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HomeCAREERSHR Ambassador Nominations (SMART HR Event) – Today, Gabriela Pepino

HR Ambassador Nominations (SMART HR Event) – Today, Gabriela Pepino

Gabriela Pepino is one of the six finalists in the final stage of the HR Ambassador competition, organized with the support of the SMART HR Event. The voting session will be held “live” during Edition 9 of the SMART HR Event taking place on May 23 and 24.

C&B: Tell us about your professional journey. What attracted you to the field of human resources?

Gabriela Pepino: My path to HR was quite long but extremely rich in experiences. I completed economic studies and practiced in this area until I came into contact with corporations over 13 years ago. Since then, my interest in evolution and continuous development has propelled me into the management team, leading various teams and projects until almost 5 years ago. I have always enjoyed actively involving myself in people’s development, both in my teams and in programs addressing the entire company. I participated from the design phase to the delivery of programs, held mentoring and coaching sessions for both managers and colleagues in the organization.

Thus, four and a half years ago, I received the proposal to join the HR team as an HRBP and gladly accepted. It came to me as a confirmation of my dedication to organizational structure, leadership skills, and team development, where regardless of the context, my level of energy and dedication was always high. Moreover, it was an opportunity to continue now, full time, in this direction.

C&B: How do you think the role of HR has changed in recent years and what impact have these changes had on your profession?

Gabriela Pepino: I want to answer this question cautiously because my history in HR is not that long. However, as the overall business environment is extraordinarily dynamic in recent years, changes are reflected in the human resources sphere whether we like it or not.

Certainly, the pandemic has increased the complexity through the diversification of work environments (remote, hybrid), which has led to changes in policies, performance management and evaluation, in retention and engagement areas, and in the integration of new employees. Personally, the context of the pandemic has once again shown me how important communication and human connection are. And I must add here a motto that I have had in mind for a very long time and which retains its relevance: “relationship precedes results.” Better said, the quality of our relationships directly influences the quality of the results. And this is a direction I have been focusing on lately, both through the programs I have implemented and through the way we recommend coordinating teams.

C&B: Is there an HR initiative or project that you are particularly proud of? What challenges did you face and what did you learn from this experience?

Gabriela Pepino: There is a project that is very dear to me, and that is the well-being program I implemented for employees in Romania. We all know that when times in the economic sphere become challenging, HR budgets are among the first to be cut. However, this did not discourage me, and I continued to work on this project. And surprisingly, at the moment when I decided that I would support this project “no matter what,” options and people came to me, and the support I needed to continue. It’s a project, from which we’re still learning, where we’re still making adjustments, it’s like a chameleon that changes color according to the needs we identify along the way. We started with 2 initial objectives, to create connection and reconnection among employees by creating communities focused on passions and interests outside the professional sphere; and to bring the concept of wellbeing into the spotlight. We are talking here about everything that includes the area of wellbeing, from physical, mental, financial, social, and vocational health. We make this effort by bringing in front of colleagues a series of specialists from all these fields to whet the appetite for self-discovery, awareness, for deepening concepts and continuous development. It’s also an opportunity for me to learn from this project and from the interactions with both colleagues and our collaborators, to discover new information and meet cool people.

C&B: How do you approach managing diversity and inclusion within the organization? Could you give us a concrete example?

Gabriela Pepino: I can say that from this point of view, we are a company with a great openness to the area of D&I. In the location in Romania, we have employees aged between 20 and 65+ years, and we are proud of the ability to manage teams with an interesting mix of generations, from different backgrounds, considering they work in a remote system. Globally it is even more interesting, being an organization with a presence on all continents and with departments where colleagues work from different locations. The cultural diversity component is very important to us and has been present from the beginning, once new colleagues are introduced to the organizational culture.

C&B: What are the main qualities you consider essential for an HR specialist today?

Gabriela Pepino: Regardless of the field we operate in, I believe that the unceasing desire for learning and development, adaptability, and resilience are a great asset. And in HR, as well as in the businesses that HR supports, there are many changes, so it is fundamental for an HR specialist to be able to manage this environment with exceptional dynamics and to offer the business environment a trustworthy partnership, through which to contribute to the development and implementation of strategies that support the organization’s objectives.

More and more, and I say this with great joy, we are leaning towards the well-being of employees, towards the area of diversity and inclusion, and here there is a need for sustained collaboration between HR and leadership to implement in a sustainable way the best practices. Along with these collaboration skills, there is also a need for ownership and a very good understanding of the industry and the organization. Empathy, professional ethics and integrity, communication, and the capacity for analysis and strategic thinking cannot be missing from the HR toolbox.

C&B: How do you see the future of work and what is the role of HR in shaping this future?

Gabriela Pepino: The future of work is continuously changing, and the role of the HR department is crucial in shaping this future. Whether it’s about revising policies to enable adaptation to new ways of working (remote, hybrid), while ensuring the connection and engagement of employees, or optimizing recruitment processes, performance management, and personnel administration to ensure the implementation of new technologies, HR can be the engine of some of the changes that are taking shape. With the rapid evolution of technology, it is essential for HR to promote a culture of continuous learning in the organization, to identify the needs for skills development, and to offer relevant training and development programs. HR will play an increasingly important role in promoting employee well-being, both physically and mentally. Implementing well-being programs and facilitating the balance between professional and personal life will become increasingly major priorities.

C&B: What advice do you have for companies in terms of adapting to the new challenges in the world of work?

Gabriela Pepino: Because in the last year I have been very involved in coaching, and in developing coaching skills, I find it difficult now to give advice. However, I can add my perspective or my desire regarding companies’ contributions to their relationship with employees. I notice a maturation and a different positioning of the employee at the employer. Candidates know their rights better and place higher value on the benefits they receive along with a satisfactory salary. This should encourage employers to revise their benefit packages, so they remain attractive to candidates and can support the organization’s objectives with the help of prepared and motivated employees. And I would like all companies to consider more the needs of employees and to create work environments that stimulate performance and the development of people on all levels.

C&B: If you had unlimited resources, what program or initiative would you implement to improve employee well-being?

Gabriela Pepino: Very nice question! Experience has shown me that there are many things that can be done even with limited resources and that can be extraordinarily valuable. Employee well-being depends very much also on the environment in which they work, the dynamics of responsibilities, the energy in the team, in a word, the company culture. All of these have an important impact both on performance and on the physical and mental health of employees. If the impact is negative, if the environment is toxic and people are exhausted and on the verge of burnout, it is very possible that any innovative initiative or program you implement would be simply useless or even demotivating. To build initiatives that truly influence employee well-being, we need an organizational culture that encourages continuous learning, collaboration, transparency, respect, and diversity, creating a work environment where employees feel valued and supported. And such a culture is not built overnight.

But let’s assume that we are in the situation where we have a good base on which we can develop these initiatives with unlimited resources. I would include here some proposals (some very bold) to address social needs, those related to employee health, and their development.

A relaxation center where employees can spend their breaks or personal time, where they can use various stress reduction techniques such as even virtual reality, massages, yoga, meditation.

Customized wellness programs, which could include personalized recommendations for nutrition, fitness, and stress management, tailored to individual needs, based on data collected from the employee.

Access to mentoring and coaching sessions where they can work with experts in various fields to develop their skills and careers.

Internal networking programs or communities created based on common interests and passions even outside the professional sphere that facilitate employees’ access to events of interest.

Support programs for parents and their children, assistance for children’s education, and parental counseling.

And I’ll stop, although I could continue with many other initiatives.

C&B: Why did you apply for this contest and why do you believe you should win?

Gabriela Pepino: I applied because since last year I set out to achieve things I have never had before, and for that, I had to do things I had never done before. This is one of them. I have always been very quiet and did my job without feeling the need to stand out, and I realized that it was not always the best strategy. Now the time has come to dare, to take back my power from where it had gone astray, and to support my vision. I support people in their self-discovery and in their journey of growth and development in a business environment that allows them to perform with ease, with support, and well-being. And I believe that should win.



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