Monsoon Consulting on Protecting the Talent of Kyiv Employees

Leading with Care

According to IPBN member and International Coach Sharon Dehmel, "Cultural differences can cause a lot of stress in normal times and during times of extreme uncertainty, and our ability to regulate our emotions becomes more challenging. Culture impacts areas in business like how we build trust, communicate, and even negative feedback." For an intrenationally-spread team, this can be a difficult road to navigate, but now, with unrest in Kyiv, one company, in particular, is doing its best to stay on course while keeping the best interest of their employees in the forefront of their minds. 

IPBN member company Monsoon Consulting, represented by Dublin-based CEO Bharat Sharma and Operations Director Victor Bauer, is a B2B commerce agency with 20 years of existence in the U.S., U.K., and Irish markets, to name a few, and now the company has expanded to Portugal. Founded in 2000, today they have a team of over 60 digital experts who have helped clients build successful and engaging digital commerce and content platforms serving their local, national, and international customers. In a recent interview, Victor told the IPBN, "We provide services to eCommerce services from SMEs to larger businesses in sectors ranging from pharma to hardware, to food and beverage, and more. Just as the companies we work with have many different sizes and needs, Monsoon has different turnaround levels. We try to provide all services necessary for our clients— from systems design, consultancy, development, 24/7 support, and the list keeps going." 

During the Thursday, May 12 IPBN Members Meet Members event in Lisbon, Victor talked attendees through what his company does in more detail, summarizing Monsoon as an award-winning digital commerce team building enterprise multi-channel B2B and B2C focused digital platforms. He went on to showcase the company's four current locations: Dublin, London, Lisbon, and Kyiv, which got us thinking: what must the current climate be like for a company like Monsoon? We sat down with Victor Bauer and a member of his Kyiv team, HR and Recruitment Administrator Olesia Oliinyk, to find out.

The Kyiv office has been open for almost four years now and the talent and work coming from that office has been top quality since its opening, according to Olesia. "In Ukraine, we have a lot of good IT developers, so it's not difficult to find good talent here. The office space we have in the city allows people a lot of space and flexibility for those who choose to work from there. Before the pandemic, we had 20 employees at the office, but that has changed. People are fleeing to other cities and in some cases, other countries, and today, there is only one person in Kyiv from the whole team. Everyone else is working remotely."

Surprisingly, there were no issues with connectivity amongst the team members, according to Oleisa. "During the early days of the current situation, there were two or three days that our team members had to take off work to care for themselves or their families. I was in Poland for one month, but I decided to return to Ukraine and stay on the western side of the country where things feel more or less normal...The western part is where most of the team is staying as well. You don't see anything major here. You can hear the sirens that the region may be under attack, but life is as usual here...Generally here in the safer area, you can not see that much."

Victor said that basically, a business is only as good as the sum of its parts, and for that Monsoon has a lot to thank its Kyiv team for. He said, "As Director of Operations, this whole situation at the same time, it brings the worst side of humankind but also brings a lot of good sides, a lot of things for us to be proud of. We have always been proud of our team, and Ukraine was always an important talent pool for us as we rely a lot on their skillset...but this whole situation has shown another side of the people: how brave, how proud they are as well, so forme as a businessman but also someone who has worked with these people...how they are dealing with it, how they are keeping the professionalism, I give them a lot of credit for the continuity of the business under the current situations."

Oleisa closed by saying, "For me, as a Ukranian, the company's support has been very important. How a company listens to everybody and takes care of everybody shows that business can be more about the people [than the bottom line], and this drives us forward!" 

We spoke to expert coach Sharon Dehmel about what Monsoon was doing right for their employees in the face of such adversity to get her take on what we can all learn from such situations. Her answers were as follows:

What is monsoon doing right? 

Monsoon Consulting is a wonderful company that, under extraordinary circumstances, has truly shown what it means to show up for your people.   Employees have three essential needs in order to thrive in an organization: 1) they matter 2) they belong 3) they are safe. There is no doubt that Monsoon Consulting is doing just that for their Ukraine-based staff: Ensuring every support they can offer while making sure that their customer needs are being met. This is not an easy challenge even at the best of times.

What can other companies learn from them? 

It is our instinct to try and solve problems for others. Most of us think we know best but Monsoon clearly didn’t take that approach. They heard what their people had to say and ended up with a solution that could promote as normal a life as possible for their employees. Work, collaboration, and support led to meaning and purpose in employees' lives despite the situation.

What's the best tack to take in intra-office communications? 

Remote work has really emphasized the importance of active listening and empathy. More frequent 1-on-1s to really check in on how people are doing and that applies even more so now. So is listening to what they are saying and what they aren’t. This isn't just for the people in Ukraine but also for their colleagues who care about them and are worried for their safety. Checking in with employees to understand what looks good through their cultural lens is a great technique to use. The stress response system when activated prevents us from being able to regulate emotion, communication, and logic. So if in doubt ask. You can’t be an expert on every culture but you can use questions to help overcome misunderstanding and mistrust.

Is there something they should be doing that they aren't? 

When I met Victor at the IPBN event he was very open and honest that this was a steep learning curve for them. They are facing challenges that no business course teaches you. Their belief in their people and their dedication to doing their best for the clients will guide them during this difficult time. Planning for the best-case scenario and the worst is key, as is involving people in these discussions so they know what is going to happen should they find themselves in this position. The four major contributors to stress and anxiety regardless of cultural identity are a) not enough information b) too much information c) uncertainty and, of course, conflict.