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HomeCAREERSTalking to Sorina Bradea, before SMART HR

Talking to Sorina Bradea, before SMART HR

Sorina Bradea, with an impressive career spanning over 30 years in consulting, training, and organizational development, has been a pioneer in bringing Thomas International’s behavioral assessment systems to Romania, marking a significant stage in the evolution of human resources in our country. Through her efforts, Sorina not only introduced a new set of tools for HR professionals but also played a decisive role in transforming the human resources industry from a traditional function to a strategic one, focused on the development and valorization of human capital.
Sorina advocates for the essential role that people play at the heart of businesses, even in an era dominated by technology. She emphasizes the need for a deep understanding of the business, its strategies, and especially the importance of humanely responding to the challenges of an increasingly technological world, without losing sight of empathy and the significance of well-being in a world full of uncertainties.
Besides technical skills, Sorina highlights the importance of critical thinking, managing change and ambiguity, risk-taking, and authenticity as essential skills for HR leaders in managing uncertainty. She strongly believes in authenticity and recognizing vulnerabilities, seeing these traits as a source of strength and trust in teams.

C&B: What motivated you to introduce Thomas International’s behavioral assessment systems in Romania, and how do you think these tools have changed organizations’ approach to HR?

Sorina Bradea: As is sometimes the case even today, employee development programs are based on quite a bit of subjectivism. In 1998 when I brought Thomas to Romania, this was a habit, not an exception. Being in the training market since 1995, I felt the need for more objectivity in determining development needs at both the employee and team levels. These tools have certainly changed the way companies relate to what HR can offer for people development. However, these pieces of information, even if managed by HR, are information for those evaluated and for those who lead them, at any level. That’s why the information generated with the help of Thomas assessment tools, then as now, is essential not to be part of the employee’s file but part of the knowledge base with which leaders motivate, inspire, encourage, direct, in short – lead!

C&B: How do you manage to maintain focus on the essential importance of people at the heart of businesses in an era increasingly dominated by technology? Do you have concrete examples of strategies or initiatives that you have implemented in this regard?

Sorina Bradea: Technologies are a support! They help us to be more efficient in what we do. Technology brings more information, more speed, the possibility to express creatively and more completely what you think but…behind all these actions stands the digitally competent person. The problem is not that technology will replace humans but that not all employees will be prepared to use technology! Or, as is happening now with ChatGPT, to use it without discernment.

The concern for technology integration should be for its correct use and to not lose the human aspect of the organization.

If there are courses and rules for the former, for the latter…it’s more complicated. Remote or Hybrid work doesn’t help much either. Nevertheless, companies are constantly concerned, and leaders are looking for solutions to keep people close. One strategy is to jointly build special moments for teams, events, or meetings that bring them together. Another strategy relies on using technology to make collaboration more efficient – project teams are formed which, with the help of applications, create virtual space for activities. And VR or AR technology helps a lot.

C&B: How would you promote a learning culture within teams, and what have you found to be the most effective methods for facilitating the alignment of individual goals with those of an organization?

Sorina Bradea: Learning is very much linked to the learner’s curiosity and the impact on each individual’s personal and professional life. To form a learning culture first involves multiple actors: HR, managers, L&D, employee ambassadors of learning, internal trainers and coaches, etc. A learning culture is based on accumulation, experimentation, impactful application, sharing. These are clear, measurable actions to put into practice.

One strategy that works in several companies is to have a follow-up after each learning program (technical or soft skills), and this follow-up is done together with the employee’s team to identify together with colleagues what can be immediately applied in their activity. Another strategy is to correlate learning with each employee’s Career Path and to support self-development along with learning through L&D programs organized by the company.

C&B: What are the main challenges you encounter in supporting management teams to encourage a free and open exchange of knowledge, and how do you address them?

Sorina Bradea: Once we create level one of Lencioni’s pyramid, trust, the exchange of knowledge and ideas happens almost by itself. Most often, like any other participants, managers need the right framework to exchange knowledge and experiences. Creating this framework starts from asking the right questions, listening, and making sure others listen too. My challenge is to ensure that managers make time for these learning experiences, and I do this by ensuring that the discussion (in workshops, coaching, or consultancy) has an impact for them.

C&B: Why do you consider critical thinking, managing change and ambiguity, risk-taking, and authenticity to be essential skills for HR leaders in the current context?

Sorina Bradea: The first four are specific to the environment in which business is conducted today: lack of predictability, multiple variables influencing businesses. HR people need to be prepared to face them. Authenticity…I believe that human resources people are a personal example of what happens in the organization. Alongside management, sometimes before them, they are the ones who create the framework for progress, innovation, performance. A personal example lacking authenticity is a play written by someone else!!!

C&B: What principles guide your work in creating work environments that value and support each employee? How do you ensure that these environments remain relevant and effective in the face of continuous changes in the labor market?

Sorina Bradea: Three principles: Autonomy; Trust; Performance. I like to think that, when the person is in the right place, with the organization’s help, they will develop in such a way as to be competent in what they do and to take on the autonomy that is offered to them. They assume autonomy if I give them trust. And trust exists as long as I see performance. When performance drops, I first ask myself whether I have done everything possible to grow that person and support them.

My principles are not tied to a particular moment; they are valid no matter how the labor market changes.

C&B: You will be hosting a workshop at the SMART HR event. Can you tell us why people should attend this event and even your workshop?

Sorina Bradea: The SMART HR event, as the name suggests, is aimed at smart people in HR or those who believe that HR must be Smart to meet the challenges. So…who doesn’t want to become even Smarter than they are? Just being Smart needs to be demonstrated. And in business, this is demonstrated through numbers. And my workshop is about how to use numbers to create those programs that help the organization to have SMART people in their roles. It’s not about accounting or about changes in tax laws! My workshop is about thinking in processes, about understanding that when we want to bring L&D to the white-collar table, HR must speak the language of white collars: numbers, results, business objectives. And ROI is about all of these!!!

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