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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 creating the income, the employees are - Haukur Hlíðkvist Ómarsson

The CFO isn't the one creating the income, 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 creating the income, the employees are.”

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Without human resources, the company is nothing - Harpa Víðisdóttir

Without human resources, the company is nothing

Harpa Vídisdottir HR mangager at Vordur, says that human resources, well-being, progress, and people's success have always been on her mind. She says it is important to be focused on the people in the company, especially today when the challenges due to the coronary virus are great.

"It is a great encouragement to see people flourish and succeed, so it has suited me well to work with human resources. I have worked in human resources at Vordur for about 10 years and I have enjoyed every moment.

HR professionals are always with a lot to do at this time of the year. We have recently completed our seventh equal pay survey, which we passed with distinction, as equality issues have become ingrained in our hearts and cultures. Scheduled work, human resource measurements, staff support, and special support for the workplace due to the coronavirus, goal setting, and hiring is on our desk these days."

What can you tell me about your main strategy in HR work today?

"We are and intend to be a desirable workplace and we work diligently on that day by day. We always place great emphasis on a vibrant and positive work environment, equality, flexibility, adaptability, and job satisfaction. We take good care of the health and well-being of our people and receive the support of professionals who have never been more important than now in the age of the coronavirus. We have especially focused on aspects such as trust, gratitude, compassion, humility, and respect. We feel that is especially important today where staff have supported each other and made amazing things happen. A new year is ahead with new challenges for workplaces and employees and it is necessary to be well on track in the coming weeks and months. A positive and constructive culture in the workplace must go hand in hand with demanding and progressive projects. This creates a strong team of people who achieve amazing results."

With continuous workplace measurement for three years

When did you start using HR Monitor?

"We started making regular measurements in the year 2016. Since then, we have gone from making measurements, 2-3 times a year to making monthly measurements, but we introduced them in March 2018. We thus have continuous workplace measurements for three years, that is valuable data that tell us a great story."

How do the measurements support you in your daily life?

"The measurements are an opportunity for staff to express their views regularly. Their results give an objective assessment of the status of the factors measured at any given time. By getting such results in hand, we avoid mentioning the gaps or giving ourselves something we do not have confirmation of. It is our goal to work on at least one improvement component after each measurement, so we achieve 12 or more targeted improvements in one year. We also use the measurements to evaluate progress, highlight it, and praise ourselves for it. There is such incredible motivation in the compliment. The HR Monitor measurements are part of our KPIs, so it is important to have monthly measurements."

The results give good indications

Was there anything that surprised you about being measured for the first time?

"Yes, possibly how many opportunities there were for improvement and how different the results were for individual areas. The results gave us good clues as to what tasks we should undertake and how we should prioritize them. Subsequently, it was very encouraging to see the projects become a reality and the results of the measurements change for the better. There were messages from staff about aspects that we had simply not looked at but had the opportunity to change and work on systematically. It is so important to offer such measurements and even more important for us staff to take this opportunity to express our views."

How is the coronavirus affecting daily activities and is it good to measure now due to the circumstances that the virus creates?

"The situation that the virus has created has had a very far-reaching effect, but in our case, all operations have gone better than anyone dared to hope for and we are probably looking at the company's best year to date. The company's staff has been tireless in finding ways and solutions and does not let this situation stop it. We are experiencing more calm over people this autumn than this spring, but we are probably in a little better training in this new work environment. It is very important to measure now in these times as well as others. Having older measurements for comparison is also very interesting. At the company, all measurements have increased in the year 2020 compared to previous years, and job satisfaction, overall performance, and the company's "Vardar Index" have never been as high as now, but the Vardar Index measures employee dedication."

The people who bring business success

What is the importance of human resources in your company?

"Without human resources, companies are nothing. It is the ingenuity of the staff, their courage, knowledge, ability, and diligence that brings us success from day to day. Powerful human resources are important to us and that is why we strive every day to do well and work for fairness and ambition in matters concerning human resources."

What do you hope the new year will bring?

"It has probably seldom been as interesting and exciting to enter the new year as it is now, although it will be difficult to say exactly what awaits us. The challenges will be many and unforeseen, but they clearly offer opportunities. It is my main hope that we as a society will rise again and achieve full health, physical, social, and financial." 

How has your last year been?

"The year has been unusual for us, but at the same time successful and instructive. Different working conditions and new procedures are something that everyone had to learn, but new experiences, knowledge, and lots of new opportunities were created at the same time. It is important to take the positive out of this experience and situation as we learn what could have been done better. Our people have done exceptionally well in these unusual times and for that, we are very grateful."

Do you think HR Monitor should be used in all companies?

"Monthly measurements with HR monitor have proved to be a valuable tool for us to identify opportunities, respond, and work steadily to make our workplace better today than yesterday. I believe that everyone wants to improve and do better from day to day, but in such work, it is important to have clear goals and measurements to support yourself and know which way you are going. Vörður is the Company of the Year at VR 2019 and 2020, but this recognition comes with a clear focus and vision of the goal and the path to the goal. Measurements are the basis for knowing whether one is doing right or wrong on the way to the goal."

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Enjoying one's work makes a difference to our clients - Einar Hermannsson

Enjoying one's work makes a difference to our clients

Einar Hermannsson, Chairman of SÁÁ (AA), states that it is important to pay particular attention to supporting the clinic's staff given the fact that those who seek the assistance of SÁÁ are a fragile group of people who need understanding and care during these coronavirus times.

There are numerous tasks awaiting Einar, and he addresses them firmly, including negotiations with Sjúkratryggingar Íslands ('Icelandic Health Insurance'). Some tasks, however, must be met with humility and the álfasalan ('elf-figurine sale') fundraising is one such project. At present and due to circumstances, sales of the elf-figurine fundraising effort have had to be postponed several times. This has been difficult for operations, as there has been considerable need for services during these difficult times.

“The efforts of all SÁÁ staff have been admirable during the past year. We have experienced all kinds of situations due to isolation measures, both within the Vogur treatment centre and our outpatient facilities. My role in all this is to support our staff and help in any way I can.

To give you an insight into the work we do, the rooms in Vogur are double rooms and we have 60 beds. We have needed to reduce down to 40 admissions to the facility. This has been a challenge, as our waiting list is quite long. And then there is our out-patient department, which has faced the same challenges. We cannot have too many in a small space. We have had to divide into smaller groups and use other rooms, and for a time, we have needed to provide almost all services by telephone or online.

We try as best we can to keep everything going and make every effort to call our clients on a daily basis. Our twelve-step programme has been important for our clients. All kinds of groups have visited us at the treatment centre to provide information on their operations. Such work has not been active during the coronavirus pandemic due to infection prevention, and in addition, we have loaned our premises that have been used for 12-step programmes that have, for the most part, been postponed.

Those who are battling alcoholism need to avoid being alone, and we always recommend that after treatment, clients should re-enter the community and connect with a variety of activities to maintain their recovery. We are, therefore, considerably worried about our people who return home immediately and are thereby more alone than we would wish. We make every effort to provide support, and in order to do so, our staff must be in good mental and physical health.”

Einar has used HR Monitor human resources measurements for some time and says that the tool is important in maintaining the policies that he finds important in the operation.

“We measure on a monthly basis, and this gives us a good view and ability to respond to what needs to be done immediately. Luckily, our measurements have shown positive results as regards staff satisfaction, something that I have placed great importance on in our operation.”

Why does job satisfaction mean so much to you?

“Because when I took over this job, there were a number of thorny issues and the employees had divided themselves into several interest groups. I wanted to set a clear course and get everyone on the same team. I want our staff to know what we do and where we are heading. Most of the work we have been doing as regards human resources has been spent on fixing staff issues, preparing agreements and restructuring our organisational chart.

Human resources are, as the name states, resources. One needs to protect these and nurture them. You will never succeed with disaffected employees. I have been considerably involved in football training, where team spirit is highly important. Each team member is important, but we need to work as a team and help each other.”

What is the best advice that you have received as a leader?

“To be approachable and be trusting. I was once told that being human is special and that no one is perfect. And the fact is, that when something bad happens, you should say so yourself, tell the truth and do so right away.

Honesty is the foundation for trustworthiness, and I feel that employees respond positively in so many ways if they feel that they can rely on their supervisors. There is also the fact that if my staff are happy, services to our customers are inevitably better. This is also incredibly valuable.”

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Occupational Psychology Has Fascinated Me From the Start - Julius Steinn Kristjansson

Occupational Psychology Has Fascinated Me From the Start

Júlíus Steinn Kristjánsson has a basic education in psychology and a secondary education in human resources management. He was the Human Resources Manager for Ölgerðin for a long time, before moving to Matís this year. You could say that he's been leading companies in human resources matters for over two decades.

“I have always been fascinated by human resources matters. There is so much you can find in matters regarding people in companies, as there is no one thing that works for everyone. People are constantly changing, and that is why what worked yesterday is not necessarily going to work today.

What's important to me is to get matters into a professional channel, which to me means that issues are given a voice and that there is value to what we are doing. Empty frills and something that looks good on the surface is not for me. The cliché that human resources are the company's most valuable resources is true, and that's what matters. Giving managers and employees professional support is also something I strive for at work.”

Welcomed in a New Place

Júlíus has recently taken over as the Human Resources Manager at Matís. He says he's been welcomed to the company and that Matís has great people on its staff.

“The people here have initiative, professionalism and a lot of ambition, so I feel at home in this new place. What's on the horizon for me is to get to know Matís' operations. I am also working on drafting a remote work policy, which is something all companies are implementing or have already finshed doing. Furthermore, I'm training managers in how to manage people, especially when it comes to working from home, and the best way to manage that.

I believe it is very important to support our people right now, in particular in light of the changing times. Right now, we are faced with different challenges, and therefore, it is important to work on factors such as: Belonging to a group and creating solidarity. Making sure that employees feel good and that they feel that the company respects them and that all staff is treated fairly. Our staff needs to feel like they belong to a group and feel connected to each other in a situation like the one we're currently going through. Being isolated for long periods while working remotely is, in my opinion, one of the dangers of these new times, and that's why it's important to tend carefully to these factors.

It is also important in my opinion that people feel like their contribution matters and that they have a purpose and clear goals.

New Generation Captivating

Júlíus says that the new generation that works in companies today is interesting because they have different values. Work and personal life have become so interwoven during the day for people. That's different from what previous generations were used to.

“I'm also always curious to know what makes people tick, what drives them and makes them better employees every day.” He says that HR Monitor is one of the tools he uses to check in with his staff and that it is then important to respond well to the results of the measurements.

“It is important to have discussions based on the measurements and to provide managers with support. Likewise, there is often a need to adapt work to the personal life, or vice versa, because the divide between work and personal life is diminishing.”

Increased Job Satisfaction

How is your staff feeling?

“Our job satisfaction is increasing, as is independence and freedom to act. People are proud of their workplace and have an interest in their work. Initiative is good and the same can be said for loyalty. What we need to work on is supporting people who are feeling more isolated than before, as it is more challenging to establish close and good communication today. I want to work more on people belonging in the workplace, and then it would be interesting to put education and career development in the foreground, because that is something that has fallen by the wayside at many companies in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

How do you use HR Monitor?

“I use HR Monitor's results to monitor the status of factors I think are important to examine. I also use the results to respond to what needs to be addressed and to take action if needed. I don't put the results away in a drawer. Rather I examine the situation, identify the root of the problem and respond, as continuous improvement is important. It is also important to remember to pay attention to what is done well.”

Can you tell me about a few projects that have been created following results from HR Monitor?

“What I mentioned before is what I have started at Matís. In my former workplace, I increased participation by more than 100%, as managers were encouraged to publish the results and discuss them, both what was good and what needed to be improved, in order to set goals to maintain all the good and improve what could be done better. Job satisfaction was high as a result, and we received good feedback from our staff.

I have the same goals here at Matís, that employees respond and receive feedback. I don't want the results to end up in a drawer and responses or actions slept on, as we need to continually improve ourselves.”

Diversity in the Job Fascinating

What Júlíus Steinn loves about his job is that there are new challenges every day.

“I get to immerse myself in Excel analyses and give a talk for a 100 people tomorrow and everything in between.  My success and satisfaction lies in seeing progress in the professionalism of managers and employees. In supporting managers and trying to see progress in the professionalism of management – which after all, is the foundation of any operation.”

Have people always fascinated you?

"Yes, I was going to become a psychologist but was introduced to occupational psychology as an optional module, and after that, there was no turning back.”

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