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A new situations calls for new solutions - Harpa Sjöfn Lárusdóttir

A new situations calls for new solutions

Harpa Sjöfn Lárusdóttir, office- and HR representative at 66°North, started working in 2005 at one of their stores in the capital's largest mall. She soon became the store manager, later moved on to finance and eventually obtained the position she currently holds within the company.

“66°North is a progressive company and I am proud to belong to a talented team within it. I am very grateful to the management for having faith in me and providing me with opportunities to grow in my job.”

Obviously, there's a lot of hustle and bustle going on right now at 66°North since the holidays are always the busiest time of the year.

“There's plenty for us to do at our stores and we have, like before, hired staff specifically for the holiday season to deal with increased workload at our stores. We have likewise expanded our customer support team in order to service the increased number of customers who contact us.

The 66°North Academy is a project we are very proud of. There we promote exercise, well-being, and training of our staff. We have held an incredible number of inspiring challenges this year via the Academy to promote staff health.”

Health as a priority

Harpa Sjöfn says that it is important to consider people's energy during peak hours.

“In December, we have a kilometer challenge where we encourage our staff to exercise every day until Christmas day. Employees wrote down their goals and then the kilometers they ran. That was very fun and inspiring. We have an Advent calendar where one door opens each week and the staff get little presents. These days we are also preparing Christmas presents for our staff.”

What is the main reason why people should focus on HR today?

“This year has been very challenging and difficult for everyone. The pandemic has led us to face new challenges. The past has shown that it is important for us to pay attention to our human resources. Like so many others, we've had to react quickly to changing circumstances and adapt to the government's recommendations at any given time. We have tried to find new ways to strengthen the team. One example is our wellness challenges, through which we have found opportunities to engage everyone regardless of location and capability since anyone can do as much as they feel like. Throughout last spring and summer, we got good participation and that gave us the feeling we were encouraging people.

“It is so important to continue monitoring the well-being of employees alongside the changing working conditions in the coming months. In all of this, it is important to do everything we can to ensure our people's well-being. Likewise, if someone isn't feeling allright, it's important to have the resources to deal with it. 66°North has for example been in a very successful collaboration with Healthcare advisees.

“We have done several new things this year to accommodate our staff. Examples include increased flexibility where we have found solutions for those who cannot work from home along with helping those who can with their workstation setup.”

HR Monitor gives a good overview of the situation

Harpa Sjöfn says that monthly HR Monitor measurements give a good overview of the state of affairs at the 66°North.

“The measurements give us a good overview of the company's heartbeat, of how people feel and what they are asking for. In this way, we can respond more quickly. Managers are required to focus on this tool and use it systematically to do better. Numerous improvement projects have been launched based on suggestions from HR Monitor. During last management meeting we considered what could be improved based on the results. The solutions we came up with resulted in higher scores in the measurements that followed.”

Celebrate good performance together

Can you tell us a pleasant story about HR Monitor and how it has been useful to you?

“We have seen remarkable progress since we incorporated HR Monitor into our workflow for example the changes in the managers' priorities which people appreciate. Each month, managers review the results with their team and then again at a management meeting, where they go over the things that can be improved.

“When the coronavirus struck, increased transparency became essential. We responded and we started using video meetings via Workplace which we were very pleased with it.”

Harpa Sjöfn says it is important that companies are as sustainable as possible in the environment in which they operate.

“We need to find ways to do better for our people, the environment, equality, the economy, and giving back to society.”

If you had one wish for the coming year and your employees, what would it be?

“My wish is that the nation gets vaccinated in the coming year and that my colleagues can celebrate their scores together. After all, the people have done so incredibly well in this demanding and difficult year.”

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We can maximize results as a team - Gunnur Líf Gunnarsdottir

We can maximize results as a team

Gunnur Líf Gunnarsdottir is the managing director of Samkaup's HR division. She started working for Samkaup in 2018 in the then newly established HR division and was given the opportunity and freedom to form that division and its role within the company. She describes it a a unique journey. Gunnur Líf is a primary school teacher by education and completed an MBA degree in 2015.

“Recently I have been focusing on nurturing the well-being of our staff and the team as a whole because in these unprecedented times there is a lot of pressure on the first-line. On September 1st, Samkaup started with welfare services for its employees and the service has been well received and is truly unique.

“There are always very exciting projects in progress, including leadership training for store managers in collaboration with Bifröst University, as we have placed great emphasis on the education and training of staff. The labor market is constantly evolving, and the emphasis is changing.

“It is therefore important that companies offer the right opportunities and conditions for employees to increase their knowledge and skills.

“We consider this one of the best ways to create opportunities for growth at the work. Employees need to see these opportunities and do what they can to develop and maintain interest in their line of work because working on what interests us and which we're skilled at has a significant effect on job satisfaction.

“This December we launched Samkaup – a store at hand - an app where employees play a key role in getting and using the app first before everyone else. We offer our employees increased benefits and loyalty benefits that greatly improve the lives of our poeple. We hope our customers take the digital journey we are embarking on as our staff has already done.”

1400 employees around the country

Samkaup is a company with multitude of stores under various brands.

“Samkaup operates Nettó, Kjörbúðin, Krambúðin, and Iceland all over the country. Samkaup employs about 1400 people. A very diverse group of people, ranging in age from fourteen to eighty; people who are from 20 different nations.

“The main emphasis in Samkaup's future strategy is to have an advantage in competition based on HR and corporate culture, which is reflected in the knowledge, skills, and unique services of employees that reflect the image that is in all of Samkaup´s brands. It is not often enough said and written that human resources are the most powerful resource that companies can have. All managers should be guided by this when building and promoting increased opportunities for employees, nurturing the culture and work ethic in each place.”

When did you start using HR Monitor?

“We have used HR Monitor for one year now and the measurements have proved to be very good for us. We have put measurements in the air every other month and now that it´s a year, it´s nice to see how things develop in a positive way.”

What has been interesting about the measurements?

“Of course, it´s fun when everything is going well, but what´s interesting is that when things are not going so well we can intervene immediately with support and sometimes stronger action. Examine what is behind it and continue to assist the relevant manager. It is also interesting to see changes, when job satisfaction and overall performance go up and know what actions are behind it.

“HR Monitor asks about the well-being of employees in the workplace and satisfaction with management, work ethic, career development and asks employees open-ended questions. In this way, all employees have the opportunity to give their boss feedback, the workplace, and the work environment as a whole. We have set our sights on making our people feel good, so it is extremely important to have clear measurements behind it, more than once a year, to see the real situation each time.”

What do you do with the result of the measurements?

“The results of the measurements are reviewed with all managers after each measurement. Then the development is examined and, where appropriate, goals are set to continue working to increase people´s results and job satisfaction”.

It's good to have a foundation in data and not just one's feelings

Gunnur Líf says that many things have changed in the company since they started measuring.

“It is very important to be able to build on data and not just a sense of how things are going. Samkaup has over 60 offices, so it is crucial to get the position at each office and individually for the company as a whole. Being able to have conversations with our people based on real-time measurements has proven to be very good for us, and then to see when we intervene, how the measurement supports the development.”

Would you like to share a story about HR Monitor?

“The most fun part of the measurements is when the compliments shine through and we see how close the Samkaup team really is. At the end of each survey, there is an open-end question and through them we often get good ideas from our people. We have already taken some of the ideas that come from the staff and put them into practice.”

Gunnur Líf says that there are not many surprises associated with the measurements, but it is good when they see positive support with what they are already doing.

“It was interesting to see the development through the coronavirus over time. In March and April, job satisfaction has never been greater, everyone were joining forces and working as a team. Then we saw that people were getting very tired at the end of the first wave so we were able to intervene with the second action package to handle the situation and we encouraged for example our people to take summer vacation.”

Gunnur Líf is of the opinion that everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses best themselves.

“Although we are not good at acknowledging them to others. We can often be quick to judge other people, but it is not always the right assessment we give to others. I believe that those leaders who excel, work with their strengths, and add to their team the strengths that conflict with their weaknesses. It is so interesting no one does anything alone, but as a team you can maximize success.”

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The CFO isn't the one making the money, the employees are - Haukur Hlíðkvist Ómarsson

The CFO isn't the one making the money, the employees are

Haukur Ómarsson CFO of VSO Consulting is one of the managers who take great pride in making the working environment in the company attractive and comfortable. He says that in times of the coronavirus, it is more important than before to have all the company's employees on the same page, as it is difficult to sail the company ship in the right direction if everyone is rowing in a different direction.

“In the time of the coronavirus, we also see the importance of our human resources being happy. Because it makes little sense to try to compress the group now if it was not in agreement before.”

VSÓ Consulting is a company with a 60-year history. The company has gone through all sorts of periods like others in their field. The company's human resources consist mainly of professionals who are highly educated people with good knowledge in their field.

Put a lot of effort into training the staff

“We are a comprehensive engineering firm that provides advice in most aspects of construction in the country. The company's customers are of all kinds, individuals, companies, municipalities, and the state. We provide great service and at the same time aim at having a working environment that is first-class for our staff.”

What is interesting about Haukur's position is that he manages the company's finances and operations and also has human resources on his desk. He believes that the money spent on human resources pays off many times over.

“I am very interested in our human resources. We have eight managers in the company and use HR Monitor as their tool to respond to personnel matters. HR Monitor measures the satisfaction and attitudes of all employees and reminds us that everyone matters.”

What do you mean by that?

“Many of the questions remind us that good management is important, and managers need to be reminded to be present for the people in the company. I find that unique. Of course, all individuals within the company are just as important and we must work as a whole, not as small different groups.”

Haukur, who is educated in business, went straight from the university in the year 1997 to work for the company.

“We have a lot of experience in making realistic demands to our people. When we get people straight out of school, we train them and start them off slowly in the projects ahead.

“The demand for our people increases over the years and we don´t want to lose good people at all when they are fully trained. My opinion is that it does not take much effort to praise people and make them feel good. But to be able to do that, we need a powerful measuring device to measure job satisfaction. We measure job satisfaction many times a year and on regular basis. Once a year is not enough in my opinion.

“The thing is, we do not solve everything with good salaries. People do well if they feel good at work and the work culture should be embracing for everyone. A positive attitude and permission to be yourself, allow people to do the best they can at work in my opinion.”

Increased emphasis on employee satisfaction

Haukur says that this human resource-based attitude is increasing over the years.

“If we look at our human resources as a machine, then the machine will not run properly without taking good care of it. I do not believe in pushing people forward without knowing the well-being of the staff at work. After all, we want our machine to last and in good condition always.

“We use HR Monitor to monitor the status of the machine. People do not always find it comfortable to be measured this way. The measurements at HR Monitor are color-coded, as the managers of the company can be green, yellow, and red. Of course, it´s great to get the color green, but there are many interesting opportunities in the other colors as well. All managers have received good results, but when the challenges appear (yellow or red answers), they usually call for action that benefits the company as a whole, so there is no shame in getting a red or yellow color, but an opportunity to do better so that both management and staff can grow and the company as well.”

Everyone in the company matters

Haukur says that in the days of the coronavirus, it is more important than ever to have a cohesive group of staff. Especially since the whole group has at some point been at home and now the company can only have a small part of the staff at the establishment at a time. We are grateful for the successful staff and work ethic for this, and it can be said that previous RU measurements have supported this well.

“We have had to find the right rhythm with our measurements. At first, we measured monthly, but then we found out that we wanted to measure every other month and then go carefully into the results and change accordingly.

“HR Monitor is a kind of thermometer and I think it is of little use to know the heat in the company a few months ago or to take the heat in the company after a few months. I want to know how the company is doing now and have reliable measurements of it regularly.

“I highly doubt we would be where we are today if the group had not been as dense and the people in the group so positive and glad as we saw before the virus. Despite the coronavirus, we are doing as well or even better than before, because of our unique staff and decades of experience of sailing through all kinds of weather, both good and bad.”

Do you think every CFO in the country feels the same way?

“I hope so considering that we CFOs aren't the ones making the money, the employees are.”

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