SSON Podcast: Episode 53, Maria Grocz, BT

SSON Podcast returns



Seth Adler
04/09/2018

We try to automate some processes. We outsource certain services and make it easier and as we have not too many people in HR so all manual work change to ... In a process, either we skip certain steps what was not necessary or speed up with automation using the technology.

Maria Grotz, BT

Listen above or read the transcript below.

Seth Adler:

From BT Maria joins us.

 

 

First some supporters to thank. And thank you for listening.

 

 

This episode is supported by SSON. With over 100,000 members. The shared services and outsourcing network is the largest and most established community of shared services and outsourcing professionals in the world. SSON is a one stop shop for shared services professionals offering industry leading events, reports, surveys, interviews, white papers, videos, editorial infographics and more.

 

 

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Maria:

My name is Maria Grotz, head of HR BT CEE Russia Region.

 

Seth Adler:

CE.

 

Maria:

CEE Russia Region. Central Eastern Europe and Russia Region, including Hungary of course.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. So now you are from Hungary.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay. And we had a pitcher in American baseball called Al Hrabosky. This was his name. Does this sound like a Hungarian name?

 

Maria:

Could you repeat again?

 

Seth Adler:

Al Hrabosky? Hrabosky is his last name. Because they called him the mad Hungarian.

 

Maria:

Really.

 

Seth Adler:

Yes.

 

Maria:

Wow.

 

Seth Adler:

Because he was a little wild.

 

Maria:

Lots of Hungarians live US.

 

Seth Adler:

Yes of course. He was one of them. Were you based here the whole time?

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

You are, you have been.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

So I have some key Hungary questions. We talked about it a little bit before we turned on the microphones but I want to make sure that I've got this right. As far as dinner is concerned I should eat goulash. This is at least one option. I should also eat goose liver which comes from Hungary. Right?

 

Maria:

Yes. Hungarian goose liver, goulash, yes. It will be quite heavy but tasteful. So you need to drink some red wine.

 

Seth Adler:

And some red wine and I can drink the bull's blood, right? But you said maybe this is ... There's other options.

 

Maria:

It's not the best one but if you just woke out from the hotel and next door it's bistro you can drink really great red wines.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay and we're here at SSOW Eastern Europe in Budapest on the Pest side. Now we wouldn't say Pest side, we would say in Pest.

 

Maria:

And we don't say. Who are living in Budapest we don't say because for us it's natural. It doesn't really matter. Budapest.

 

Seth Adler:

You don't separate it, it's Budapest and we don't care which is Pest and which is Buda.

 

Maria:

Okay maybe the population so who are living in Pest they are saying I'm living in Pest. And others in Buda but it's in Budapest.

 

Seth Adler:

Understood. For you you're fine, everything is the same in Budapest and we love it. But for folks that say that they live in Pest and for folks that they say they live in Buda what would be the differentiation for those that don't know?

 

Maria:

Okay. Buda side it's mainly living. And the Pest side it's more for business. You can find the more restaurants and more fun. There are lots of theaters. Music centers. So it's more for fun.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay.

 

Maria:

And business of course. So everyone who wants to set up a good business maybe try to find something downtown what is very expensive but it works fine.

 

Seth Adler:

Got it. And so where did BT decide to go?

 

Maria:

Okay. BT we have in Budapest 1,700 people in the office so we had to find really good office space. So we are in 11 district. It doesn't really matter.

 

Seth Adler:

North, south, east west?

 

Maria:

It's close to the Danube.

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Maria:

Close to the Infopark. The reason we are there because lots of IT companies are there. So we are renting there six floors. So for 1,700 people we really need space.

 

Seth Adler:

And how long have you been there and how long has BT been there?

 

Maria:

So BT started a business 1998 here with very small office. The shared service center started 10 years ago. Little bit later I joined the company. Because I joined the company almost 10 years ago. That time we had 200 people in the office, 200, 250 people in the office.

 

Seth Adler:

So in 10 years you've gone from 200 to 1,700. Am I doing the math right?

 

Maria:

In Budapest and additionally we have 600 people in the Debrecen 250 km from the capital. So altogether we have more than 2,200 people, close to 2,300 people in Hungary in a shared service center.

 

Seth Adler:

And that growth has happened over the past decade.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

What do you think that's attributable to?

 

Maria:

10 years ago we started with a finance shared service center. It was a top down decision to set up a center in Hungary. We started in Budapest because this is the capital. It's relatively easy to find people. But due to the other reason we wanted to have a second office in Hungary in a countryside. Just to have two locations in Hungary to find candidates from other countries as well like Romania, Ukraine, because Debrecen is close to the border.

 

 

First we had to prove that the Hungarian employees are not only talented but good ones as well. They can perform and they can serve the customers as well as any other countries. So when we proved that then other business units moved to Hungary. More and more business. Now we have about 20 different business units in the shared service center.

 

Seth Adler:

And I've heard that the population is very good with language and I've also heard that Budapest specifically is very commercial in its nature. And that's why there are so many shared services centers here.

 

Maria:

Yeah. That's definitely true. So if BT for example more than 10% of the employees are coming from different countries we have close to 30 nationalities. We provide service 18 different languages and of course altogether we speak more languages because of the nature. Most of the languages are European languages because we provide service for European customers. But we have employees from South America, India, China, all over the world.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay. And Russia.

 

Maria:

Yeah. From Russia as well.

 

Seth Adler:

So HR. Take us through what you're concerned with. What is on your desk, what keeps you up at night?

 

Maria:

Yes. These days the most difficult is to attract people, talented people because the market is shrinking so it's more and more difficult to find good people.

 

Seth Adler:

Everybody has learned the secret of Hungary is what we're saying.

 

Maria:

Yes. The competition is really high. Other countries are looking for people in Hungary, especially with IT background as well. Other difficulties is retention of course. Between we have so many processes so we really focus on leadership development for example. That's main focus in HR.

 

Seth Adler:

At all levels?

 

Maria:

No. Not all levels, mainly first line managers. Team managers level. Because most of the team managers are promoted or selected from team members. So the time when they go to the managerial position as people manager, they don't really know what to do so we need to train them up. In one hand it's of course it's more work for HR but it's okay because that's the way we can retain people, with promotion.

 

 

They appreciate it. They stay longer.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay. Let's get into some HR issues if you don't mind. What I'm asking for is your personal opinion on these things, as opposed to anything else.

 

Maria:

Okay.

 

Seth Adler:

This whole future of work, work from home, satellite situation. What are your thoughts on the value of providing that as an opportunity specifically for millennials or anybody else that would prefer to do it that way versus the value of having folks in the office and the benefits that are associated with that?

 

Maria:

Actually it's not the future because couple of years ago we already implemented the home working. Because people really would like flexibility work integration and SVR working initiative service center, provide service for non Hungarian customers. So it doesn't really matter it's from the office or from home. As our employees like that we allowed and we have two categories, one of the categories is permanent work from home. So they sometimes come to the office to see their colleagues or having the meeting. And other is the occasional home working. It means that people can work from home one or two days per week.

 

 

They receive it as a benefit. They really like it, especially in certain areas, so we have software developers, network development, they can work sometimes during the night. There is a flexibility for them.

 

Seth Adler:

How do you look at management of permanent workers from home? How do you square that circle so to speak?

 

Maria:

There are positive and negative side as well. Positive side is that flexibility and also for the company we do not keep office space for them. We have just the flexi-desks. So actually there is a cost saving for the company not to have a desk and infrastructure for all kind of people. In other hand it's more difficult management because they might not receive all kind of information and they need a social network, the colleagues.

 

 

So that's why they come at least once a week or once in two weeks to the office for having a meeting. We have about 150 people who are in rows. And working from home because they don't have people, subordinates here. And their manager are remote working in other countries.

 

Seth Adler:

As far as retention, you mentioned promotion as a key point for that. What about a permanent worker from home? How can that person grow within the organization if they're ... Sure if we see them once a week or once every two weeks, but how is that person going to be promoted into a position that they're managing other people?

 

Maria:

They are continuously online and if we have any way and we do have hundreds of vacancies it's promoted. So people are informed via email, all employees email so they know exactly what is the new position they can apply. And our recruitment system it's available, it's a global system. So it doesn't really matter. They are sitting in the office and checking online this positions, what is available from home. It's the same.

 

Seth Adler:

How has the culture changed over the past two years. When they implemented this to begin with and now that we've been working with it for awhile, how has the culture changed within the institution?

 

Maria:

Actually people like that.

 

Seth Adler:

People are happier.

 

Maria:

Yes. They like this flexibility. Most of the positions we can allow it for the people but of course we have for example continuous service provided for customers so they are working three shifts. And they have to have the monitor in front of them. So it's a ticketing system. For this position it's not available because they have the tools in the office. So people like that very much.

 

 

If because the flexibility's really high so if they want to come to the office they can come. And especially good for the ladies who are on maternity leave or return from maternity leave, or even men who has young children or sometimes they just look after the children so it's easier. So they can work flexible, early in the morning, late in the evening. So it's welcome as benefit.

 

Seth Adler:

From 3 pm to 8 pm it's terrible for me to work then but I can work from 8 pm to 12 am.

 

Maria:

Probably yes.

 

Seth Adler:

So there are all the flexibility initiatives that the employees like and of course the enterprise appreciates because they now have happier employees. What about that middle management, which is tasked with it's more difficult to execute what they need to execute. What do you as someone that's in charge of HR help them or deal with them?

 

Maria:

Most of our communications are online. So we are using Skype, WebEx and modern technology. I don't think that the manage, it's difficult for the managers. Until the performance is there so the employee performance is okay. And the manager's checking that, it's not a problem. For meetings yeah the only bottleneck is the space in the office, meeting rooms. Because there is a limitation.

 

 

So if someone has a 50 people in the team and they won't all employee meeting in that team, it's quite difficult to find a space.

 

Seth Adler:

Got it. So finding space for a meeting, that's an issue, but that's almost structural. As far as the management itself, like you said it's not the future of work, it's now been going on for the past couple of years. Everyone has adapted.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

So then what are the problems? What are the issues as you look into 2018, what are the things that you are going to need to tackle?

 

Maria:

One of the difficulties is the retention. As we are serving customers, sometimes the customers like to have the same person provide the service for them.

 

Seth Adler:

Certainly.

 

Maria:

We are working with millennials.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Maria:

Did I pronounce well?

 

Seth Adler:

It's true, yes you did.

 

Maria:

So the average age is 31 in the company. So they don't really stay long in the company, so it cause a problem, the customers. The customers want permanent service and they really prefer the same person. They can talk. I think that's the problem. A little bit.

 

Seth Adler:

So that's an issue as far as the workforce being so young. What are you hearing, whether it's through exit interviews or otherwise, why there is a migration away from the organization if we are providing the tools that we've been asked for where you can work at home permanently, you can home flex, we can do whatever you want. Why do folks choose to move on and what can be done to satiate that?

 

Maria:

Because they want to build their career very very quickly.

 

Seth Adler:

Quickly.

 

Maria:

The impatience it's high. So they are quite satisfied with the workplace but the engagement, it's much lower. So they just want to try.

 

Seth Adler:

This is what it is.

 

Maria:

Yeah. We are hiring lots of fresh graduates. Directly from universities. If they take as a first workplace BT they believe this is something basic. And they want to try others as well, they want to try themselves.

 

Seth Adler:

So have you adjusted then as far as recruitment is concerned? You said retention is an issue and it seems like it's going to be but have you adjusted to the new reality of folks are just gonna move on a little bit more quickly or a lot more quickly than they have?

 

Maria:

Yes. We need to adapt so for example before they get bored in their jobs, we move them, rotate them into different roles or they might move to a team manager position. Because they don't want to do the same job for long time.

 

Seth Adler:

So I'm generation X right? I'm 41. It seems like from my perspective your job has completely changed over the past 10 years. In a different way than everyone else's job. Because I used to come to work and I would do what the manager told me and that was it basically. I didn't ask too many questions. I didn't have too many problems. And it just seems like it's shifted 180. I heard you have doubt as far as ...

 

Maria:

We just had a workshop in this conference. We discussed that it's probably not much to do with age but the environment change for example the technology totally change, speed up. 10 years ago we did not have Facebook or some WebEx. I don't know Skype, Telepresent, these kind of things.

 

Seth Adler:

All of it, none of it, we had none of it. Right yeah, we had fax machines.

 

Maria:

So we probably, we are in the same situation, so the elder generation also have to learn so many new things. Maybe the young generation can learn it quickly because they born in this environment in technology.

 

Seth Adler:

Digital natives. Certainly. So you're saying it's not generational it's simply based on the technology.

 

Maria:

Not only generation I would say. It's changing the technology as well. So if I want to work in my job and I'm comparing what was 10 years ago I had to learn lots of new technologies and I had to use it. I had to adapt myself as much as the new generation. However, they can do it more quickly because for them it's something natural.

 

Seth Adler:

So you've been here for 10 years almost.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

You're from Budapest. Did you go to university here in Budapest?

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

And where did you go after that, after university?

 

Maria:

After university. I was working at telecommunication company with a very old style communication company. I was working in a small enterprise, because I had two children, young children so I really wanted a flexibility.

 

Seth Adler:

Look at you with the millennial mindset.

 

Maria:

Yeah. Many years ago. And I was working for Exxon Mobil. It's a global company as well. And BT. But Exxon Mobil and BT, okay it's a big difference.

 

Seth Adler:

How so?

 

Maria:

Similarities as well.

 

Seth Adler:

They're similar because they're giant international organizations.

 

Maria:

Exactly.

 

Seth Adler:

What were the differences in culture I wonder?

 

Maria:

Culture as Exxon Mobil, it's oil industry so it's much more structured. And the planning is for 10 years maybe 100 years. Because the oil tanks and the petrol stations, it's for future, it's very well established, the technology. BT as a telecommunication company, it changing a lot. So the plans are changing very quickly. It's just coming from the type of industry.

 

Seth Adler:

Interesting. But then the culture also feels that way too. It's not only that way with what we're providing and what the business is. It also, the executives are speaking a little bit more quickly.

 

Maria:

Yes but the shared for example, the shared service center is pretty similar.

 

Seth Adler:

Pretty similar. Because we gotta do it.

 

Maria:

Other competitions as well, so working similarly.

 

Seth Adler:

We still gotta process those invoices no matter what we do right? We gotta manage HR no matter what it is, still gonna be people working. What about, and i say still gonna be people working here, what about automation? How do you deal with automation in HR with folks looking at it and maybe having some fear?

 

Maria:

In HR probably it's little bit more difficult than in finance for example, because there are people behind the processes, not numbers. However, we try to automate some processes. We outsource certain services and make it easier and as we have not too many people in HR so all manual work change to ... In a process, either we skip certain steps what was not necessary or speed up with automation using the technology.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. Totally understood. So automation is within your organization. I'm also asking about how folks culturally are grappling with this and how you as the head of HR help them grapple with it.

 

Maria:

It's good news in one hand because the lower level job will disappear so people are talented they want to do creative jobs so it's good news for them. For us HR as well. So because we love to do more complex job than simple transactional job for example, this is looks like disappearing from the processes.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. And again millennials will tell you those are low level that, "No I don't need to be doing that. No matter how much experience I have."

 

Maria:

Especially because we are looking for people with several language speaking. If the job doesn't require a university degree but due to the language requirement yes so they get bored very easy with the transactional jobs. So that's why it's good news for us.

 

Seth Adler:

Excellent. Good news, now good news into the future. I have three final questions, I'll tell you what they are and I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you at work, what has most surprised you in life? And on the soundtrack of your life one track, one song that's gotta be on there.

 

 

First thing's first though, we mentioned Exxon, we mentioned BT, it seems like you're a loyal employee yourself. You've been at-

 

Maria:

10 years now.

 

Seth Adler:

Right. What is most surprised you at work along the way?

 

Maria:

The continuous changes. I like it, that's why I'm still here. I wouldn't be here to do the same. So it's totally different. And I like the changes.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah. And it gets faster and faster as we go. It's amazing right?

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Just in my lifetime I mentioned it's totally different than it used to be. And I can see that tomorrow, next week, next month is gonna be completely different than it is right now.

 

Maria:

It's good.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah it is. And to that end, what's most surprised you in life?

 

Maria:

Seeing to grown up my children. And they are getting older. I still not.

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Maria:

And I needed to accommodate as well, to help to talk to them.

 

Seth Adler:

As they became people as opposed to children right?

 

Maria:

Yes. Definitely. It was quite difficult. Because you see that they grown up but still are children. So it's how to manage them.

 

Seth Adler:

And you get along with them good?

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

All right. So boys, girls, what are we at?

 

Maria:

Two boys.

 

Seth Adler:

two boys.

 

Maria:

Lovely boys.

 

Seth Adler:

Of course. And they're always gonna love mom, that's easy.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Right?

 

Maria:

Yes we have a very good relationship with them.

 

Seth Adler:

Excellent. On the soundtrack of your life one track one song that's gotta be on there?

 

Maria:

Okay. I can't say anything but there is a change as well because the last two years I really loved the Latin music. I started to dance salsa and bachata so that's why. But 10 years ago I preferred classical music or jazz. So that was the change as well. I wouldn't say any of the songs but the style.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay fair enough. As far as the classical music, do you remember who you listened to, who you liked? Maybe Liszt. Is he Hungarian?

 

Maria:

Yes he's Hungarian. It's quite difficult or Vivaldi who's not Hungarian but also, yes.

 

Seth Adler:

All right so I like Liszt. I got turned onto him a couple years ago. It's good stuff, it's right there for you. I guess with the salsa stuff we could say Tito Puente, that'll work for you right? As far as what you're dancing to?

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah. No songs in particular but we had a little-

 

Maria:

No. Just style of music, yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah. So the more things change the more they stay the same.

 

Maria:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

The more things stay the same the more they change, either way. What is this, Maria, right? There's a song in a musical theater, Puerto Rican ... What's the name of that-

 

Maria:

Westside story.

 

Seth Adler:

Westside story. See there you go. And so do you like that song, Maria?

 

Maria:

Yes. Nobody look for me. But no. I don't have Tony, but. But yes I like it.

 

Seth Adler:

Maria, thank you so much for your time.

 

Maria:

Thank you, thank you.

 

Seth Adler:

And there you have Maria Grotz taking us through the changing face of HR within shared services. Very much appreciate Maria's time, very much appreciate yours. Stay tuned.