An Interview with Sanja Šijanec, Senior HR Business Partner for Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at British American Tobacco

We remain focused on creating a quality and desirable organizational culture where every employee makes a difference and we are committed to retaining the best employees, as well as attracting new talents, and the Employer Partner certificate certainly gives us an added value in this area.

In short, career development within the company:

After more than 7 years of managing human resources departments in other companies, I joined BAT as the manager of human resources department for Operations, where I oversaw human resources in the Kanfanar factory and for the company Hrvatski duhani in Virovitica. I started working in my current position on April 1, 2019.


Please list a few introductory information about your organization.

British American Tobacco is a global company that is present in over 200 countries around the world with its brands. BAT employs over 50 thousand of employees in more than 50 countries of the world, and for two years in a row, it was named the best global employer on many markets where it operates.

BAT in Croatia is the center of the Adria region that includes 8 countries – Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Slovenia and Croatia. Today in the Croatian part of the business, we have over 1600 people employed.


Can you describe the vision and mission of your business and describe how your employees contribute to their realization?

BAT’s ambition is to become a leader in the transformation of global tobacco business, with the aim of continuous development of potentially reduced risk products. New generation products bring transformation of the entire industry, but also within the company itself.

The transformation within the company began several years ago through the development of a new product category that was followed by changes in the functioning of the organization. The internal culture, education and motivation are extremely important in BAT and much is being done in that area. At all levels, employees are encouraged to develop their career to fully ahieve their ambitions and expectations.

We put great emphasis on transparency, our aim is for every employee to be aware of our results at all times and of their roles in the achieved results, but also of the key challenges that await us. This way, we all share the same vision, the same understanding, and the same passion for achieving success. The culture of open and bi-directional communication is an important element of the positive working atmosphere we have in the company.


How do managers in BAT motivate the employees? What opportunities for development and advancement do they offer to your employees?

BAT offers a quality international environment that provides opportunities for acquiring new knowledge, mentoring and constant opportunities for advancement. We are proud that all our employees go through some form of education every year. In addition, one of the processes that we especially like to highlight is performance management. Through that process, all our employees have defined goals and rewards in accordance with the achieved success, but also enough flexibility in the way they work, all for the purpose of achieving the goals.

We place a lot of importance on talking about careers, about opportunities for development and all the opportunities that the company provides for the development of individuals. This is all a part of a regular talent management cycle involving all levels of management. Managers are responsible for the growth and development of our employees.

In BAT, the opportunities for promotion are opened very quickly. There are many examples where, within their first year in the organization, opportunities for development are opened and earned by the employees. We have many colleagues who went, from our region, to participate in developmental and other projects to other EU countries, as well as those who came from other countries to participate in similar projects in this region. To BAT, multiculturality, sharing knowledge, experiences and different values is of extreme importance for the growth of the entire organization.


What are the ways you promote the balance of your employees’ private and business life?

Employee satisfaction is also visible through the awards we receive on the markets around the world in the area of HR practices. All prestigious acknowledgments, including Employer Partner, include several parameters related to employee satisfaction; education, employee development plans, stimulating business culture, and work compensations.

The balance of the private and the business life is an inseparable part of the business culture. In BAT, we strive that every employee, through regular communication with their superiors, understands their responsibilities well, but also that they use their free time and do not sit in the office until late evening hours because that is not a company requirement. Of course, with freedom also comes responsibility. It is essential to create a motivating culture where the boundaries between the private and the business life are a thing of each individual’s responsible behavior.


What were the key HR projects implemented during the latest period in your organization?

We are particularly focused on attracting the best young talents. Our Global Graduates program enables excellent students to enter a one-year program, during which they pass through a structured learning process through work and attendance of development programs. The program is designed in such a way that, after the successful completion of the program, the participants are ready to assume responsible positions and to continue to develop their career in the direction of managerial functions.

We also have an extremely well-developed Internship program for students of all areas, from electrical engineering to human resources, that, in 3-6 months, give students an excellent overview of business tasks and our corporate culture.

Additionally, this year we have managed some very challenging changes in our sales organization, where we have further turned towards digitalization and transformation, by organizing a unique Digital Academy for our young colleagues, and we improved the decision-making process within teams with the simplified structure.

In addition, we have strengthened our internal training program with an increased number of hours of education and with tailored individual development programs. We are confident that it is essential to offer everyone what they need the most, whether it is personal development, foreign language learning, or mentorship, because that way we have a much greater effect than with the programs that are the same for everyone.


Your company joined the Certificate Employer Partner project with branches in 7 countries – in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and Kosovo. What do you see as the value of Certificate Employer Partner?

The Employer Partner certificate confirms the excellence in human resources management at BAT Adria and is a reward for our constant efforts and dedication to creating an inclusive and innovative work environment where our employees have excellent professional development opportunities. We are particularly proud of the excellence in education and training where we have gained above-average ratings with CEP methodology. In British American Tobacco, at all levels, we encourage the development of our employees and their skills and talents because we believe that is the key to the overall success of the company.

At the time of transformation of the entire industry and changes in BAT, this certification is even more important because it confirms the justification of our continued investments in talents. We remain focused on creating a quality and desirable organizational culture where every employee makes a difference and we are committed to retaining the best employees, as well as attracting new talents, and the Employer Partner certificate certainly gives us an added value in this area.


What are the main strategic projects in focus in the coming period?

BAT’s organizational structure is matrix, which means that teams are not hierarchical, but functional, and implementation processes, as well as decision-making processes, are fast. We are currently working on an additional optimization of the structure, where the goal is to make it even simpler, faster and that the decisions are made on a level that has the most information. Simplified, this means that every employee has clearly defined responsibilities, but also all the necessary information for real decision-making for the area that he is responsible for.

In addition, we are focused on the digitalization of all HR processes and on finding the best solutions for the ever-increasing challenge of attracting new talents. We believe that the satisfaction of our employees will be the key factor in attracting other talented young people.


What do you anticipate the development of the tobacco industry in the future will be like? What is your organization’s role in this future?

With the transformation of the industry and of our business we are just beginning a long journey. To be a leader in this, we must win the race in technology. So our investments in research and development of new products – run by more than 1500 scientists worldwide – are related almost exclusively to the development of new product categories. Today and in the future, we are aware that we cannot do this transformation alone. Regulators around the world, the industry, the media, and the public health community also play their part in this great transformation. It is up to us to continue developing our products and to ensure, with constant innovations and efforts to reduce risks, an array of choices for our consumers. If we succeed in our efforts, and that is our intention, we will have a triple victory; for consumers, for society and for our investors.