Interview with Jadranka Sakoman: Learn from mistakes and maintain authenticity

You invest in employees through a 360 approach. Can you tell us more about that?

Intangible rights and benefits are just as important to us as material investments. That’s why we invest in both – we monitor the growth of the standard of living and respond to the turbulent situation on the market, which implies a shortage of labor and higher material claims of workers. Last year, we raised salaries twice for all non-managerial positions and thereby covered the general inflation in the Republic of Croatia (CPI) for employees. That is why we managed to keep all other material rights of workers in such a large international system. For us, intangible rights are focused on interpersonal relationships, the meaningfulness of work and the cross-functional possibility of learning and professional development. We provide our employees with numerous trainings and educations in order to improve their knowledge and skills, and we give priority to internal candidates for all vacant positions.

Do you feel a lack of labor in Croatia and what do you do as an employer to keep workers?

Labor shortage is the biggest problem of companies in Croatia and beyond. If, in addition, you have specific requirements for the labor market, as we do, with a pronounced period of demand in the season, and these professions are also in short supply, then the problem is even greater. We respond with all the tools we can, primarily with a timely approach to the recruitment process, the benefits we provide and the security that a company like ours provides. For the upcoming season, we have successfully filled all vacant positions, as many as 34 of them, but we are aware of all the challenges that await us in the season.

Zagrebačka pivovara is one of the few companies that has two thirds of women in the Management Board. What are you doing to develop inclusive business and gender equality? After all, you yourself hold a very responsible position – what would you say to women who are just starting their careers, especially in the HR world?

Cultivating an inclusive culture and encouraging diversity, which includes promoting gender equality, is one of the strategic goals of the global company Molson Coors, and therefore of Zagrebačka pivovara. We continuously promote diversity and equal opportunities in recruitment and internal promotions.

In order to make employees aware of the importance of this topic, over the past two years, we have carried out a whole series of activities: launched Inclusive Leader trainings, identified key agents of change, i.e. ambassadors who promote diversity and inclusion, organized several vlogs dedicated to this topic with employees and interesting external guests , started a special column on this topic in the internal newsletter, clearly defined the strategy and included DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) in the annual goals of the managers. This theme is strongly permeated in everything we do because we want to create an environment where everyone feels safe, accepted, valued and equal.

I would tell women who are at the beginning of their career to be authentic and to keep it throughout their career. To learn from mistakes instead of sweeping them under the rug. That they seek a step up in their career only when they have mastered the requirements of the current position and that they always add value to the work they do.

What would you say are the biggest changes in the needs of employees over the past few years? Are non-material benefits more important to them today, or is salary still number one?

Financial security is certainly one of the priority needs of every worker, as all research will show. The latest needs of employees are flexibility in work (working hours, hybrid work model, etc.), simplification of work methods and digitization.

You have received numerous awards, and recently you have the Above and Beyond certificate, which confirms that you are in the 10% of the best HR teams in Croatia. What are the key ingredients needed to organize such a successful HR system? What would you say to other companies that have set themselves the same goal? Are there solutions tailored for small and medium-sized companies, or are years of investment in HR development required to achieve this level of HR quality?

A quality HR department does not happen, especially not overnight. It really takes years of investment to reach a quality level and I am very happy that Zagrebačka pivovara recognized the importance of this department a long time ago and positioned the HR department as a strategic role in the company’s operations. I remember 2017 and the moment when I told Denver, the then former President of the Zagrebačka pivovara board, that we had been declared the best employer in Croatia for the previous year. His comment at the time is the answer to your question: It was a long run!

In addition to the strategic positioning of the function and the People agenda, the HR department consists of a team of top individuals, most of whom came to the department from various internal departments, depending on the domain of responsibility they assumed in the HR department. Our team consists of “former” financiers, marketers, occupational safety experts, engineers, platoon manager of key customers, sales representatives, head of quality control…we only hired a team of employment psychologists externally, because we didn’t have that staff internally.

Multifunctional development and diversity and inclusiveness are part of our company’s HR strategy, so it is logical that the HR department leads by example, and our method has so far proven to be very successful.

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