Opening the online panel on ‘HR World for Tomorrow’, held on 23 November as part of HR Week 2020, the moderator, Ivana Karanović of Karanović & Partners Law, Vice-Chairperson of AmCham HR Forum, introduced the need for ideas that lead to change as the key topic for discussion. The panellists, all of whom came from AmCham member companies, were Marija Gligorević, Attorney-at-Law at BDK Attorneys; Milena Jakšić Papac, Partner at Karanović & Partners; Aleksandra Dutina, HR Director at Carlsberg Serbia; and Dragana Koruga Ristić, HR Manager at Coca-Cola HBC, spoke about current issues in human resources management. Apart from remote work, the panel touched upon student internships and hiring people without prior experience in the time of the pandemic, as well as shortcomings of the regulatory framework for labour and employment.
Working from home was present to some extent even before the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, given the circumstances, these arrangements are likely to persist in companies even once all lockdowns are finally lifted. Many firms have found ways to make remote work a key pillar of their business processes, but even the most successful ones are facing challenges. Most of these issues are caused by the vague statutory framework which only partially regulates remote work. The Serbian Labour Law does not offer a sufficiently flexible framework to which employers and employees can successfully adapt. This poses a challenge to businesses at this time of the pandemic: how to comply with the rules whilst at the same time offering their staff safe working conditions. The business environment certainly needs more flexibility from the Labour Law’s remote (home) working provisions. These changes ought to spell out the statutory minimum of rights and motivate firms to adapt whilst taking into account preventive measures to keep employees healthy and themselves profitable.
The panel also explored student internships and hiring of persons with no prior experience in the time of the pandemic. The panellists noted that many firms were endeavouring to give students and inexperienced individuals a chance, but that this area also required amendments to regulations to facilitate the hiring process. It was concluded that firms had to be incentivised to hire new staff and allow students to join as interns. Formal internship agreements between companies and students were cited as an issue, and the panellists presented a number of regulations from European jurisdictions that have streamlined and simplified these issues. Changes to Serbian rules would benefit both companies, which need injections of fresh talent, and students and the unemployed, looking for professional development. Rising youth unemployment in the European Union (EU) recently prompted the European Parliament to enact a resolution calling on EU member states to offer good-quality, varied and tailored jobs, training or internships to students and those with no prior experience, and condemned the practice of unpaid internships.
Moving on, the panel considered the issue of excessive red tape in labour regulations. The rapid pace of digitalisation requires these formalities to be simplified. The panellists agreed that the administrative requirements ought to be replaced by more modern and flexible alternatives. The current practices of having to deliver company decisions to employees in person and post them on physical notice boards are outdated in view of how today’s companies operate.
Ms Karanović concluded that the AmCham HR Panel would note the findings of the panel and advocate for them to be put into practice. In Serbia, laws are proposed by Government and enacted by Parliament, but no change to labour law can begin without the involvement of companies, which is why up-to-date solutions should be sought to enhance the legal framework and facilitate doing business.
AmCham was represented in another panel during HR Week, held on 24 November. Nikola Milosavljević, Chairman of AmCham HR Forum and Chief Operating Officer at Adecco Outsourcing, took part in a discussion entitled ‘Human resources, humanized’, together with fellow panellists Aleksandar Hangiman, Managing Director of ManPower Serbia and Milica Ožegović of the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The event was moderated by Natalija Perišić, HR Director at VipMobile.
The panellists focused on the role of the HR sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, underlining the importance of collaboration between companies’ human resources functions and business associations. They also spoke about the challenges still facing the HR function, noting that human resources staff had truly put the ‘human’ back into the sector during the pandemic.
The panel agreed that all stakeholders in the business sector had to work together to create a sound business environment and help the economy grow, especially in times of crisis. The participants were unanimous in their view that the HR sector was much busier in 2020 than before, mainly by seeking to ensure all employees were secure and healthy, but also in support of continued company operations. Chambers of commerce and business associations were perceived as a key stakeholder in the early stages and during the outbreak, as they delivered much-needed and timely information to member firms. Business associations have also served as a channel to the Government, allowing companies to communicate indirectly with public authorities to both propose solutions and seek to stabilise the market.
Also discussed was the issue of how to strengthen the HR function’s business component, as well as whether the ‘human’ was disappearing from human resources. Mr Milosavljević noted that this year was a watershed for the HR sector, emphasising that the crisis had brought out major differences between companies that view human resources only as a business function and those that are employee-oriented.
The labour market has shown that, in 2020, companies that viewed people as an asset were much more prosperous than strictly business-oriented ones. The discussion moved on to the strategic role of HR, which gained in importance this year and put the ‘human’ back into the sector during the pandemic. It was concluded that the role of HR was only set to increase in significance amongst other business functions.
Lastly, the panellists re-iterated some well-known pieces of advice for their peers in the HR sector: to never forget they are a key link in the business chain, share knowledge will their colleagues, stay patient, and do more to network and collaborate with all members of the business community.
The 27 AmCham member companies recorded short videos exclusively for attendees of HR Week 2020 on the topic of Employer Branding in Times of Covid-19.