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25 October 2021
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Step by step: the company's processes throughout the entire employee journey

In 2021, ICL Services turned 15. In this time, the company has grown from a 2-person startup to a team of 3,000 people, becoming one of the largest IT services companies in Russia, working with clients in more than 30 countries. A key factor in this successful growth has been the use of the best labour relations practices throughout the entire employee journey through the company.
Going digital
A prospective employee gets their first impression of the company by searching for information about it on the Internet. And ICL Services is completely open and transparent online:
• The company maintains social media accounts on vk.com and Instagram where people taking an interest in the company can find out some basic facts about what life at the company is like. The company’s business accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn offer information about its business and performance.
• And if a job seeker wants to get a feel for the expertise of their possible future colleagues, they can always check out the corporate blog on Habr.
• The company always stays in touch: all questions get answered quickly regardless of the communication channel through which they were asked. This makes interaction with ICL Services transparent and easy to understand.

Engagement with students
Students often first learn about the company offline at various events the company organises specifically to engage with students (open house days, vacancy fairs, etc.) Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, representatives of ICL Services attended such events at universities that offer programmes relevant for the company and the plan now is to resume this practice as soon as it’s safe again. HR staff tell students about the company and the working conditions while employees of the engineering units tell them what the work is all about, what kind of tasks they’re expected to complete and also share personal stories. Even during the pandemic in 2020, the company held 14 events for students in cities ranging from Kazan to Vladivostok, albeit in online mode, for obvious reasons.

Other ways students can engage with the company are through thesis internships on real projects or through paid internships.

In addition, ICL Services offers free schools for graduates and young professionals. Universities offer good training in fundamentals, but university graduates often lack the practical skills needed in the workplace. ICL Services schools aim to close that gap: in 3–4 weeks, inexperienced graduates get the key skills to start working in IT as RPA experts, system administrators, service desk operators, project managers and in other positions. The company uses its own equipped classrooms with classes taught by experienced engineers. In 2018–2019, the company offered 13 schools (attended by more than 200 students with over 50% of them eventually getting a job with the company). In the spring of 2020, the corporate schools had to be suspended for obvious reasons, but the company soon developed an online platform to teach classes remotely and, by the end of the year, corporate schools were already being offered online.

New hire onboarding
The company makes every effort to make new hire onboarding at the company as smooth and painless as possible.

• Every new hire gets a mentor/buddy for the first three months who helps them with work-related issues as well as with socialising in the workplace. The buddy is always ready to answer any questions, whether work-related or not. The Buddy programme at ICL Services received the IT HR Award.
• The induction plan exists in digital format and makes the onboarding and adaptation process predictable and transparent for the new hire.
• All new hires receive introductory training in which top managers take part. During this introduction, new hires learn about the company, its corporate culture, the professional growth opportunities it offers and they can also ask questions at the end.

After the lockdown went into effect and the company switched to remote work, the onboarding programme was adapted to the new conditions: all the orientation classes and interaction with the buddy mentor now take place online. The new approaches and solutions help new hires feel their buddy’s helping hand even when they can’t necessarily meet them face to face.

Safety during the pandemic
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, ICL Services made the health and safety of its staff a top priority. Prior to the pandemic, 90% of the company’s staff worked in offices. However, in the spring of 2020, the company’s IT infrastructure and business processes were repurposed in record time for 100% remote work. By April, 85% of the staff were already working remotely. This allowed the company to protect their lives and health and, luckily, during the pandemic, not a single ICL Services employee has died from Covid-19. A special action plan was put in place to ensure health and safety for those staff members who had to keep coming to the office. It included the frequent disinfection of all surfaces in the offices, free access to antiseptics, masks and gloves as well as measures to ensure social distancing in office spaces. In 2021, the company also offered vaccination in offices and an extra day off after the jab.

A number of measures were put into place to reduce the anxiety that people were experiencing as a result of the uncertainty and fears caused by the pandemic. For example, the company organised webinars to which it invited doctors. Company managers held video conferences with staff and sent out newsletters to answer any questions people had and tell them about the actions the company was implementing to preserve its business.

All the business processes such as hiring, documentation process, IT support and many others were redesigned to be done remotely. The company’s managers learned to run their teams remotely and learned about ways to prevent their team members from burning out. Meanwhile, the HR department held online events for staff during the lockdown aimed at helping people feel part of the team, such as quizzes, joint exercises and even zoom parties.

As a result, when the company surveyed its staff about how they were doing during the pandemic in June 2020, 90% praised the company’s response.

Corporate transparency: corporate communications
The company tries to be as transparent as possible for its staff. Thus, in 2020, the company's news portal published more than 900 news items (12% of them had to do with the pandemic, including safety reminders, personal stories about remote work during the lockdown and much more). More than 700 posts were published on social media. Three times a year the company holds meetings with top management, which, in 2020, were held completely online. During these meet-ups, any employee can learn about the company's plans and ask questions (anonymously if desired). Every department holds similar meetings at their level and any staff member can get in touch with managers at any level.

Performance assessment, professional development and career advancement
Just as with communications, the main principle here is transparency. Performance is assessed using an automated system of key performance indicators that rules out any bias. The KPIs depend on the position and department of each staff member — all staff members know and understand their KPIs in advance. All employees complete an annual assessment during which the focus is helping the employee find ways to grow professionally within the company. This allows staff members to have a clear idea about their career trajectory and understand what skills and knowledge they need to acquire to proceed to the next step.

Staff members move up the career ladder through promotions: any employee can apply for any open vacancy within the company for which they will be considered ahead of any candidates from outside the company. This approach allows employees not only to advance up the career ladder but also change their specialisation within the company and move, for example, from system administration to dev-ops or to project management (naturally, on the condition that they meet the requirements for the vacancy). Every year, 18–20% of the company's staff get promoted.

Employees have a lot of opportunities for training: corporate courses (both technical and soft skills), language instruction, the candidate pool programme, subsidised training outside the company and certification paid for by the company. Nine out of ten staff members complete a training course at least once a year.

Benefits and remuneration
In addition to payment and bonuses, company employees have social benefits. These comprise several key categories.

• Health benefits include corporate health insurance, dental care and emergency hospitalisation, as well as medical check-ups, X-rays and vaccination at the offices (when they're not closed during a lockdown).
• Sports: the company partially compensates staff for gym memberships, offers corporate discounts for fitness club membership, leases sports grounds for team sports, builds sports facilities next to offices, subsidises employee participation in marathons, the Heroes Race and other similar events.
• Financial aid is provided for important events such as weddings, the birth of children, partial compensation of mortgage interest and interest-free loans. In addition, the company also pays for the construction of residential housing for staff, which is then provided to employees at special discounted prices.
• Recreation: entertainment, social and family events for staff members, vacation bonuses, extra days off for working mothers and employees with disabilities.
What's interesting is that, in 2020, the company held 95 events, 10 more than in 2019. The pandemic had an impact on their format, however — while in the past such events were held in person, during the Covid restrictions they were mostly held online.
• Recognition programmes are special award ceremonies held at the end of a year or quarter to recognise the efforts of volunteers and activists taking part in social and environmental programmes, and to award specific teams for positive customer feedback.
The last milestone in the employee journey
Having overcome the market pessimism that arose from the pandemic, ICL Services found new opportunities in the current situation. The existing clients expanded cooperation, adapting their IT services to remote work; the company also acquired new clients as today, a reliable IT infrastructure is a must for success in business. As a result, the company kept hiring in 2020, expanding its staff by 19%.

Nevertheless, there are always people who choose to leave the company. Offboarding is an important final step in the employee journey. An HR officer interviews employees who are preparing to leave the company to understand the reasons why they have chosen to leave and, if possible, offer alternatives, such as a transfer to a different department. In addition, the information about why people choose to leave the company offers invaluable insights and can serve as a starting point for subsequent major and minor improvements.

The company also tries to keep in touch with its former staff members, inviting them to corporate events, paying them bonuses for recommending new hires and remains always willing to hire them back (former staff members often return to ICL Services).
Outcomes
The growing turnover and size of the company's workforce are evidence of the effectiveness of the course that the company has chosen to pursue. There are other indicators, however, such as public recognition. As such, in 2018, ICL Services won the official title of Russian Organisation with High Social Effectiveness and in 2019 and 2020 it was ranked among the best employers in Russia by HeadHunter. And while there were a lot of factors that played a role in these outcomes, our finely tuned HR processes have been some of the most vital among them.
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