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People and Culture, returning to our roots: taking care of teams from a more humanistic perspective

The world of People & Culture is changing rapidly, and organizations that do not embrace change will be left behind. Today, we are discussing the new trends in people management with Isabel Cerro, Senior People & Culture Partner at Zubi Group, and how they are being implemented within the group to attract and nurture talent. If you are interested in joining our team and aligning talent and purpose to contribute to solving challenges that allow us to create a better future, you will want to hear everything Isabel has to share.

“How is talent acquisition carried out, and what are the main challenges that the organization faces? What is the usual procedure for selecting individuals for Zubi Group teams?”

Our primary goal is to find the person who best fits, not only in terms of knowledge and skills but also in alignment with the values and culture of Zubi Group.

During the selection process, we have many opportunities to interact with the individual and get to know each other. This person wants to present their best version, and so do we; it’s our introduction. We not only show what we do, but we also want them to understand our values and culture, so it is essential to carefully manage the selection process and the candidate’s experience throughout. In this way, we are building our brand from the very first interactions with the future employee.

This is precisely our biggest challenge as a young organization: creating a strong employer brand (with the assistance of our colleagues in Marketing and Communication) to attract the person who is the best fit for Zubi Group.

Regarding our selection needs, they are provided by the hiring managers with whom we meet initially to fully understand what we need to look for. Depending on the profile, the search may vary, but in general, we search through social networks, our website, or other platforms.

One of the most important phases comes during the pre-selection of candidates when we have to decide whom to interview. In this regard, the resume and an initial call are the first steps. Once we have a shortlist of candidates, we conduct several interviews, including, at a minimum and depending on the profile, the People interview and a more technical interview with the team’s responsible person.

What should a professional who wants to work in impact be like? And what skills or qualities should a professional have to be part of Zubi?

We create impact to improve our society; therefore, a person who wants to work in impact should be someone who doesn’t settle for things as they are. Someone who questions things, wants to change and improve them, possesses strong critical thinking, enthusiasm, and doesn’t easily give up.

Within our teams, we highly value positive and enthusiastic individuals who are motivated by positive change and sustainability, eager to change the world, agile, accustomed to working in an environment of constant change and transformation, and with a strong sense of criticism – and, of course, self-criticism as well.

Zubi offers its teams a hybrid work model. How do you approach it? What do you think are the main challenges that this model poses for companies and professionals, and how are you addressing them at Zubi Group? How can remote work be managed while maintaining team spirit?

For the past two years, the People team has been advocating for a hybrid work model. We have found that the hybrid approach brings the benefits of both remote and in-office work models: bridging distances to combat loneliness, promoting collaboration among teams by offering more flexibility and dynamism, improving both asynchronous and synchronous communication, and without sacrificing work-life balance, which enhances productivity. The hybrid model can vary in terms of the number of days worked in the office or remotely, and within the same team, there may be individuals who work 100% remotely or 100% in person.

There shouldn’t be any difficulties, as from the People team, we have established a series of policies (digital disconnection) and recommendations (best practices in video calls, feedback policies) that facilitate remote work. Additionally, we listen to the needs of our teams to ensure we are doing things right. Lately, they have been requesting more in-person interactions, so we have already initiated various formal and informal gatherings to promote social relationships among them.

Many companies are returning to offices, and there has been much controversy, especially following Elon Musk’s statements. However, I believe it is a mistake, and those companies that do not continue with remote work will fall behind. For me, there is no debate between remote or not; it’s a change in focus. Our attention should not be on where people work but where they perform best, and this model makes it possible. It is proven that the hybrid model works: it increases productivity, promotes work-life balance and well-being, makes your company more attractive compared to competitors, strengthens the organizational culture and interpersonal relationships, all while granting freedom and autonomy to individuals, thus enhancing talent retention. For all these reasons, at Zubi, we are committed to this work model.

Beyond remote work, what do workers and candidates demand to work at Zubi?

Above all, flexibility and work-life balance, which would be more challenging without our hybrid work model.

They also seek a place aligned with their personal values and lifestyle. Purpose-driven companies are increasingly in demand, and that’s why our values and culture as an impact-focused company play a crucial role in both talent attraction and retention.

And, of course, a place where they are cared for and treated well, where people come before numbers, and where they can feel fulfilled.

As you can see, these are simple things that do not differ from what is sought in the general job market.

Currently, companies must address the challenge of forming intergenerational teams. What does it exactly entail to form and lead intergenerational teams, how are you managing it at Zubi, and what are the benefits?

I believe it’s one of the most interesting realities currently happening in teams. Seeing that generational mix, how they relate to each other and seek new ways of understanding, nourishing and learning from one another, creates more diverse, inclusive, and open workspaces, leading to greater innovation in their activities.

The challenge lies in understanding the needs, motivations, and priorities of each of these generations so that they can coexist and work together naturally and seamlessly. Once again, the key lies in empathy and listening from leaders and the organization, as well as from the team members themselves. One of the most common mistakes in managing intergenerational teams is thinking that our generation did it better than the previous or subsequent ones. It’s not about doing it better but doing it differently, under different socio-cultural circumstances. That’s why actively listening from an inclusive and empathetic standpoint plays an essential role in the understanding and success of these teams.

How are you working on the employee experience?

The first thing we did was work on the employee journey; we mapped out the experience of a person entering the organization from start to finish (in our case, it goes beyond their first day; it begins when they accept joining Zubi). With this, we were able to establish what the onboarding and offboarding processes look like, tailored to our hybrid work model and culture.

We have placed a strong focus on creating an experience. For example, our welcome pack, in addition to aligning with Zubi Group’s values, aims to create a “wow” experience. So, we have minimized the items in the welcome pack, leaving only the essentials like a backpack and a reusable bottle. We also include a walk with our founder, Iker Marcaide, in the Bosque del Talento (in El Barrio de La Pinada, Paterna), where the experience concludes with tree planting. In the end, we have remained true to our sustainability values by helping regenerate the local flora with impactful experiences, without generating as much carbon footprint through excessive products.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because this question could be an interview in itself. Everything we do in People is directed towards the employee experience. To summarize briefly, in addition to onboarding and offboarding, here’s what we have established so far: training plans, well-being plans (physical, mental, social, economic, career, and community), digital disconnection policy, evaluation and feedback policy, diversity and equality guidelines, an ethical code and best practices, as well as an anti-harassment protocol.

At a practical level, we have: an individual training fund, English classes, internal training workshops called Impact Learning Sessions, specific team training workshops addressing team needs, Gympass, access to mental health professionals, individual follow-ups by the People team as part of well-being, flexible compensation, monthly one-to-one meetings with our team leaders, implementation of software for giving and receiving feedback, frequent in-person and online meetings among Zubiers to build community and team, and many more initiatives.

What are the upcoming challenges that the People and Culture team will face this year?

Like any organization, one of our challenges is talent retention. Some specific actions we want to carry out this year include providing training to our leaders. It’s crucial that they possess strong core skills (as we call soft skills here since we consider them essential in our talent) and team management abilities. We are planning several workshops on assertive communication, difficult conversations, and feedback, among others.

Additionally, feedback training will be implemented across all of Zubi Group. Our feedback policy is a cornerstone of the organization and is crucial for the development of Zubiers. We seek positive and continuous feedback as the basis for our communication to strengthen relationships among leaders, team members, and peers.

In general, the goal is to reinforce our culture and employee experience and generate greater commitment within the teams. I believe that People faces a significant challenge as a young organization, but we have already built a lot, and we are now seeing the results of this work. Based on the feedback we receive, I think it has been very worthwhile, and we will continue in this direction. So, we will continue to listen and consider the feedback we receive from the teams in our decision-making and actions.

Where are the new team organization trends heading?

The trends revolve around employee-centered management (what many companies call “people-first”) with the aim of improving the employee experience, their mental health, and development. We are returning to the basics, taking care of our teams from a more humanistic perspective, focusing on productivity rather than schedules. Today’s leaders manage their teams with empathy and transparency, building trusting relationships and taking care of employee fundamentals such as their professional, physical, and emotional well-being.

And let’s not forget diversity and inclusion, which fortunately is the trend gaining ground in team organization. It is a fact that organizations with diverse teams perform better (and can even become leaders in their markets) than those that are not. Investing in a DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) strategy, setting clear goals and corresponding data collection, which includes selecting diverse talent and promoting an open and diverse culture where biases, bullying, and discrimination are not ignored but addressed, is what every organization should aspire to sooner rather than later. Not only to be more productive but also healthier, better, and have more engaged teams with diverse thinking (76% of candidates value diversity when searching for companies and job offers).

What would you recommend to a person who has just read one of our job offers? How should they approach the process?

Be themselves, to show us, without embellishments or posing, their best version (and also the not-so-good one). Ask us questions to get to know us better, and above all, enjoy the process. 🙂