Study time is the time to invest in yourself and your future
Irina Bakareva about her experience in HR and impression from classes with HSE students
Irina Bakareva is a professional in the field of HR. She has many years of experience in large international and Russian companies: from the coordinator of training and development programs (1998) to the HR Director in companies such as Heineken and Tikkurila. Since 2021, as a guest lecturer, Irina has joined the HSE team and taught the "HR Management in International Companies" course for 2nd year students of the "International Business program".
Irina, you have been working in business for a long time. Why did you decide to try your hand at teaching?
Both my pedagogical and management experience began immediately after graduating from St. Petersburg State University at school. It was at school that I realized that the most important task of education is not the presentation of new material, but the stimulation of students' own learning activities and the creation of a motivating educational environment.
In the future, I never parted with the topic of training and development, as my business experience began in the department of training and development (Management development & training) of a large international company, where new opportunities for professional and personal growth opened up for me. I mastered modern methods of management and adult education in the best international schools: Ashridge and London Business School, INSEAD. At various times, I received international certifications as a trainer, expert and consultant in organizational development and management, assessor, facilitator, coach according to ICF standards and others.
But my most important “teacher”, of course, was more than twenty years of experience in three large international companies and participation in projects to develop corporate values and competencies, personnel assessment, form and develop a talent pool, launch internship programs, etc. Having gone from an ordinary specialist to a HR director, I understand all HR processes, as organizational development and personnel development has always been a zone of my special interest and attention, because any company develops and achieves success, provided that it develops, achieves success and employees realize their potential.
HR departments often provide employee training. What do you think is the difference between staff and student training?
Both of these are the training of adults, who, as you know, are primarily motivated to learn what they need and benefit from. That is why both employee training and student training should be practical, help to master the skills of independent research work, search for new solutions and ideas, and also help to develop personally. Most of the methods and forms of training that are used in employee training can also be used in student educational programs.
Of course, in teaching students there is such an important component as assessment. But the process of personnel assessment exists today in most companies. Its main function is a feedback function, which helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of employees, highlights the immediate and long-term goals of work, professional and personal growth. Perhaps it makes sense to think about how such an evaluation function can be applied to students.
In your opinion, what is the main difference between foreign and Russian companies?
This is a very broad question and in answering it I would like to focus on 2 differences. This is the organizational culture and the role of the HR department in the organization.
I am very close to the Spiral Dynamics Theory, the foundations of which were formulated in the 90s by management consultants Don Beck and Chris Cowan, who, in turn, relied on the work of psychologist Clare W. Graves . According to this theory “people, public institutions, companies and even entire countries go through certain typical stages in their development, and the higher stages from an evolutionary point of view resemble the lower ones in some ways, which allows us to speak of a spiral movement.” The engine of such development in general and any specific change in the company is the corporate culture, which determines what is good and what is bad in a particular company. In other words, corporate culture is “a set of values and priorities shared by the majority of employees. It is these values that determine how an employee thinks, what choice he makes in a given situation, what decision he makes and how he explains this decision. Not surprisingly, Peter Drucker's phrase that it is "culture that eats strategy for breakfast" has become so widely known.
Most international companies strive to create at least a culture of success (achievement, efficiency, determination, urgency, because this leads to an outstanding result), or a culture of consent (tolerance, respect, dialogue of cultures, consensus). Few organizations even move higher in the spiral, creating a culture of synthesis (creativity, global innovation, self-management, because this is the future). The organizational culture of the company is manifested in everything: in the structure, behavior of employees, the level of interaction with customers and partners, departments among themselves, methods and forms of training, etc. Many Russian companies have long begun work on the formation of the desired organizational culture, but they often have to start from lower levels of the spiral: a culture of belonging (we do it because it is customary for us) or a culture of power (we do it because I say so) and through the culture of rules (we act this way because these are our rules) move up step by step...
As for the role of the HR department, in most international companies, the HR department is not only engaged in recruitment and personnel administration, but is a true partner of the business. It participates in the development of the vision, strategy and goals of the company, makes important decisions, proposes HR policies and practices that promote disclosure the potential of employees and increase efficiency, cares about the satisfaction and involvement of staff, in recent times even about their mental well-being. At the moment, many Russian companies have already made great strides in this direction and their HR departments are already reliable business partners. Some organizations are still at the beginning of this journey, but often in Russian companies one can still see traditional human resources departments with their classic roles.
Previously, universities paid great attention to hard skills, but now more and more often we hear that graduates lack soft skills. What do you think it is connected with?
From my point of view, this is due precisely to the organizational culture of the company. When hiring employees, modern "advanced" companies want them not only to possess some amount of knowledge in their professional field, but to be able to effectively interact with colleagues and partners, negotiate, participate in projects, become leaders of teams working on specific business tasks. Today, communication and management skills are needed not only for managers, but also for ordinary employees, especially if the company promotes and applies modern methods to improve the efficiency of processes (World Сlass Manufacturing, Lean, TPM, etc.). If graduates want to work in such companies and have soft skills, they get a huge competitive advantage over those who do not have such “soft” skills.
Many young people seek to find work abroad or in a foreign company. What do you think it is connected with? Can their hopes be justified?
Yes, many young people seek work abroad or in foreign companies, hoping for higher wages, opportunities for professional and career growth, and gaining international experience. Despite the fact that over the past year many international companies have left the Russian market, young people still have the opportunity to find work in foreign companies that continue to do business in Russia or have transferred control to their Russian partners, as well as try themselves in companies that increasing their business by entering the Russian market, which is new for them (especially companies from the Asia-Pacific countries). Opportunities have decreased, but not completely disappeared.
Why do you think students should understand the basic principles of HR practices?
The HR function offers the business the policies, processes, practices, tools, methods necessary for it, teaches how to use them, consults, etc., but it is the managers who manage the personnel of their teams, departments, companies. The knowledge and especially the practice of their application, obtained during the training in the discipline "HR Management in International Companies", will help future business leaders develop their managerial skills and prepare for solving specific tasks in the field of personnel management of their future organizations.
Irina, this year you first time taught "HR Management in International Companies" at the "International Business" program. What are your impressions of students?
Most of the students who chose this discipline pleased me with their involvement, activity, willingness to quickly team up, find materials on their own and conduct mini-research to complete practical tasks. These are exactly the qualities that employers expect from employees and which will help them in their future job search and career development.
What advice would you give to students and graduates?
I advise you to use the time of study as a time to invest in yourself and your future, not to stop developing, not to be afraid to try new things, to get to know yourself and the world around you, to test and explore, never resting on your laurels.
I would recommend everyone to read the article by Mark Rozin “The Spiral Movement”, which I already mentioned, as well as the books by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be” and "Mojo. How To Get It, How to Keep It, And How to Get It Back if You Lose It”. I would advise future leaders to read books on how organizational behavior and culture affect the business results of companies. For example:
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins
- Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant
- Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- The Leader In You: How to Win Friends, Influence People and Succeed in a Changing World by Dale Carnegie