Now, more than ever, considering the current context, we are witnessing an increasing feeling of uncertainty in the market, especially in the retail area, with staff fluctuations, inflation, and economic changes. However, these challenges can be overcome through adaptability, as we work increasingly to mitigate this trend and we remain committed to our employees. Our company is constantly making efforts to solve the issues caused by instability through various actions and by looking at options to offer increasing benefit packages to our employees. Additionally, in 2023, Kaufland will continue to promote salary transparency for all non-management roles.
Another important aspect is the communication strategy, which I can say is a never-ending learning journey. We must continuously adapt to the people’s and market needs, in order to promote our messages in a clear, but creative manner.
Does the context of the country you operate in, Romania, provide any specific challenges connected to employer branding?
At the national level, as I mentioned before when addressing the topic of the retail industry, market instability is also felt by most employers. Nevertheless, I believe that we can have a positive impact in tackling this issue through our Employer Branding initiatives. What is really important is to be aware of people’s wants and needs, to truly listen to candidates and co-workers and to meet their expectations, while helping them fulfill their true professional potential. This is something we have been doing at Kaufland Romania through our Employer Branding campaigns and programs over the years, and we continue to develop new projects meant to shape a work culture that feels like a strong team for its more than 16,000 members.
Can you share any initiative that have been aimed at creating a strong team feeling in the work culture?
A suitable example is the work we have been carrying out recently for youth. Alongside my team, we managed to implement successful programs for the young generation, such as Kaufland Internship Experience, Kaufland Trainee or Talent Program – and most recently, Grand Job Experience – where we opened the first store in a popular video game and invited gamers to practice various jobs in the virtual world. In this way, we adapt to the new generation of employees by keeping up with their interests, needs and expectations and by integrating them in our communication strategy for attracting new talents.
You are already making your presence known in the illusive metaverse – quite exciting. Estera, we want to thank you so much for this chat and sharing both personal drivers and examples of the great employer branding work you do at Kaufland. And – congrats again on winning the Kantar Global Employer Branding Leader 2022 award!
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