Interview with HR & HSE Director

Victoria Oleshko: "UTS is a big company with good approaches and standards of work. We have a lot to be valued for”.

Construction and maintenance of toll roads has traditionally been more a male business than a female one. However, UTS employs many nice women who are professionals in their domain. Viktoria Oleshko, HR and HSE Director at UTS, is talking about trends in the labour market, changes being introduced in the company and the role of women in this process. 

Being a director is not easy, being a female director is even harder. Tell us about your path: what has brought you into the profession, where have you worked before?

— I was born and raised in Volgograd. When I was about to finish my university studies, the company I was working for at that time suggested that I develop a new line of business: recruiting staff for outside companies. At that time there were no such recruitment agencies in the city, so I faced a difficult task. I obtained a license for this kind of activity, joined the Association of Personnel Recruitment Consultants, signed several contracts with major Moscow agencies, and successfully implemented them.
This enabled me to grow in my profession substantially: I was invited to work for a major international production company, where I became head of internal recruitment and training. 
All areas were interesting to me, so within a few years I had mastered almost all directions – and soon I became HR director of the factory in Volgograd. Later on, my responsibilities also included working with the company's divisions across Russia.
In 2013, I was invited to Moscow and started working for one of Ikea's businesses. After that, I joined UTS.

What is the main task of HR Director in UTS?

— There is not much difference compared to other companies (smiling). The department's tasks include managing the entire HR cycle: selecting candidates, helping them to adapt, establishing effective relationships between managers and subordinates, including resolving issues and disputes, assessing performance of existing employees and improving the quality of their work.
Also, we keep personnel records – we make sure that the paperwork is done correctly and that personnel movements within the company are correct. In the future, we plan to improve our annual goal-setting and to develop a procedure that will make it possible to link more clearly the annual evaluation of the results achieved to the remuneration of employees.

There is a popular phrase: "Staff makes all the difference". Do you agree with it?

— I know it! It was a phrase Stalin said in front of graduates of military schools. At that time, technical progress was the main driving force in the country and it was believed that "machines are the key to everything". The head of the Soviet Union explained that no machinery can help without work of skilled people. It is human resources that create something new and give an impetus to development.
Probably, to this day, this phrase is still fundamental, because no business can exist without staff. No matter how great the management team is, the foundation will always be the people whom the development and success of the company depends on.
The task of HR specialists is to get the message across to managers that it is important not just to manage their employees, but to be in constant contact with them, because work is our second home. You have to listen, get feedback, make quick decisions in any situation and react to changes in the team.

Speaking of changes. Has Covid-19 had any impact on processes within the company and on work in general?

— Covid-19 was an interesting external factor for everyone, and UTS was not an exception. The pandemic tested the readiness of businesses to change and adapt quickly. 
At first, it was difficult because the decisions made by the Russian government went against the existing laws. No one understood how to act, work and report.
Over time, UTS learned to react quickly: we did not wait for new solutions, but began to behave proactively. We created internal regulations which explained to our staff exactly how to act in any situation. We set up a reporting system to enable us to see changes in the situation in each region and helped people who wished to be vaccinated. 
It was also a difficult psychological ordeal: people's lives were being disrupted, the ground was falling away underneath, their values were changing, as were their ways of interacting with others and their procedures at work. However, UTS also managed to cope with it.
The main thing we have learned is importance and necessity of face-to-face communication; no video communication can replace it. Nevertheless, this situation has shown that we can quickly adapt the way we work and still remain effective.

If someone wants to get a job in UTS but there is no specific vacancy open at the moment, is there some kind of database of potential staff to go to? How can this be done?

—  Right now, our main tool is the website. Through it, we receive applicants' information and forward it to the regions where the vacancy is open or which the person is interested in.
For our employees, we have a reward system for recommending a successful candidate. To get into the company you need to fill in the application form and send it to hr@unitoll.ru. Recommendations are kept and are valid for 6 months.
I hope that we will be able to offer jobs to those who respond not only in the areas and positions for which they are applying, but perhaps also to use their potential in other areas in which we have a demand.

If an existing employee wants to change departments or move to another position, what should he or she do?

— The first thing to do is to go to your regional human resources specialist and tell him or her about it. Last year, we adopted the policy according to which all vacancies are considered for our employees first. If the managers see that the willing UTS employees are not suitable according to some criteria, we start external search.
An HR specialist will discuss all possible options with you, and if there are no open positions, we will put you on the list of potential candidates.
By the way, the new policy also includes a relocation program – UTS supports the employee's wish to move to another region of our workplace and pays part of the relocation costs. We are ready to consider this opportunity for all employees, regardless of position.

What are the current trends in the labour market? Do the criteria for recruiting candidates change from company to company? 

— The main trend now is speed of choice. After 3-4 months, almost any data become obsolete. Sometimes it's even like this: if we don't respond to a candidate within a week, we can lose him/her. 
The labour market is very active. It is no longer a candidate market, but a job market. In some sectors, the number of people interested in work is 2-3 times less than the offers from companies. For example, in the regions where we work, candidates choose us instead of us choosing them, this is a general trend.
The selection criteria depend on the generation to which the person belongs. Often the main motivation is not a salary at all, but flexible working hours and remote work mode. In addition, automation has a strong impact on the labour market – it does not lead to reductions, as used to be thought, but to the reallocation of labour resources and change in existing tasks.

What do you think why in Russia the work of "HR" department is considered predominantly female? Is it difficult to manage a female team?

— Surprisingly, however this is actually typical for Russia only. Traditionally, only women worked in "human resources" and accounting departments. We have to admit that in recent years this specificity no longer exists, or at least it is flattening out. This is particularly true for large companies, where there are separate divisions within HR department which deal with training, employee assessment and recruitment. These positions are often held by men.

It is believed that women are more emotional, so you need more time to listen to them, understand their point of view that may be contrary to your opinion, and try to accept it.
Despite this, the women's team is exactly the same as the men's: everything depends not on gender, but on character. Some people are easier to work with, some are harder. The main thing for an HR director is to always have feedback, to be open for communication.
In general, HR looks at the problem from different angles, it helps the manager to resolve the issue, to figure it out, but sometimes it also happens that "there is no chemistry." It happens, and it's normal. There may not be effective interaction, even if both sides strive for it. Our role in this is to analyse the situation and find the best use for each party within the company. In my experience, a good team atmosphere depends on solving a problem, not trying to avoid talking or finding a compromise.

—  What would you wish our readers for March 8?

—  On this day I would like to wish all women that spring warmth and the first flowers bring wonders into your lives. May your hearts be filled with warmth and light, your days be full of bright moments, business go well and work and family life combine perfectly, bringing only pleasure. I wish you always and no matter what, to remain as lively, multi-faceted and talented as ever!