At the Connect Conference, Mariann Pajor talked about Egis' culture development, its key turning points and remarkable achievements. Of course, we had a lot more to ask her: about challenges, the importance of dialogue, what it means to be a corporate citizen and how a successful corporate culture building process is done. Connect Follow-up interviews Part 1.
"Culture is a lot like love. Everyone knows the exact definition, yet everyone approaches it in a unique way, putting in varying amounts of energy and pursuing the task with varying degrees of enthusiasm.”
With this exciting opening, Mariann Pajor, Head of Corporate Culture and HR Development at Egis, started her Connect presentation “X-factor in Corporate Culture” - and of course we had a lot more to ask her after the conference.
What motivated Egis to rethink and develop its corporate culture, and what were the key milestones along the way?
Motivation always comes from within, from a strong belief in something. We believed in opening up our culture, changing the way we relate to each other, the way we operate. We didn't see the path in front of us when we set out, only the end result we wanted to reach. That is motivation enough, because the vision is always so strong and so uncontroversial that it takes you on your own path.
Perhaps the biggest milestones were when we said we wanted to change, decided we first wanted to take a look in the mirror to do it (started measuring commitment), and decided we would take it seriously and keep going for years. We set actions based on the measurements, which we implemented, and perhaps most importantly, we never gave up.
Every process of cultural development is the result of a long-term, persistent effort, which must be done day by day. There is no magic in it, really.
The importance of dialogue in such a process is undoubted, but what methods have been used to make this dialogue happen and be successful? How to go about it in a company of this size?
Small, small steps. In speech you have to switch from the polite form to talking to people on a first-name basis. You have to start saying hello and smiling in everyday life. You have to put the problems on the table as well. You need to share the strategy with everyone and set expectations about what is important to us. Words and, more importantly, a shared goal are universally understood. Questions that occur must always be answered, many times and in many ways. We need to create forums (online, offline, hybrid) where people dare and want to ask questions anonymously or by name. This is how we get to the important point where
colleagues can feel like their opinions matter and that their feedback and suggestions are heard. And perhaps most importantly, we need to put people at the center.
What does it mean to become a "corporate citizen"? How will this benefit both employees and employers?
The benefits become clear in the long term. Corporate citizenship means that there are rights and obligations that we all know and abide by. We understand what our company does and why it does it, and we accept our place and role in that system. If these cornerstones are stable, there are bound to be mutual benefits.
Can you mention some successful initiatives and stories that demonstrate that colleagues are willing and active in building a common company culture?
I would highlight our ambassador system, the effect of which has already drawn attention to many developments that are not exactly visible from the boardroom. Together we have found solutions to these and when we did not, we jointly explained why.
The culture of a company is us. The way we behave, feel, and operate.
At the end of the day, what matters is whether or not this is supported by the business numbers. Egis is on a growth path. The engagement questionnaire is more than 90% completed by colleagues, and in a manufacturing company, we see that as an achievement. Opinions are shared, we listen to them, and we back what we can actually provide as much as possible.