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Francisco Arteche. “Personnel management never ends. It requires constant maintenance.
Francisco Arteche, CEO of the Euskaltel Group, was the keynote speaker at the talk held recently by the ESADE Alumni People and Organisation Management Club, where he shared his view of people management, particularly following the merger of three companies – Euskaltel, R and telecable – each with their own culture.
Arteche began by explaining that the aim of his talk was to give an insight into his time as the CEO of a twenty-year-old company. “It has been a challenge and an opportunity for me. These eighteen months have been very upbeat and satisfying and I’ve learnt a lot. He also pointed out the scale of the challenge of bringing together all the employees of three different companies to work in one great team.
The Euskaltel Group consists of three companies. In 2015, Euskaltel merged with R and, last summer, with telecable. Each company has very strong local roots and is quite different. The two and a half years since the group came into being have been frantic. The outcome is that the Euskaltel Group is the leading operator in northern Spain, with a market of six million inhabitants. Its fibre network extends to the door of 2,200,000 homes and it also offers a great feature: 500,000 free wi-fi spots that customers can access instead of using their data plans.
The merger of Euskaltel with two other companies led to an overhaul of its corporate organisation including the creation of new jobs, the maintenance of three HQs and the creation of a corporate marketing team to ensure uniform practices. Having a diverse team has definitely had benefits: approachability, better practices, new career opportunities, synergies, etc. “At the end of the day, businesses must focus on their business.
Arteche provided an overview of Euskaltel Group employees, 705 in all including 98% with open-ended contracts. Their average age is 44 and average length of service, about 15 years. Seventy per cent of employees are graduates and more than 300 (43%) have STEM degrees (degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics). The group also creates 4,200 indirect jobs and is currently working on hiring a younger generation: last year, 20 people were hired shortly after graduation.
“As the CEO of a company, I believe that people are a company’s greatest asset, said Arteche. He feels that people are what constitute the basis of corporate growth and what embodies a company’s strategic plan. “All staff, right down to the last employee, must know they are very important for the company and that they can affect the balance sheet. An employee’s everyday decisions are reflected in our EBITDA. One of the company-wide concepts we implemented in 2017 was to give all employees a bonus based on achieving our target EBITDA.
Cornerstones of change
Arteche mentioned the cornerstones of change that were applied to the HR management following the merger. Firstly, a new culture had to be defined. “This was one of our No. 1 projects. We wanted to define the traits of our in-house culture, and also those of our external culture, the one seen by customers. The 700 Euskaltel employees helped define this new culture and the resulting values were: approachability, flexibility, innovation, honesty and keeping promises.
The other cornerstones that Arteche underlined were: leadership (for which they set up a project for the company’s managers); digitisation (a challenge for everyone and also for IT companies); investment in talent; and communication (not a new factor in the company but something that is being fostered).
Arteche’s last comment about human resources concerned the on-going change that affects companies, something he considers must be encouraged. “People management never ends, it requires constant maintenance. These three years have been more intense, but every year we have to think about the changes we want to make. Every year we’ll have to see how we should adapt our culture.
Accompanying the Euskaltel CEO on the panel were José Antonio González, president of the ESADE Alumni People and Organisation Management Club, who introduced Arteche and outlined his career, and Teresa Grana, director of the talent committee of the AEDRH (the Spanish association of HR managers), who chaired the ensuing Q&A session.