November 27, 2020
Leading Human Resources Effectively in South East Europe

Being an international company is a challenge in itself in times of pandemics. Balfin Group operates in 7 different countries and has about 6,000 employees. The pandemic has made management difficult where different adaptations according to the specifics of each state are needed due the geographical coverage.

The group is closely following the pandemic situation and development in Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Austria and all other countries where the Group is present or has business relations.

Prompt response and appropriate action taken is vital to protect the health of employees, customers and partners. But despite the difficulties, the Group has managed to keep all employees’ jobs so far.

Elvin Nosi, Human Resources Director of BALFIN Group, ascertains that the first months of the pandemic served as a test for the staff, when work-from-home was still not massively explored, except for a few job positions.

“For certain job positions, such as in the field of IT or Communications, work-from-home is more widely practiced, where around 40-50% of staff work in rotation from home. These enhanced work-from-home experiences have served us to highlight potential issues related to technical infrastructure and work engagement, which are addressed on a case-by-case basis by the relevant structures. “Given this situation, we are investing in improving our technological infrastructure, to enable remote work for some job positions.” – he says.

The group is adapting on a case by case even with the measures taken by governments in different countries, with a practical approach, staying at the forefront of the situation for the benefit of employees’ health.

“In Jumbo Montenegro, since the onset of COVID-19 infection in March, we have implemented strict measures to protect our employees. Social contacts between employees are kept to a minimum. We have instructed all employees to stay home since the very first symptom of the virus and get tested. Inspections of state institutions were very strict and frequent, but we did not make a single mistake in implementing antivirus measures approved by the government. We are now recognized by inspection institutions as a company that follows all standards. We are one of the few companies in Montenegro that, despite the pandemic, did not reduce the number of employees. By the time our stores were closed, we started online sales, which worked very well for us from the very start. Next year, we plan to open a new store that will have about 40 employees who will be trained to work and comply with the required employment standards of Jumbo.I must say that I am proud of all our colleagues who all together give their maximum to do their job perfectly in this difficult time for all of us.” – says Miloš PIŽURICA, Director of Jumbo Store in Montenegro.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Balfin is present with Jumbo, the measures have been taken with the same rigor.

“In addition to all the measures we have taken for our employees, to be safe, customers are also required to wear protective masks, disinfect shoes and hands when entering the store. One of the most difficult moments for us was the total quarantine. But we can proudly say that all the measures taken so far have given us good results, with a low number of infected employees. We are focused on overcoming the situation positively, we hope that the situation with Covid-19 will soon improve and we address our employees with such a perception. We are sure that the worst days are behind us and we look forward for the company to continue our success story “– says Samra DORTBUCUK, Human

Resources Manager of Jumbo in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Measures have not been lacking even in Kosovo, where Balfin is present with Jumbo, Neptun and Newco Ferronikeli L.L.C.

The operation of the Anticovid Task Force within the management of NewCo Ferronikeli Complex L.L.C has enabled a rapid and preventive response, a response which has resulted in exemplary prevention of infections within the company. The measures taken have resulted in the follow-up of potential cases, isolation of new cases, regular supply of disinfectant materials, regular disinfection, increased control over employees with chronic health problems and those over 60 years of age. We have an annual proactive development plan of preventive measures against the continuation of Covid-19 and a focus on maintaining the health of our employees throughout 2021“- said Learta Berisha, Human Resources Manager at Newco Ferronikeli.

“Since  March 13, when the first cases appeared in our country, we took the necessary measures to protect the staff from COVID-19 and all measures were taken according to the state protocol. All staff is equipped with masks, gloves, disinfectants, all premises are disinfected regularly. On a very frequent basis all staff are reminded of the measures to be taken, such as: wearing a mask, keeping distance, cleaning hands, etc! Also, the treatments for the infected persons are followed according to the protocols, the persons are contacted on a regular basis, and if there is a need for any eventual assistance, we are ready to provide it!” – emphasizes Valon Osmani, Director of Human Resources of Neptun Kosovo.

We have taken measures of distance and minimum communication of employees between them, disinfection from time to time of workspaces, and daily disinfection of equipment and shopping baskets for customers who are also very important to us. At the same time, we are handling all suspected or positive cases of employees with a lot of dedication, care and speed in order to have as few cases of COVID-19 positive cases as possible and so far, we have had a small number of infected people in our company. Part of our 2021 plans remains also the further expansion of the company with a new store in Kosovo, where the recruitment of the right staff is of great importance, a process which follows with their training, to make them ready to face the demands of the company and the market in which they operate “- says Learta Kusari – Human Resources Manager, Jumbo Kosovo.

Positive developments from Northern Macedonia

Ana Kostovska, Human Resources Manager at Neptun Macedonia, received the “Best Human Resources Manager for 2019” award at the HR Awards organized by the Macedonian Human Resources Association. The award is another acknowledgment of the company policies, which is part of the group.

“I consider the gratitude I receive now as a confidence to contribute even more. I am happy to be part of Balfin Group, which pays special attention to its employees, as its main and strongest part, something that takes it forward in all the countries in which it operates, in our country, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria and the Netherlands “- she expressed.

In Northern Macedonia, Balfin Group is present with “Neptun” and “Skopje East Gate”.

To be part of “Neptun” and to be successful, employees must have the desire to learn, be honest, positive, hardworking, be actively involved in team activities, show self-initiative and motivation. -says Aneta Dudanova, recruitment specialist at Neptun Macedonia.

Neptun currently has 386 employees in northern Macedonia.

“We are constantly investing in employee education, both in terms of technical and soft skills, as well as team-building activities. “We have a large number of teams that are deployed in different places throughout Macedonia and these activities are a chance for employees to get to know each other, exchange ideas and opinions and help each other to overcome problems,” says Dudanova.

“Skopje East Gate” is another Macedonian company which is part of “Balfin” Group. This is a growing company that manages real estate as part of the multifunctional project “Skopje East Gate” (SEG), which consists of a shopping center, a residential complex and a business center. This project is expected to set new standards for shopping, residence and business in Skopje and become a new symbol of the city.

– Our team has the same attributes as the project – serious, ambitious, persistent, dynamic and these are the characteristics that are common for all our employees. Each individual has an extremely important contribution and bears personal responsibility in the realization of the high-budget investment project, which is also the largest private investment in a multi-purpose construction complex. In selecting candidates, we are guided by the motto that employees are the carriers of company development and business executives. – says Suzana Ristova-Velickovska, financial director at SEG.

SEG in the first phase of realization, for the construction of the shopping center, has 33 employees. 50 new jobs are expected to become available when the construction of the residential and business center complex opens and begins.

BALFIN Group is one of the most important and successful investment groups in the Western Balkans region.

Geographically, BALFIN is present in Austria, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and the Netherlands, employing approximately 6,000 people. The activities of BALFIN Group include the development and management of real estate, retail, mining, banking, tourism, energy, logistics, etc.

BALFIN Group is growing steadily and has a positive impact on neighbouring communities through economic development, employment growth and social investment.