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HR Managers in Times of War: How the Scandinavian Management Model Helps NERDZ LAB Communicate

author

Maryna Kostyuk

/

HR Manager

6 min read

6 min read

My name is Maryna, and I’ve been working as an HR manager for three years with the NERDZ LAB company.

In this article, I’m sharing the challenges, the journey the company underwent on the way to building its operation strategy during the war, and how the Scandinavian management model is helping us through these tough times. I’ll also address the issues we had and how we found a way to communicate in this period. I believe it will be helpful to both IT company founders and HR managers in times of war.

Maryna Kostiuk

Read this article in Ukrainian here

Contents:

  1. People first
  2. Finding the answers instinctively
  3. Being friends is much more than being teammates
  4. A bit of advice and some conclusions

People first

As you might remember, our company follows the Scandinavian management model that allows team members to manage their working space and time as they see fit. 

One of the most significant values is People first. We have fostered informal relationships, which helped us to build strong bonds among our nerdz (as we fondly call our team members). 

Our values haven’t changed because of the war, though our priorities have broadened to include volunteering, more informal/non-work-related communication, and mutual help.

Finding answers instinctively

Back in late 2021, we had already started building our plan for what we would do in the case of war. We held a strategy meeting to discuss possible scenarios, what we should be ready for, and what we would do if war occurred. 

Before the war, we also had a bunch of online meetings with our team to decide on further actions. Our founders would definitely support and accept with understanding every decision that any team member decided to take regarding the events that might follow. 

However, we hoped that the war wouldn’t start, right up until the last moment.

But a new reality came

The events of February 24, 2022, shocked everybody. We had not expected a full-scale Russian invasion of the territory of our country. Things that seemed impossible earlier became our new reality in a matter of hours. 

Instinctively, we started doing what seemed right for us. We started with the founders’ engaging in transparent communication with the team, as we always do. Also, we showed a clear understanding that we would support each other as much as we could. 

Learn more about our response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The main philosophy was communication and support

Sure, we have always followed such a philosophy, but now our resolve was strengthened a great deal. Therefore, we surveyed our team about their current conditions: where they were, how they felt, and how we could help. 

Then we acted immediately

The next day, we started paying out the salaries of our team ahead of schedule. We switched completely to remote work. We helped our teammates in particularly dangerous areas to relocate to safer places. We re-equipped our Lviv office to make space for our Kharkiv colleagues and help host settlers. 

Besides this, where our teammates could, they provided accommodation for their friends and other teammates fleeing from active military areas. And, of course, we gave some days off to those who needed it. 

We actively talk through all situations with employees and clients for the stability of work.

Having put these foundations in place, we now react depending on the situation and solve all requests individually.

Team members’ own decision-making is also a major value for us

NERDZ LAB

Staying in bomb shelters for hours and reading news updates every minute became the new normal. In such moments, many people strive to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine both financially and personally in the trenches. 

We support everyone’s decision on this, whatever it is. Our team members make their own decisions and take responsibility for them. So, if they decide to take part in military operations, we’ll help them. We’ll retain their positions, their salaries and provide all the necessary ammunition. It’s another value that NERDZ LAB keeps following. Such an approach is rewarding, because, despite everything, we can fulfill our commitments with our existing clients, take on new projects, and hire new people.

Being friends is so much more than being teammates

being friends

Now let’s go back to my HR manager’s duties. I put all my first-priority tasks on hold from the moment of the Russian invasion. Communication with the team was now first and foremost. The psychology degree helps with handling a rapidly changing situation, but it’s hard to have a plan in the case of an invasion.

This is how I appreciated another NERDZ LAB value: Be friends. First, I started supporting the team 24/7 in our group chats. Then, if necessary, I had some small chats with the team members about their emotions, helped them handle them, and gave some information on how to get over stress and PTSD.

As for myself, I tried to keep calm and meditate. That’s where Spokiy, the first Ukrainian-language meditation app that our team worked on, came in handy. I regularly did breathing exercises and meditations for higher concentration. You may take this as a strong recommendation from me. 

For now, the team has recovered as far as possible in the current situation. However, we admit that sometimes we feel complicated emotions, are frightened, or anxious. Nevertheless, we’re here to help each other handle this. 

support

A story of one Kharkiv girl

“On 24th February, we woke up to the same sounds that half of the country had. I won’t write about my family’s horrible feelings and emotions each day as we tried to get used to the background of bombs, explosions, and shelling. The hardest thing was — and still is — the thought: what’s next? I think this was exactly what kept me from evacuating from Kharkiv for a while, although everyone, from our founders to Maryna, the HR Manager, and my teammates, insisted it would be best.

After yet another missile strike one night, I finally decided to evacuate. Early one March morning, I took a train to Lviv with my daughter in one hand and a suitcase with some necessities in the other, leaving my mom to guard our home. The nerdz warmly welcomed us, hosted us for the time we needed to rest, recover as much as possible, and move on.

To say that my team members supported me is not enough. I’m not sure I would be where I am now without Maryna’s advice and pep talks, or without the company’s financial and emotional support and that of each of my teammates individually.

When you are going through things like this and being able to start a new life precisely thanks to your team members’ support, you understand that People first isn’t just a pretty expression but a philosophy that the company indeed follows.”

– Our Kharkiv nerd

born to be nerd

A bit of advice and some conclusions

To sum up, I’d like to note that we continue working and maintaining the country’s economy and our team’s optimistic spirit. Thanks to the Scandinavian management model and our culture, it was easier for us to adjust to the new reality. Our priorities have broadened and become more valuable for each nerd. Most of us have continued working with little interruption and did our best to stay productive. Our clients, in turn, showed their compassion and commitment to help.

Some of us volunteer, and it’s great. We accept and support that as much as we can. At the same time, we recognize the importance of the IT-sphere as never before. Since the war began, none of our team members has suffered from late salary payments or, even worse, lost their jobs. Exactly the opposite, NERDZ LAB keeps opening up new positions and encourages team members to support the country in this way. We also manage to raise funds on a regular basis and send them to the army in the first place.

From my experience, I do not recommend you try to address all the issues alone. Instead, ask the HR community, your team, and your management to help you navigate the situation.

Remember that there’s no magic wand that will solve everything at once. That’s why it’s important to share your experience with others and don’t underestimate how your input helps both your company and the country (this doesn’t only apply to HR managers). Focus on your values and culture, as even small companies can achieve great results.

So let’s keep calm and support each other. Everything will be Ukraine!

Stand with Ukraine