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"First and foremost, people value reliability in an employer", — Olena Urusova, HRD at Credit Agricole


Credit Agricole Bank in Ukraine, which is part of the influential international banking group Crédit Agricole, currently employs 2.2 thousand people. It is one of the leading employers on the banking market of Ukraine with a 30-year history. Olena Urusova, HR Director at Credit Agricole, tells us about changes to staff motivation system, new employee support projects launched by the bank in the wartime and the defining features of the best employers on the market.

Olena Urusova, director of personnel at Credit Agricole. Photo: Credit Agricole

Olena Urusova, director of personnel at Credit Agricole. Photo: Credit Agricole

How do you assess the situation on the job market in Ukraine?

We observe intensified competition for the most sought after specialists. The primary areas of concern are IT and IT security, product development, data base analysis, i.e., experts involved in digitalization. Specialized professionals who have sufficient work experience and speak English are quite rare and we are competing for them with other employers. By the way, even though we practice hybrid work schedule in our head office, our internal customers increasingly require that our candidates be based in Ukraine, periodically work at the office and be engaged in the corporate life of the team and the bank.

Granted, there are people on the market who are eager to learn. Sometimes we invite such applicants to join our team even if they have no required experience but have a desire to work at the bank and are fast learners, we invest in them and help cultivate the relevant skills.

Credit Agricole is an international business. Do employees currently consider it an advantage and what does it mean specifically?

The fact that we are a part of the large international banking group has always been a crucial competitive advantage. That is the reason why we are more resilient and socially responsible in a crisis. Full-scale russian invasion put this feature of ours into the foreground.

From the very start of the war, Credit Agricole undertook the commitment to offer comprehensive support to employees. We are still living by this manifesto. In other words, we managed to avoid dismissing or laying off people, kept up with all the payments in full, insurance, we also provided to those affected by the war and their families on a case-by-case basis. When the war broke out, we helped our employees evacuate to the safer regions. Additionally, thanks to the strong support from the international group, employees are paid additional financial assistance, for example, to buy Christmas gifts for their children and to get supplies when starting school. We also provide humanitarian aid to those in need.

QuoteThose of our colleagues, who found themselves abroad when the war broke out, could fully experience the advantages of working for an international company. When in various European cities they saw Crédit Agricole banner and our familiar corporate colours, they felt free to go there as team members of the Group – one big international family. Colleagues from abroad helped them in any way they could.

Was there staff exchange within the group so that Ukrainian employees could work in other countries?

This program was in place during 2022. It enabled 11 Credit Agricole employees who left the country and could not do their jobs remotely for objective reasons continue working for the Group in other countries.

Do Ukrainian staff members get financial support from the Group?

When the full-scale war broke out, the Group set up a separate Solidarity Fund of EUR 10 million, 5 million of which is allocated directly for employee support. We use this fund, among others, to pay charitable assistance to those employees whose home was damaged or destroyed as a consequence of the war.

How did approach to human resources management change as the war broke out, namely remuneration policy and performance evaluation?

QuoteWe now favour a more personalized approach. Certainly, our strategy remains pertinent but it is defined by the current reality, as we have to promptly respond to the relevant challenges. Staff categorization, people’s stories have changed. For instance, we have part-time employees, colleague who are abroad now, employees those mobilized to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, while 17 of our colleagues remain on the occupied territories. We also have internally displaced colleagues who were provided with new jobs in other cities. We also have Head Office employees working remotely. Therefore, we take this configuration of our people’s diverse personal experiences into account. Besides, as of now, 8% of Credit Agricole employees remain overseas and they have individual stories of their own.

At the start of the war, we also modified our motivation system. For instance, we cancelled individual KPIs for our colleagues from the network as these indicators were rather pointless at that moment. Instead, we paid out individual motivational benefits to those employees who stayed and continued working in outlets in person.

Employees of Credit Agricole celebrate Vyshyvanka Day. Photo: Credit Agricole

Employees of Credit Agricole celebrate Vyshyvanka Day. Photo: Credit Agricole

We continually analyze the state of affairs in the country and modify our programs of incentives accordingly.

Does the bank do employee wage indexation to keep up with the inflation index?

In the wartime we, raised salaries for our staff twice, by 26% on average. The Group paid out additional financial assistance to all employees, the latest payment was recently to help people get ready for the winter.

What new programs and tools emerged at the bank lately and which ones do you consider the most successful?

Actually, anything we initiate finds support on the part of our management in Ukraine and the Group. For we have a clear understanding of requests from colleagues for that or another program. In particular, employee training program has found success at the bank for those employees who were unable to participate in work processes due to evacuation. To provide them with jobs, we launched large-scale requalification and re-training. This program helped 12% of our employees. HR-team conducted a thorough selection of people, talked to them about new opportunities, organized Career Day, internal job fair, express-interviews, etc. Now it is a stand-alone part of our recruiting strategy within which we place emphasis on employee development and subsequent transfer to new positions. Recently our project received recognition in the "Non-Standard Recruiting" category from HR Brand Ukraine Award.

Besides, in 2023 the bank arranged and paid for employees’ family vacations in Zakarpattia sanatoriums. It enabled over 700 people – our colleagues and their loved ones – to at least catch up on sleep and get some respite from mass shellings of their cities.

Meanwhile, we watched migration from the East and South, saw people leave their homes and relocate their parents and children to the virtually uncharted territory. Many of our employees from Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin had their homes damaged in the course of the enemy’s Kyiv offensive. To address this challenge, we started paying charitable assistance to employees whose homes were damaged due to hostilities.

How many of such cases does Credit Agricole have?

As of now, 40 such requests are being processed. Since April 2023, when we first launched this initiative, we have already paid aid to 17 applicants. We are even considering cases when the destroyed home belonged to our employees’ families. There are different situations and half of all cases are classified as non-standard and do not fall under the general rules. Then we are guided by the factor whether the employee’s family has someplace to live.

Since the second half of 2022, we have a program under which the bank pays financial assistance to people whose relatives were affected or died due to the hostilities. As our team is comprised of 70% women, many of their husbands, fathers or sons are in the military and we are prepared to help in difficult cases.

Our colleagues also often inquire about mortgage repayment at a preferential rate for bank employees. This program functioned at the bank but we cancelled it when the war started due to unpredictable situation on the market. However, we are now planning to resume this program.

Flash mob for World Heart Day. Photo: Credit Agricole

Flash mob for World Heart Day. Photo: Credit Agricole

Does the bank offer psychotherapy services and what are the main issues it resolves during the full-scale war?

Yes, we are using the services of an external provider. In the beginning, we were supported by the Group who found and proposed Ukrainian-speaking psychologists who live abroad. However, we soon realized that Ukrainian specialists could provide a higher quality help as they experience the situation first-hand and they need no explanation of the Ukrainian reality.

QuoteWe decided against creating mental health support group within the bank. I believe that professionals should do this type of work. Secondly, confidentiality is crucial. As it is still not regular practice for our people to ask for mental health help, they need complete privacy.

I cannot say that mental health service is such a hit with our entire staff. Numerous requests come from colleagues whose relatives are on the frontline or return from the war. As people want to know how to properly support their loved ones who call them from the cold trenches and only have five minutes to spare for a conversation. Other popular requests for mental health support are related to work with children and teenagers. The third in-demand category concerns work burnout.

Thus, the mental health service at the bank is outsourced and we consider it a good practice. We found our provider through a competitive tender process and are very pleased with their work.

Credit Agricole employees actively participate in sports events. Photo: Credit Agricole

Credit Agricole employees actively participate in sports events. Photo: Credit Agricole

You already mentioned employees who left Ukraine, stay abroad and partially work remotely. What is the bank’s policy in regards to such staff?

It is a controversial issue on the job market that many revisit from time to time. Credit Agricole’s strategy as a socially responsible business first and foremost is based on tolerance and equality principle. For the bank, the main prerequisites of continuing cooperation include performance, constant engagement at work, albeit remote, participation in team activities. Those who comply with these terms keep working at the bank from abroad.

At the start of the war, 15% of our staff found themselves abroad, now 8% remain there. Only 2% of them do not work due to various life circumstances. However, the majority – 130 people – join remotely and keep working.

Ensuring equal career opportunities regardless of gender and age is an important and relevant trend worldwide. How is this implemented in Credit Agricole?

Since we are an international bank, this subject is a priority. We signed the Equality Charter back in 2020, in which we emphasize that everyone has equal rights regardless of gender, nationality, age, etc. Managerial positions are equally divided between men and women. In Credit Agricole, we embrace age diversity: we have 11 employees below 20 years old and 80 employees who have reached the age of 60 or above.

We foster the development of young specialists. In particular, the bank has launched Young Professionals project, part of which is engaging the talented youth in digital transformation. To date, 30 young professionals have already taken job offers as analysts, IT specialists, robotic process automation, etc.

At Credit Agricole, we also hold motherhood in high regard: 152 employees are currently on maternity leave. Women who come back to work from their maternity leave receive full comprehensive support.

Certainly, we are currently developing the policy on working with war veterans. 42 of our staff have been mobilized. Therefore, we want to do our best to prepare for their return.

We believe that through respecting and upholding human rights the bank is fostering development and unity of the society, ensuring its own resilience and sustainable growth.

Employers increasingly want the candidate to stay in Ukraine, periodically work in the office, participate in corporate life. Photo: Credit Agricole

Employers increasingly want the candidate to stay in Ukraine, periodically work in the office, participate in corporate life. Photo: Credit Agricole

In May of 2023, Credit Agricole celebrated its 30 years in Ukraine. What kind of employer brand has the bank created?

We are known on the market as the bank of good deeds. This reputation is supported by the real actions. Since the start of the war, the bank and the international Group donated over UAH 72 million for various charitable projects, primarily towards procurement of medical equipment for hospitals.

At the same time, employees of the bank are confident that they can rely on Credit Agricole no matter the circumstance. Case in point, as the war started, we organized evacuation for our colleagues and their families from the dangerous regions. We transported people to the border, where our Polish colleagues welcomed them. As we found out later, it wasn’t unheard of for our former employees and their families to turn up in Credit Agricole buses. Having previously worked at the bank, in some instances even 5-7 years ago, they knew from experience that Credit Agricole is sure to come to the rescue and they were right. We recorded about ten cases like that. It is testament to the highest level of trust towards Credit Agricole as employer, which stays even when a person is no longer with our bank.

Based on this story and your experience, what do employees value the most in their employer now?

QuoteAs I see it, reliability – when people know that in any case, regardless of circumstances, no matter what happens, they can rely on a company. All the best employers on the market increase remuneration, place emphasis on equal rights and inclusivity, pay salaries to mobilized employees. The aforementioned is a must have on today’s job market. However, when the person knows that wherever he or she is, Credit Agricole can be relied on, it is the best rating of our employer brand.

We all believe in Ukraine’s victory. What are the bank’s key priorities and plans in human resources management during Ukraine’s post-war recovery?

Recently my French manager made my day when he reminded me of the strategy we developed prior to the war and launched in December of 2021. His opinion is that it is time to return to implementing it to full extent. As following the French logic, they are eager to discuss the recovery of Ukraine’s economy.

Since post-victory, the main issue for HR will be search for qualified individuals, we have already started our preparations. Namely, we are going to enhance training programs for young people or those who come from other businesses. As we need to rise up to new challenges after victory.

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