Talking Business with Irene Bouchal-Gahleitner, CPO Netural
“More and more, work is individual. We need to give the individual personality ample space if we want to succeed as a team". Irene Bouchal-Gahleitner develops the structures that people need to live their passions and that Netural needs to grow as an organization.
Irene, on 01 January 2022 you have joined CEO Albert Ortig and CTO Stephan Lechner as the third member of the Netural board of directors. What is the most exciting part of being Chief People Officer?
Above all, I´m glad that Netural deems the "human" perspective relevant enough to treat it at the top management level. This is certainly not a matter of course, and I am grateful for the opportunity to involve myself here with my personality and my mindset. The more so because we have scheduled quite an exciting, challenging program for 2022. Following our growth strategy, we need to recruit the necessary talent while keeping a focus on developing our company culture. On the other hand, work itself will once again undergo massive changes during the next two or three years. Currently, the pandemic dictates bold, proactive change towards hybrid work, but the process is far from complete - and long-term planning is impossible in the current environment. The task at hand is to create a setup that supports situational decision-making and quick reactions. All that makes HR exciting and relevant like never before.
Creating new structures for emerging working environments is the recurring theme of your professional career. What drew you into the Netural world six years ago?
My first interview there amazed me, because it was not about approaches to HR processes or salary models. Instead, we discussed how we could create an environment where we all can do a great job while creating space for people to live their individual passions. I realized immediately that this was dynamic, courageous, unconventional and certainly not a middle-of-the-road HR job. Netural was my adventure waiting to happen, a highly appreciative environment where I could try out innovative things.
Netural has been around for almost 25 years now, always turning out new state-of-the-art digital solutions. With you as CPO, there is now an extra focus on “People”. Is this a sign of the times? A cultural fingerprint?
The CPO position was really created out of intuition. We realized that recruiting the right talent and engaging with people individually would be our strongest lever for further growth. We want to light a beacon here, for our staff, and for our clients as well. Because beyond creating and rolling out the digital solutions, we also provide them with our knowhow about organization and the necessary skills for digitalization.
During the last few years you have successfully transformed Netural into an agile organization. Which priorities will you set next, and how will Netural operate five years from now?
Five years? Oh my! Five years is actually beyond my scope at the moment. All our thinking is fast and short-term now. What I know is that we will work ever more time- and location-independent, and even a 4-day week is conceivable here. With all the available remote variants, workflows have become so compressed that there is hardly any downtime left. We will need to introduce new models here, also to ensure mental health and efficiency. HR planning will be ever more short-term and dynamic, and a wide variety of employment models will replace classic employment relationships. Mind that Generation Z, about to enter the labor market, expects much more individual approaches to their needs, also with regard to work-life balance. We will make it a priority to identify the passions of individuals and meet them with innovative development formats. In other words, we will give ample space to individual needs to succeed proudly as a team. We must also make every effort to maintain our company culture and sense of unity in spite of all the remote and dislocated work.
With the HR Executive Coworking Days, you have established a very successful exchange format for companies striving for agility. What is the current hot topic here?
Of course the pandemic and its manageability in businesses has been everyone's biggest worry for many months now. Other topics that our members see as relevant today are performance management, adapting organizations to hybrid work, dealing with shortages of skilled workers, and that includes international recruiting. Also near the top of the agenda are fair remuneration models, Green HR and sustainability, for example in logistics, or ecological thinking when it comes to benefits.
In CEO Albert Ortig, you have teamed up with a “limitless thinker”. How do create the necessary framework for innovation - and how do you find the people that really fit in?
We share a certain code of conduct and a basic understanding that there is hardly any place for taboos at Netural when it comes to bringing up ideas, doubts or criticism. Mutual listening and mutual understanding may lead to a point where change becomes necessary and something new emerges. Of course, all this requires trust in the ability to join and find solutions, and a commitment to tolerate mistakes and unfinished things. Solutions often present themselves along the way, and if you go along with that, you will find the support you need – on both the professional and the personal level.
As a Chief People Officer, you will know the answer: Who are the kind of people that really, really need Netural as their employer?
Those who enjoy driving a topic forward passionately in a team. Those who dare to go the extra mile, who love to learn, and who thrive in exchanges with other exciting people. Those who have the guts to enter a project that starts out without a clear-cut idea about the final result. Those who join in an adventure to succeed as a team.
Which skills do you need in today's digitalized world, and which of those do you pass to your two daughters? They are nine and twelve now, aren't they?
That is actually something I am wrestling with right now. What does it take to make it these days? I feel that most of all, you need self-confidence, with a big grain of self-care, and enough courage to engage with whatever you meet along the way. Be curious about what is happening out there and at the same time rest firmly "within yourself". Cultivate an ability to do without, to prioritize, and to switch off influences consciously, because when you are young you may find yourself overwhelmed by the choices out there. Know yourself to know what really makes you happy. The latter is something I want to pass on to our employees as well: Choose a task that plays to your strengths to make sure you really enjoy what you are doing. Especially in these dynamic times.
Many of your outfits are homemade, and you are obviously good at sewing, knitting and all manual tasks. Does it help to be firmly down-to-earth if you aim to take off in the Netural world?
I think it's that mixture of digital and analogue that has always set Netural apart. When thinking is the largest part of what you do for a living, engaging in crafts and creating things can be quite refreshing. Despite our digital-only profession, we at Netural have always cultivated a very down-to-earth style.
You love to dance. What would your choreography for Netural look like, and who could join the dance?
That would be freestyle dance to cool music, with everybody welcome to join, and strictly come as you are.
Thanks for your time Irene!