Yulia Oncheva, chief HR officer at SOFTSWISS, shares how to effectively manage an HR department and attract and retain talent to amplify the success of a tech company in igaming
In 2022, SOFTSWISS, a leading full-service tech provider for igaming, was awarded a number of accolades including aggregator platform at the EGR B2B Awards 2022. The company now runs five offices with 1,400 employees working from 30 countries.
EGR Intel (EGR): You have managed HR departments in fast-moving consumer goods, banking and agriculture. How is building HR processes and creating a comfortable, productive work environment different in a technology company?
Yulia Oncheva (YO): The pace of IT progress affects all business subdivisions, including HR. The functions of my team at SOFTSWISS are similar to those I’ve managed before, but the timeframes are incomparable. For example, at SOFTSWISS, it took only a couple of months to launch a corporate English learning platform and prepare everything for our global event for 1,000 employees. These are incredible timeframes for a company as large and diverse as we are.
EGR: You’ve worked in the Netherlands, Jordan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. What international HR trends can you highlight among major business players and what approaches have you integrated?
YO: Diversity has been trending in HR for years and has now grown into DEIB (diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging). Wellbeing is another cornerstone, especially now employees are exhausted by the pandemic and some are forced to relocate due to unsafe living conditions in certain countries. I’d also mention virtual recruitment. We couldn’t have imagined hiring people three years ago without meeting them in person first.
I’ve just recently attended a workshop for women in igaming in London. Around 200 female executives from America, Canada and Europe spoke about the unwillingness of employees to return to offices. At SOFTSWISS, we offer the opportunity to work from home anywhere in the world or from one of our five offices, the number of which we are gradually extending.
EGR: Today, SOFTSWISS offers remote or office work opportunities in Poland, Georgia, Belarus and Malta. What challenges do you face in building HR processes for a cross-border team?
YO: The most important task is to establish communication. We use our internal communication tool to keep our colleagues updated. A lot of emphasis is placed on managers and HR business partners, as they bear the primary responsibility for internal communications. This year, the company has grown to 1,400 employees from 1,000 in 2021.
EGR: Can you share some tips on optimising HR processes amid the rapid growth of client and product portfolios?
YO: Two things are essential here: automation and feedback. The company invests significantly in HR process automation and chooses the best solutions globally. With regard to feedback, all HR processes, initiatives and activities are based on business requests, which, in turn, are based on client feedback, needs and wishes of our employees.
EGR: What distinguishes candidates applying for a job in a tech position? What are the hardest roles to fill?
YO: The hardest roles to fill are the technical ones. The demand for niche experts working with rare stacks always remains strong. They will only be attracted by exciting projects and super-qualified managers and colleagues – and we can certainly guarantee that.
EGR: Attracting talent is important, but retaining it is critical. What helps you keep staff at SOFTSWISS?
YO: It is the care for our employees and their development, both personal and professional. Besides standard benefits like health insurance and sports, our employees can study English online for free and participate in conferences and trade fairs worldwide. This month, we launched a new mental health support programme. Employees can choose a specialist to seek professional assistance with any concern. This is a great help in our turbulent times, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback for this initiative.
Secondly, it is active recreation together. SOFTSWISS has established an effective remote work system, with daily communication taking place mainly online. Our headcount is expanding, so we held a global company gathering in Dubai to give the team the opportunity to meet, communicate and ask questions to management. Over four days, 1,000 employees participated in team-building activities, explored the city and relaxed. Everyone could approach our C-level and SOFTSWISS founders during an informal meeting. The pinnacle event was a big gala dinner at the foot of the Burj Khalifa with the SOFTSWISS Stars talent show.
EGR: You joined SOFTSWISS in spring 2022 and since then the company has been awarded a number of accolades, including for its efforts in being a fantastic place to work. Why do you think SOFTSWISS was the winner?
YO: The company has shown excellent growth over the past year. We take the workspace setup very seriously. All our offices are furnished with top-notch equipment and have cosy spaces for working, socialising and networking.
Our employees can work from home or from an office. That’s why our geographical coverage is so impressive: Georgia, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Cyprus, Malta, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, the Netherlands, Thailand, Estonia, Mexico, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Portu- gal, Spain and Greece.
People are SOFTSWISS’ backbone and main asset, which is why we invest maximum resources so the team and each employee feels satisfied and rewarded, not only financially but also emotionally.
EGR: What benefits does SOFTSWISS offer and what tailor-made projects do you implement to enhance the quality of employee interaction?
YO: We offer the opportunity to work for a successful and fast-growing technology company, an industry leader, side by side with world-renowned experts. Flexible relocation is another big advantage. Complete 100% remote work is valued considerably by our employees and inter- view candidates alike. But that doesn’t mean we don’t meet in person. We have a good tradition of holding ‘fruitful talks’ for teams in different countries.
EGR: What are your plans for improving HR performance in 2023?
YO: The HR projects planned are super ambitious. To implement them, we need a strong HR team that works well both internally and externally. We will continue to reinforce our HR function which currently consists of three units. The first is the centre of expertise, which includes experts in talent acquisition, total rewards, talent development and culture, international mobility and events.
Second, we have HR business partners, who are the main points of contact for our employees. Through them we learn the needs of all employees and they also implement and support HR initiatives proposed by the HR centre of expertise. Lastly, HR shared services provides support from a labour law perspective.
Yulia Oncheva is chief HR officer at SOFTSWISS. Her global HR management experience includes introducing progressive HR approaches at British American Tobacco and Citibank (Kazakhstan), building an HR function and processes from scratch at Agrimatco Ltd (Jordan) and exploring and mastering European HR market specifics at ING Bank’s head office in Amsterdam. Oncheva joined SOFTSWISS in 2022 to supervise the cross-border team development strategy, expand the company’s HR geography and recruit top talent from all over the world.
SOFTSWISS is an international igaming company supplying certified software solutions for managing gambling operations. The expert team of 1,500+ employees is based in Malta, Poland, Georgia and Belarus. SOFTSWISS holds a number of gaming licences and provides one-stop shop igaming software solutions. The company has a vast product portfolio including the Online Casino Platform, the Game Aggregator with thousands of casino games, the Affilka affiliate platform, the Sportsbook Platform and the Jackpot Aggregator. In 2013, SOFTSWISS was the first in the world to introduce a bitcoin-optimised online casino solution.