As Schibsted Tech Polska grew it became harder for the management to assess what employees were thinking about different issues. No longer was it sufficient to drop by the coffee machine to discuss issues informally. And who could talk on behalf of all employees, anyway?
– We need elected employee representatives, said the Norwegian owners.
– Employee what?, responded local managers and employees alike. Most were sceptical to the idea.
– I was against it. I feared it would be a kind of blame bucket. No longer would the managers have to talk to the employees. Instead they could just talk to the employee representatives – and the issue was fixed, says Piotr Knapik, who later was elected as the first representative.
Employee representatives common in Norway
While employee representatives are very uncommon in Poland, Norwegian companies of a certain size are obliged to let employees be represented in the board.
After letting the issue rest for a while, the board of Schibsted Tech Polska came back and invited one elected employee representative to be observer in the company board with right to speak on all issues.
Always in board meetings
The employee representatives have regular meetings with the management in Schibsted Tech Polska, in which they bring up issues of concern for the employees. Often they facilitate how employees can be included in the decision-making. One of the two are always present on board meetings.
– We want to operate Schibsted Tech Polska in the same way as other Schibsted companies, he says.
– In Schibsted we consider the opinions of the employees to be an important factor in decision-making, and the same goes for our employees in Poland.
– Overall the experience of being employee representative has been very good, especially the openness we have been met with from the management team. We have felt invited to take part in many issues, and also feel we have contributed to better decisions in many cases, says Aleksandra Grzybowska.
– In a nutshell Schibsted Tech Polska is a Scandinavian company – and the role of employee representatives is part of the whole concept. For us employees this Scandinavian experience is very beneficial. It is a sincere and honest package, says Piotr Knapik.
Part of European Work Council
Schibsted Media Group has 6.900 employees in 29 countries. Employees are represented on all levels of the organization – and group employee representatives from Oslo have visited Krakow several times to advice the local representatives about how they should perform the new role.
Grzybowska and Knapik were also elected to Schibsted´s European Work Council (EWC), which gave them a chance to exchange experiences with representatives from other European countries. In EWC they represent both Schibsted Tech Polska and Prisjakt, another Schibsted-owned company in Krakow.
Very different issues
The two have been involved in very different issues, from the very trivial that can be fixed easily to more complex matters.
Many issues are very practical. For instance the employee representatives facilitated parking spaces for bikes in the garage of the Avatar office building in Krakow and successfully pushed for Playstation 4 in the company kitchen. They have also played a core role in the project group planning how new offices shall be furnished and designed.
– Fortunately we have not had too many very difficult issues yet, says Aleksandra Grzybowska.
– Personally the role has given me more courage. I dare to ask more questions to the managers, and they understand that is my role as employee representative. If employees in other companies say so clearly what is wrong they would need a bullet-proof umbrella. Here it is different, she says.
Constructive employee representatives
CEO Stig A. Waagbø was surprised when employees first were sceptical to elect representatives. But his impression is that employees have a much more positive view today.
– Our employees selected very professional persons for these positions. I think both Piotr and Aleksandra have done an excellent job. They are able to participate in a constructive way and they also dare to disagree with the management. Because of this we have a broader view on many issues. And that is only positive, he says.
New election coming up
The first year with employee representatives was a test period. But the experience is so positive from both sides that Schibsted Tech Polska has decided to continue with the arrangement.
Soon employee representatives for the next period will be elected. Piotr Knapik and Aleksandra Grzybowska have to decide if they want to run for re-election – and the employees if they will give them renewed vote of confidens or elect someone else to represent them.
The election is done by secret ballot.
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