Interview with Diana Müller, Head of Organizational Development & Talent Acquisition at Telenor Hungary

The role of the People Division in the corporate Influence project:

Cooperation with the network research company OrgMapper was initiated by Telenor's Chief HR Officer Judit Endrei-Kiss after the Czech PPF Group acquired Telenor Hungary and it was necessary to support change management. Corporate Influencers have become an important pillar of manager-employee dialogue and trust-building.

Diána Müller leads Telenor's Hungary Organizational Development and Talent Acquisition Team; this department is responsible for the coordination of this project within the company. Together with our Mobilizers, as we call the proactive group of colleagues selected from our Influencers, we strengthen internal communication and ensure the flow of information through the informal network. At our regular meetings, we discuss which major corporate initiatives or internal communication / HR innovations are expected, as well as which issues preoccupy our colleagues on a daily basis. Mobilizers also take part in important projects (e.g. cultural development), helping their professional work with their opinion and feedback. We consider it important that our solutions and processes are based on real employee involvement. We also place great emphasis on the development of Mobilizers.

For which organizational problems and pain points did Telenor Hungary seek a solution through the Influence project?

There was a change of ownership in our organization in the second half of 2018; Telenor companies operating in the region - Hungary and the surrounding countries - were acquired by a Czech investor group, PPF Group, from the former Norwegian owner. This has set off a very strong wave of cultural change: we have moved from the former, more informal Scandinavian culture to a Central European, much more structure- and performance-oriented expectation system. This change was also reflected in the engagement within the company: there was some fear and uncertainty from the employees about the future. They were afraid of the impact of the change on the atmosphere and community, the future of the company, and their daily lives. Informal channels have always been dominant in our company, and colleagues missed the previous style of communication. We wanted to change this situation and that is why we decided to launch the Influence project.

Why did Telenor choose the methodology of network analysis?

Our corporate culture was characterized by the involvement of colleagues in joint dialogue and decision-making processes. Parallel to the Influence project, we launched a process aimed at redefining the values of our culture and organization. Here we also worked with the involvement of colleagues; it was not the privilege of senior management to define these values without involving the employees. The Chief HR Officer of our organization is a person who believes in bottom-up initiatives and that it all starts with our employees, so they are at the heart of our decisions. We appreciate that there is a great deal of creativity and strength in the organization and in our colleagues, and we have seen in this methodology the possibility of strengthening this further. Due to their role, Influencers also help us support our own colleagues. It was also important for us to have reliable research behind the chosen method and not to get random data that we then cannot work with really effectively. That is why we chose the methodology of network analysis.

What were the specific goals and ideas for the Influence project?

We definitely wanted to promote transparency within the company with the help of individuals who can form a kind of bridge between management and colleagues. We considered it important to reduce the distance between them, to clarify expectations and needs from both sides, and to strengthen the trust of our employees in managers. In addition, we had an important aspect to accelerate the flow of information within the organization, both from the bottom up and from the top down. At that time, we were also working on the previously mentioned culture process and our employer brand, and we wanted to have a circle of employees who could be involved in these initiatives. They can authentically represent Telenor both internally and externally.

What were the first steps you took in the Influence project to make a difference?

In our organization, more than 200 Influencers accepted the invitation, which is a very wide circle. It was a pleasant surprise that so many colleagues took on the responsibilities and tasks that come with this role. The first challenge was how to mobilize them effectively. We found the solution by introducing the Mobilizer Team. From our 200 Influencers, we selected 45 people who were the most active and motivated in their role and able to bring more teams closer together. We call them Mobilizers. We started working with them during a two-day kick-off and development program as part of a joint retreat. During the program, they got to know each other, and we talked to them about the operational framework and what they feel and experience as their strengths, which tasks they would like to undertake and in which roles they feel authentic. We set up a common working method, a communication process - for example to have a formal meeting once a month, in addition to the continuous dialogue about matters concerning the company to ensure transparency. We started an online Teams channel for this, too. 

In this ever-changing and transforming world, change management and resilience are becoming increasingly important in the lives of organizations. During the coronavirus crisis, the extent to which a corporation’s strength and efficiency can be influenced by its informal network has been well demonstrated. How did Influencers and Mobilizers help your organization?

It was a huge positive achievement that we were able to transition to online work quickly and efficiently in general and  with Mobilizers as well. In this challenging period, the community became even more active than before, and they began to use online channels even more actively on a daily basis, engaging in new initiatives. One of our large-scale training events, Learning Day, took place online during the quarantine period. We organize this every year, and we did not want to cancel it this year either. It’s a large-scale event that invites hundreds of employees. Fully online implementation has created a lot of challenges. Several Mobilizers have joined the organizing team, helping our work by incorporating the perspectives and needs of colleagues. At the same event, we asked colleagues to share their own personal stories from their lives and work in which our corporate values are reflected. Mobilizers took part in this as well, inspiring other colleagues with their stories. During Covid, we measured engagement in the organization weekly. The Mobilizers provided valuable feedback about the organizational climate and what is behind the numbers.

A crisis like a coronavirus can result in serious changes in the life of an organization, as well as in the strategy and purpose of various projects. What impact did all this have on the strategy and focus of the Influence project?

The process of involvement remained the same, only the situation and method changed. The focus has been on how they feel in a situation caused by a coronavirus, what preoccupies them, and what we can do to help them. As a next step,  our goal is to  focus more on the closer collaboration of Mobilizers and top management. We want the formal and informal structure to be better connected. By providing a forum for direct consultation and feedback, we hope that leaders will directly involve Mobilizers in relevant initiatives. In this way, managers would also have a better idea of what is going on in a given organization or group through the lens of employees.

Were you able to involve Mobilizers in decisions made in connection with home office or return to the office, or in other strategically important decisions related to the crisis?

They helped us to understand what concerns colleagues, what causes them difficulties, and in which areas they experience lack of information and uncertainty. With their help, we were able to better customize the solutions and messages to communicate. There were also cases where we did not have the opportunity to involve them in advance, as our crisis team had to respond as quickly as possible to any challenges which arose. But even then, we focused on asking Mobilizers for feedback on how it was received internally and if any fine-tuning was needed.

What do you think is the power of Influencers?

An essential element of our people-first strategy is to put people at the center of every decision. This is how it works in our daily lives; employee involvement and bottom-up initiatives are part of our culture. Influencers are the ones who have a lot of valuable information and knowledge. They represent the employees of our company with their feedback, and they bring our programs to life with ideas and creativity, so this way we can respond to the real needs of our colleagues.

If you would like to hear more about the Influence project, you can download our white paper here.

Our Customer Solution Partner, Orsolya Doricsák, is open to discussing the Influencer project with you in more depth and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to book a call in her calendar here.

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