Getting personnel with Moskito’s first HR Manager
In 2020 Elena Cavalieri d’Oro joined Moskito Design as Human Resources Manager, a first for the agency. I caught up with her by Zoom to talk about how she plans to define her role in our growing agency, about spreading the benefits around, and how women in leadership roles see power differently.
Let me start with what I think is every interviewer’s favorite question: tell me about yourself, Elena.
I’m a work psychologist and I love my work and I’ve had the pleasure of starting up the HR function in a number of different corporate contexts, including multinationals and local companies. There are two work experiences that remain dear to my heart: the first is in Portugal, and the second in Padua, where I still collaborate with the university. In terms of my role, I think my job as HR Manager is to be a meeting point between the desires of the people working here and the needs of the agency, which starts with communication, listening and understanding. I see myself as a process facilitator in all areas of personnel management.
You’re Moskito Design’s first ever HR Manager. Why was now the right time for the agency to create this new role?
I think for startups and growing companies it’s easy to put off thinking about human resources for a long time – often too long. Owners who found service companies care about their employees instinctively. But what happens is that although they want to keep giving their employees the same attention they did at the beginning, as they grow they have less and less time to do so. Delegating is one of the natural steps on the growth journey, and it’s a very important step. I think Moskito’s owners Evelina Borghesan and Giulia Salvioni are farsighted for deciding to create the HR manager role at their current size.
I tend to think of HR as all about hiring people, which I’ll ask you about later. But you mentioned communication – what’s your role in that?
As companies grow, it’s easy to encounter all kinds of communication challenges. Maybe word doesn’t get outside of a few select people, maybe the people running the company have way to many other responsibilities, and simply forget or don’t have time to communicate as they could. Especially when everybody is working remotely, to keep people informed, involved, and motivated. That’s why we established weekly calls with our Team Leaders and monthly plenaria with all everybody, to share information and company updates.
Which has been really important in our last year of lockdowns and reopenings!
Yes, definitely. It’s been really important not only to communicate local, regional and national rules and regulations, but also Moskito’s response. Back in September when we all hoped the office would stay open, it was important to share with our teams our investments in workplace safety that met and exceeded the new COVID-19 health and safety regulations.
Communication has been fundamental, and we’ve tried to take care of the people here in the best way possible, including distributing psychological guidance on how to try to stay calm and control our thoughts, emotions and behaviors in relation to Covid-19. It was something to reflect on to help us cope with what remains a worrying scenario for everyone.
I also like to think that we really turned a crisis into an opportunity. We’ve invested in people, with online training, and helped make flexible working become a reality by reorganizing our workspace, our processes, and beefed up our technology.
These changes have all been really complex. What’s the key to staying on top of all that?
You have to really pay attention, but paying attention to people is part of my job and what I’m passionate about. Often that means asking questions, especially when it’s a question of helping people understand that benefits and responsibilities are shared throughout the agency.
Of course, paying attention to people doesn’t only mean listening to people and responding to their needs, but welcoming new hires, organizing the return to the office in September after months of working from home and welcoming back old colleagues. Not only explaining the new health and safety rules in the reorganized office space, but also nice little things like offering brioche for everybody. And even organizing our virtual escape room and making sure everybody had a cocktail at home to drink during our online Christmas party. You create fellowship with your colleagues by having fun as well, and this year we thought we could use a little levity during the holiday season.
As the agency grows it’s essential that new people find their place among a team of more than 50 as easily as they might have done when it was only a team of 10.
Coming back to hiring, what’s your role in recruiting new talent?
I’m trying to bring more structure and consistency to how we advertise for and select new talent. That includes reviewing the channels for finding people, and implementing a new strategy of employer branding. We’ve also added evaluations for candidate potential in the interviews, focused on listening to their desires, motivations and ambition.
And we also do a better job when giving feedback to every candidate we interview. We get back in touch to let them know how it went. I think that in this way the interview process is valuable even for candidates who don’t join our team, by giving them a useful point of reflection for professional growth.
It’s always been very Moskito to hire young people and help them grow. How do you help people try and realize their potential once they’re on the team?
The first step is through getting to know people, their potential and ambitions. It starts with the aspirations of our future employees and continues with the process of assigning objectives and evaluating performance. It’s a team effort with the Team Leaders, which is carried out with a structured process in several steps as well as with classic evaluation forms. By knowing our people we can better manage internal mobility, understand training needs, and support growth with training and coaching.
Which could lead to promotion within the company, too, right?
Yes, which has always been part of Moskito’s ethos, and a natural extension of professional growth. Recently, for example, a new Art Director position opened up and we identified the people inside Moskito best suited to the role in order to help them grow to fill it. In this case, recruiting externally wouldn’t have been consistent with our values.
What are some initiatives you’d like to initiate or carry forward here?
I’m also a big believer in continuous training and upskilling, which is why we organized a training program that involves all our people, because in the end everyone, from marketing to design to copy to development, contributes to the success of a campaign.
I also believe as a company we have an ethical and social responsibility both to our employees and the wider community, which includes the environment.
In Moskito we’re very focused on sustainability, from the need for flexibility so that people can achieve better work-life balance, to the environment. For business travel we have a partnership with an electric car rental service in order to reduce air pollution in one of the most polluted regions of Italy. We’re plastic-free and have a paperless philosophy that uses digital archives and IT sharing tools. We’re also in the process of digitizing our HR processes and we would like to continue to strengthen these kinds of sustainability initiatives in the future.
And finally, what’s it like working with two women in charge?
I think women in leadership roles interpret their power differently than men. For women power isn’t a goal in itself, but something you leverage to make things happen. Often women in management positions or business owners like Evelina and Giulia love their work, and the power they acquired by growing their business comes as a result of their passion. Working with people who have awareness, open-mindedness and passion for their work is a great opportunity. I really respect Evelina and Giulia for the great work they have done so far and I’m confident that they’ll continue to achieve great results, thanks to all the competent and talented people who work for Moskito.
Thanks for getting “personnel” with me today!
Thank you, Kyle.