Alisa Evsina, HR direktor NIS

Brothers, but not twins


Dobar dan!

Доброе утро!

Good morning!


Every day at NIS starts with these greetings. We are a company with more than 11,000 employees coming from about twenty countries around the world and our native languages are naturally different. However, in the end, we all strive for the same goal - to work successfully, learn and progress together, and go back to our families at the end of the day satisfied with what we have done. We do not see our diversity as an obstacle. On the contrary, it is our strength and opportunity to translate the diversity of nations, cultures and experiences into best practices.

If there is something that business experience teaches us, it is the fact that at the beginning and end of every business process are people. Also, people are exactly what essentially makes and determines a culture, whether it is a national or some other type of culture. Corporate culture is no exception. That is why I believe that it is necessary to get to know people as well as possible at the beginning of your career in a foreign country. When I came to Serbia, one of the first things I did was to read Momo Kapor's book "A Guide to the Serbian Mentality". Not only did I have so much fun reading it but it really helped me get to know the colleagues I work with and their way of life faster than I normally would.

On the other hand, sometimes the best way to get to know what sets us apart is to first understand what we all have in common. Perhaps this is the easiest way to present the distinctiveness of business culture in Russia. Above all, we are all human. We rejoice and grieve in the same or similar way, we like to hang out, travel, enjoy art and good cuisine, take care of our family and friends. Serbs and Russians also have some other similarities - our languages belong to the same group, we share the Orthodox tradition, we have the same alphabet, we cultivate a similar passion for sports, we equally like to socialize…

When it comes to differences, I would immediately like to point out that I experience them as a kind of delicious spice in our daily communication and cooperation. Maybe it is just my northern, cold, St. Petersburg spirit, but it seems to me that people in Russia are not inclined to show emotions the way people in Serbia do. We started learning and doing that when we came here J. On the other hand, the spice that Russian culture brings gives us a certain stability, a clear structure in which procedures and rules are respected above all. For example, time is now of great importance in Russia. In Serbia, I notice that some are still guided by the motto "if things get done, that’s good, but if they don’t, that’s fine too". I will best illustrate this with an example from everyday life - how much time do you spend drinking coffee here? You can probably guess how much time Russians spend on that. Exactly!

In addition, people in Serbia are more relaxed and seem to know how to enjoy life. Russia is way busier and we are not such hedonists. I believe that these differences come from the specifics of our countries and histories. Russia is a large country in terms of the territory it occupies and its population, and for centuries it has been in a position to decide and to make a decisive contribution to global trends. Such a position also dictates the need to be proactive and innovative, to achieve goals on time, to work and create under pressure. On the other hand, Serbian history has dictated a different path of development and attitude towards life and responsibilities. But I would like to restate – these are not irreconcilable differences, but something that gives us the possibility of compromise between the two cultures and the opportunity to build a joint successful model thereon. And, to brag, we are doing it quite well when it comes to NIS.

When it comes to corporate culture in Russia, one should not expect major differences. After all, corporate culture is created by the same people who rejoice and grieve in the same or similar way. But as details are sometimes very important, here are a few facts that will contribute to a better understanding of Russian corporate culture. First of all, you should know - behind a serious face, there can be a hidden smile (back to my northern St. Petersburg). Also, direct or constructive feedback does not imply bad intentions, but only the desire to do the job more efficiently. Just as a raised voice in Serbia does not necessarily mean an argument, we should not be surprised if the tense atmosphere from a business meeting quickly turns into a pleasant meeting in a coffee shop next to the office. These are more than useful tips and if I were able to go back to the past and the moment when I started working in Serbia, I would first point out these things to myself.

What do these differences mean for foreign job candidates in Russia? It largely depends on personal interests, drivers and ambitions. The language they speak or the culture in which they grew up are by no means crucial. Truth be told, it would be desirable for them to have at least a basic knowledge of the Russian language so that they can better understand the environment and the emotions that prevail in it. It would also be useful to get to know the culture, not of the company, but of the people. Getting to know people and customs can be important on many levels - not only for interaction with ordinary people, which makes everyday life easier, but also for understanding the reactions of managers and colleagues, which certainly contributes to career development. For example, Russians do not put too much emotion into work, but are more direct and used to achieving results under pressure. In Serbia, success cannot be achieved in that way. Besides, teams are more emotionally connected in Serbia than in Russia. Here, people participate in important family events of their colleagues. As an example, let's just mention your slava, which is not celebrated in Russia. I would say that, when it comes to work, just like in sports, people in Serbia are real team players and everyone is familiar with the successes you have achieved in team sports. This communal spirit certainly contributes to creating a positive atmosphere in the team, which is also important for achieving good results. I would also say that employees in Serbia follow the instructions of managers better than their colleagues in Russia. In my country, employees can "give a personal touch to the task", which leads to more extensive checks by managers or can take the task in an unexpected direction. Also, people in Serbia have and express a lot of passion for everything they do, including their jobs. They are extremely resourceful, are good at improvising and have great emotional intelligence.

In Serbia, employees often give preference to the status that a certain position enjoys. On the other hand, in Russia, status is important, but salary is still more important than the title. When it comes to the relationship between managers and employees, it depends in part on the parent company, but it is essentially a matter of relationships between people and there are no big differences in corporate cultures. However, there is a difference in the way trust is gained. While in the West this is primarily done by performing tasks and achieving set goals, in Russia personal contact is often important in order to establish a mutual trust. Friendship, partnership and trust are of great importance for the business world in Russia. I would like to cite an interesting comparison according to which business people in the West are like mangoes, and in Russia like coconuts - Westerners look "soft" on the outside and are very firm on the inside, while the Russians are their opposite - they look firm on the outside, but are actually much softer than they appear to be. Also, many managers state that Russians have great energy and hidden emotional reserves, which allows them to adapt quickly and be original. In addition, employees in Russia are mostly adaptable and creative, which helps when they need to work under pressure and achieve results quickly. Another positive thing is that Russians are mostly agile, curious, ready to learn and are not afraid of the unknown. On the other hand, some Russians, especially middle-aged ones, are much less involved with the so-called "networking" and enjoy short daily conversations with colleagues less than employees in the West, which may also contribute to the impression of Russians as cold and inaccessible. But, as the "coconut theory" implies, it is what is within that is valuable.

Finally, I hope that this text will contribute to a better understanding of corporate culture in Russia. But what we need to know is that sometimes there are many differences, even in similarities J. Just imagine how much space it opens up for learning, personal and professional development. And in today's world, which we also call the knowledge economy, learning is the only way forward.