Alex Medlock: “The focus has to be on people”
Effectively addressing the challenges of working in Russia, hiring the right professionals, choosing reliable partners and improving the client experience are issues that all companies face when working in Russia. Alex Medlock, Managing Director of AB Services offers his guidance on how to approach these issues.
Alex, how do you see the prospects for foreign companies in Russia against the backdrop of sanctions and deteriorating diplomatic relations with a number of European countries and the United States?
The sanctions against Russia can restrict how foreign companies can operate in the country. But we are keeping our focus on business and are leaving politics to the politicians. Russia is a large market: 140 million people and a good GDP per capita.
My observations are that 2015-2016 marked the lowest point of activity for foreign companies in Russia. Since 2017, the situation has slowly been improving. The ruble has stabilized, inflation is low, the forecast for investment improves, and people are more likely to change jobs.
We have noted a slight increase in business activity and the resumption of hiring, including for new positions. The most active sought staff are engaged in manufacturing, the IT sector, and B2B companies. Most of these sectors were negatively impacted in the last 2-3 years due to the economic recession and/or sanctions..
How can companies cope with the challenges they face in the Russian market?
The focus has to be on people. The success of a company depends on the professionalism and involvement of its employees. Engagement can be bolstered by clearly stated corporate values and goals, a transparent remuneration system, and providing people with everything they need to do their jobs, including authority. At the same time, we need to focus on clients and on providing a positive client experience.
Last year, you partnered with Alinga Consulting Group. Does this partnership help form a positive client experience?
Alinga has been providing services to small and medium-sized foreign businesses in Russia for twenty years. We understand our clients’ challenges, standards and procedures.
After AB Services and Alinga partnered last year, we implemented each other’s best practices and improved a number of business processes.
Clients also benefit from our partnership in that they can solve a wide range of challenges with the help of a single service provider that has unified standards of work.
For example, when a client of Alinga’s reports on the departure of its chief accountant, recruiters at AB Services are able to quickly find a replacement. In Russia, employees work two weeks after submitting a resignation notice, so searching for a new specialist becomes an urgent task.
We hold a joint meeting and draw up a candidate profile. We search for the candidate in the labor market or from among the company’s employees; that option that also exists.
How quickly do you begin working to solve the client’s problem?
On the day of they approach us. We are in the same office with our partnerAlinga, so it is easy to work together.
I was an AB Services client before I came here to work. I liked the fact that at any time you could call the managing director and ask for help. We have maintained this approach. Now I’m the manager, and clients can call me on my mobile. It,s very important that clients see us as their partner in business.
How does one choose a partner company to achieve synergy?
First, both sides should be sincerely interested in working together. The partnership between AB Services and Alinga became both possible and productive because the leaders of both companies wanted to cooperate. I met the owners of Alinga long before we formed our partnership. We worked together a lot and realized that we were looking at management in the same way, that our values were similar, and that we were able to negotiate.
Second, AB Services and Alinga are similar in terms of business size and client profile: we provide services to foreign companies with 25-50 employees in Russia. This helps us grow thanks to the exchange of clients, our experience solving new problems, and forming new business connections.
Third, we complement each other as partners. Alinga provides HR outsourcing services for personnel document workflow and payroll, while AB Services recruits personnel. Both companies consult, each in its own field. And together we support clients in a holistic way in terms of working with staff.
What services do you provide as part of your framework of integrated client support?
The main business of AB Services is recruitment and senior executive search. Our consultants and recruiters, with extensive experience in all key areas, allows us to select individual specialists and entire teams.
We are strong when it comes to assessing applicants and employees, professionals and managers. For example, we do top manager assessments of regional units under direction from the head office, and we communicate with managers so that they understand how corporate standards are integrated into their work, how they manage, how they interact with each other, meet KPIs, etc.
We conduct exit interviews, develop compensation and benefits policies, examine HR processes and make recommendations for improvement, and offer our team members to staff a client’s office if for some reason there is no HR manager or accountant.
Temporary staffing services are provided by Alinga, which allow foreign companies to enter the market with minimal risk and cost and maintain a small staff. Small businesses in Russia have preferential advantages.
We are approached to help with individual tasks or to conclude a contract involving full HR support. With each client we sign an individually developed agreement for a certain period with a list of required services.
Which experts do foreign companies need the most?
First of all, it’s professionals who have experience working in international companies and who know European languages. An example would be an accountant with ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualifications who is fluent in both English and German.
Personal qualities and “soft skills” are no less important. Our clients are interested in open-minded, flexible and proactive experts. Small teams value employees who can solve tasks outside the scope of their duties and who have developed communication skills and are good at teamwork.
It’s important for these people to develop in related areas, make decisions, take responsibility, deeply understand processes, learn from their colleagues, achieve mutual understanding, and acquire new experience. These are the kinds of experts we select for our clients.
How do you search for candidates and assess them?
Our experts who have experience working in HR departments at international companies and in consulting business are engaged in recruitment and assessment. They know the standards and requirements of international companies. We have a large database of experts and managers that is constantly being updated.
We use effective assessment techniques. I’ll give an example. We selected four suitable candidates for a leadership position and invited all four to the client’s office for a one-day training session. In the morning, they worked with the sales director who was recruiting them. In the afternoon, they worked with the company’s managing director. During the training session we assessed the candidates’ communication skills and teamworking abilities.
The training session helped the client make the right choice. Those applying for the position told us that the experience was a useful one and that they made new connections. As far as I know, they continue to be in touch with one another.
The most difficult thing in recruitment is to find people who are suitable for a specific company. That is when an employee fits into a team, effortlessly demonstrates the right behavior, is interested in the growth and development of the business, and becomes a leader.
How do you hire employees who are capable of becoming leaders?
A person becomes a leader if he or she becomes driven by the company’s mission, shares its values, supports its goals, and works to achieve them. A leader is the bearer of the corporate culture who demonstrates it both to colleagues and clients. To hire a future leader, we need this framework to work from – not values written on paper, but real corporate values.
Before hiring people, we study the mission, goals, and values of the client for whom we are recruiting, and we develop a list of priority leadership qualities. Every business has its own. For example, for one company it will be openness, keeping one’s word, and loyalty to the team. For another, it will be ambition, ability to resist stress, and independence.
Next, companies need sound training and assessment systems and conditions for developing leadership skills. This includes a partnership management style, coaching, a culture of delegation, and a way to give employees the opportunity to make decisions on their own.
Contact AB Services about your next recruitment.
Contact Alinga about HR and Payroll services.
Managing Partner, AB Services
Office : +7 495 280 08 42
Office : +7 495 988-21-91