The Naked Headhunter – DEC. 2019, ISSUE 6

The Naked Headhunter – DEC. 2019, ISSUE 6

Thoughts from Oksana Staniszewska Chief People Officer Amrest

In this sixth series of interviews Mark catches up with Oksana Staniszewska, Chief People Officer, AmRest, a real true leader in the people’s space and shares her insights into how HR strategies drive rapid growth.  AmRest is the fastest growing independent restaurant company in Europe. With world-beloved brands in 26 markets (Europe, Russia, China) and a team of over 45 000 employees.


Click below to access the audio version of the interview, or scroll down to read the transcript.



That’s an amazing question, I’ll probably as usual Mark take it broad, so I think the HR profession first has been developing in three dimensions. So from the organizational point of view, I probably would say 70s 80s were the time where administering of the HR staff all of the payroll, everything to do with making sure that people actually serve their purpose, they’re actually the workforce in the organization.

And then came the 90s and 2000s where the CEO point of view or let’s call it the C-suite point of view was more of the HR driven purpose and then we talked about turnover, we talked about talent-acquisition, we talked about leadership development, everything to fit the need of the organization to grow. And then 2010-2020 and you can see I chunk it in 10 years more or less though I can see the speed up of the change of the trends recently very very much, so that has become the era of an individual or a person.

I can see a lot of things connected with engagement, employee experience with the focus on their well being and their even happiness these days so all of that being said I think that the movement of the HR in the next 10 to 20 years is going towards balancing the three the organizational need and point of view with all of its structure and heavy lifting in the let’s say heart HR, the CEO and C-suite and board point of view together with a personal point of view.

But I believe that the context of the global trends especially in the last years was the disruption that is happening so fast and intensifying is going to have even more impact on all of that balance. So scoping that to a little bit smaller chunk in terms of what’s 2020 to 2021, the three you know, the three year perspective might look like.

I feel that technology and all of the digital disruption is going to have a major impact even further on the HR so ranging from data analytics being number one point in most of the HR or one at least one of top three on most of the HR agendas these days, to what kind of systems, what kind of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. What kind of digital tools are needed in order to scale up the businesses to support the growth in order to make sure organizations strive.

The second biggest one I see is in managing the diversity of the resources that we have the human resources I mean. So obviously the Millennial’s and the Generation Y and well all of the different gender and overall focus on the people focus, people first focus is driving a lot of value exercises, culture exercises, communication, collaborations all of these things are going to be very, very relevant still moving forward with even more focus on making it personal in all of the practices.

And the third one, I see the balance between relevance and resilience. So relevance in terms of how do we as the organization, we at the personal level, how do we stay relevant with such speed and growth when it comes to what’s happening in the world and how do we actually stay, I’m sorry to say, in a sanity so being resilient all of that amount of information and change that is happening with still remaining human.



Right well, I think that Amrest has been very very fortunate in a way of having complexity of multiple brands, multiple geographies from almost the starting point is that helped even at the scale of well we’re now almost 50,000 employees so even when the scale was 8,000 to 10,000 there was that thinking of what do we do to grow yet remain that start up philosophy and family like atmosphere along side with a very fast growth so you know compound average growth rate of ours has never dropped below 27% every year for 26.

So it’s been a very challenging but at the same time I look at it as a very lucky environment because what it made us think is what do we do to ensure that that diversity seven brands, nine brands in twenty something countries always was feeling as if it’s at home? So there was a time when we as the executive team started thinking okay, “So how do we retain that?” And this is where collaborative approach to leadership was born.

We call it coach principled leadership and it was the initiative that we took when bringing Columbia’s University coaches from Washington DC to train 24 of our senior executive people, that was well five, six years ago, to train them to be coaches to be asking more than giving answers, to lead well let’s call it democracy or holacracy that’s a very popular term now these days when it comes to how we get things done and then those 24 were certified and we launched the program to cascade the coach principle leadership to the lower levels in the organization and we went as low as to the general manager of every restaurant.

These days we have almost 2,750, I say almost cause there are days where we open two so by the time the podcast comes in there might be more, at the same time that really, really allowed us to decentralize the decision making and to empower enough freedom at every level where decisions need to take place and operations, this is the restaurants force, so the operations had freedom to take decisions on their own irrespective to where they are. So, coaching with all of its philosophy of giving space to people giving them freedom and trusting they can was the key to actually help us develop quite a robust culture.



When it comes to succession planning, I always mix 3 questions – What is the right move for the individual in absolute terms, what are the resources (coaching, mentoring, training, time off the job, …) needed to make a smooth transition, and finally what is the impact on the team diversity and performance? Many of the tools used to in companies are focusing on the individual and on the time frame, but totally disregard the team impact and the resources needed (coaching, training). Then comes the notion of responsibility – Who – not which department but which person – is responsible to make that move a success. It takes two to tango.



That’s an amazing question Mark, well I frankly believe that people who run small and medium size businesses they are having a huge advantage over the corporations and I know it’s probably not visible at the first sight because you know how would you compare the budget or the annual spent or all of the lets say collective intellect of the big corporation, well my view is that if the resources are scarce and limited what it makes people it triggers the creativity button and to me that’s the main thing when it comes to driving change.

Living in the age of all of the disruption intensifying as I shared two questions ago I feel that that’s an amazing context so I think these organizations are very creative they make every person HR they make every leader responsible and accountable for their people so I think that they create unique cultures. Well just look at the number of startups I checked the data recently and it looks like exponentiality is the proper word to actually name how that changed in the last five years.

Obviously the amount of capital sitting insidewards is awesome you know impacting that but this is where people create their own DNA imprints in the culture and they are driving things down so I think actually huge corporations can learn a lot from creativity and making every person accountable for people around them, sharing and being truly collaborative.



That’s a very, very interesting question Mark, and as I’m thinking about that I probably will disappoint a little bit because I would change the word flexibility to something which probably speaks a little bit more to my brand. So what I’ve learned in years is that its persistence, personal discipline, its courage to lead is what makes the change rather than flexibility, I mean I can’t agree more Mark that we have to be very opened minded and I’m the first one who invests into learning every time.

Well this year I graduated from MIT in artificial intelligence on creating business strategy and it has nothing to do from the first side was HR so I understand that there has to be a lot of growth in different dimensions to actually gain or retain the perspective to remain relevant, at the same time I feel that sticking to the core, understanding the brand and in my case its love for people and love for growth and development is something that drives all of the decisions be it career or be it company wise.

So sticking to your guns in terms of having enough persistence to deploy your agenda of making things better or making things work, sometimes it’s your brand that it’s at stake and you know making sure that even when everybody is telling you it’s not going to work, it’s a very risky agenda, well believing that’s it’s going to happen is the key to leadership these days. So courage to lead and persistence would be my two words in answering that question Mark.



Amazing question Mark, and probably it’s the most difficult to answer because all of the people, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in every person’s pool interview in the outlook of how they asses situations and you know I can give you the example of one of the programs that we launched on showing how it’s possible to do in the big organization.

So I remember the end of 2015 when Henry McGovern announced the strategy of doubling the business to the outside world and at that point we were 25,000 employees, you were part of this conversations too, because I reached out at some point and like,” Wow I’m going to need thousands of people Mark, well can you please support me in that, what are we going to do.”

So we did our Maths and Token Bad-hr Analytics and we sat together and we calculated how many people does it need to grow ourselves and how many do I need with the help of you Mark and you know the other people to actually get them on board. And at some point I understood that we Amrest values or Amrest key differentiators has always been we could breed people internally so our internal promotion rate has always been not less than 84% to 85%.

So when we checked the numbers that we need we understood that well given that the bosses decide who is going to get promoted and what’s the rate of people getting promoted from each boss it was not possible to reach that even with the help of the outside people like you Mark, so what we’ve done is democratized the process by taking away a little bit of the power of the leaders.

And what we did is we said, “Well listen we believe that teams know much better who can be promoted than the leader,” and that was a very risky thing to say because you are depriving the leader of the accountability to people at the first sight. But then amazing things happened when teams started actually notifying and letting us know who is ready to develop we ended up with thousands of people and then the bosses looked at that in a different way and they said, “Well why not we can try.”

So obviously it meant that we had to redefine the practices and how we evaluate and how much time we give people to develop but that allowed us double in the three years because we didn’t have enough of the force, didn’t have enough of the people that we trusted that could develop so back to your question, yes you have to listen to all of the people in the organization and there is a way to capture it in the practice. I’m very happy to talk at some point more about ‘Spread Your Wings’ program because that’s how we called it.

Mark Hamill, aka The Naked Headhunter is a Non Executive Director with Ackermann International. Mark has been active in executive search for 20 years and is passionate about the power of search. Mark specialises in global succession search particularly in scaling organisations.

“I am happy to connect you with Oksana, so please just reach out to me if you wanted to chat with him about career opportunities, coaching, industry insight, market knowledge or share any of your business needs with him.”

Phone: +44 7725 828717

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