Alex Lutskiy: “Since the pandemic outbreak, we started looking for talent around the world”
“The future of work” is inextricably linked with new technologies and new employee skills, and raises questions about the further format of remote work, building corporate culture, engagement, and motivation of talents. We discussed this with Alex Lutsky, the founder, and CEO of Innovecs. The conversation was hosted by Serhiy Gasparyan, Partner, Head of Consumer and KPMG Technology Sector Practices in Ukraine.
What new challenges do you face today?
COVID-19 has added some challenges that have pushed us to new solutions. I would classify them into two types. The first is the impact of the pandemic on attracting new customers and working with them and the second is working with the company’s employees. The pandemic made it impossible to use the basic sales tools (offline meetings) in the B2B business, therefore, we had to look for new ways. For instance, educational and business online events have become the key tools for building relationships with new customers.
As for the second challenge — the search for talented employees — everyone has moved to a remote work format, it has become more difficult to compete. In this matter, we have identified three main directions. The first is office-based for those who care about being in the office to come up with new ideas that allow the company to move forward. The second is hot desking for those who visit the office two or three times a week. Lastly, the third direction is remote work, which allows us to attract talent from across the globe.
What are the key success factors that enable recruiting the best employees in the market? How do you attract them?
What is the Unique Selling Proposition for a potential candidate today? I don’t think there is a clear answer to this question, nobody knows that. Two factors seem important to me.
First, the corporate culture of the company, because people often choose not projects per se (they may be similar), but the corporate culture and values of the company, regardless of whether the employee is in the office or not. Second, it is an opportunity for professional growth. If previous years of experience were important in the resume, now it is not the main thing. These days ten years of work in the company in one position do not necessarily guarantee the expertise of the employee. Constant growth is of great value, so the company must encourage the education and professional development of its people. An organization should also be attractive as a community and give employees the opportunity to develop comprehensively, but not just professionally.
What new employee incentive programs did you have during the pandemic?
Majority of the motivational programs that were in Innovecs before the pandemic remained, and were moved online. Let’s take education, for example. Before training was carried out offline, now we have completely gone online, and this gives us the opportunity to develop more globally and on a larger scale. Also, we used to be tied to one coach in a corporate gym, now we use a platform that allows you to choose any coach in any part of the world and train.
Most CEOs see the HR function as administrative, which is essentially not strategic for achieving important business goals. How do you plan to change the HR function in the coming years?
We changed this function five years ago and generally moved away from the concept of HR. We do not have HR specialists, the department is called People, Culture and Engagement. It’s more about people than processes.
It is crucial for each company to clearly understand what tasks and functions you expect from the HR department because they can be different. At Innovecs, for example, we believe that our HR department is more about mentorship, partnership, and psychology. The main task is to provide managers with tools and methodologies that allow them to manage teams effectively.
According to a study by KPMG CEO Outlook, the key risk for companies in the coming years is a lack of staff, including staff with new skills needed at the moment. Do you feel the pressure of this factor on your business?
We have been feeling this pressure for the last 5-8 years because the demand for the specialists we need has been quite aggressive for a long time. I’ll tell you more about skills. As for hard skills, I don’t think it’s a big problem, because artificial intelligence will soon be able to replace some professions. Rather, I see a problem at the intersection of hard skills and soft skills. Today professionals need much more than mere understanding of technology, such as Java or PHP, but also the application of this technology from a business standpoint. Therefore, there is a growing demand on the market for specialists with an understanding of the domain.
Secondly, a professional approach to management will be a challenge. People who can successfully manage complex projects today, especially when the team is scattered around the world, are in great demand.
And third is what we call the skill of cross-cultural communication. It’s about the ability to communicate and sell a company’s product and brand globally. This requires cross-cultural communication experience that helps in working with a variety of clients and employees around the world.
It is clear that staff development means increased investment in education. Do you have an idea of the ratio of the company’s income you are willing to invest?
Now it is difficult to say the exact percentage. Sometimes you can do very cool things without a big investment. If education continues online, I don’t think it will require significant budgets, as many courses are free. Rather, the issue will not be the budget itself, but the content. Today, it is very important to form a clear strategy and focus on what knowledge and skills will benefit both companies and employees.
In your opinion, will development be more about in-house capabilities, or will outsourcing and attracting independent experts become an important element of staff development?
Each company will focus on own in-depth expertise, and will outsource without one. But often the word “outsourcing” causes a negative reaction. Therefore, it is imperative to find partners with professional and industry expertise who will be able to complete the project. I believe we will see a hybrid: the mix of in-house and outsourcing.
What new skills does a CEO need to effectively transform a company and lead it to success in the new reality?
I read somewhere that there is already a new terminology: CEO is replaced by LEO (Leadership Executive Officer). Modern LEO is a person who directs the company to where success is guaranteed — a mentor and advisor for employees. They inspire people, help to achieve goals. That is, it is more about leadership than clear formal responsibilities.