Mara Schär, CEO and Founder, Joy Corporate GmbH

Mara Schär: An Intuitive and Empathetic Leader

Caring for employees is the most important part of any organizational growth. Appreciation, care, support, and encouragement empowers the employees, and it improves the productivity of the employees. Therefore, having an HR leader in the organization who understands human values and nurtures the positive emotions in employees is essential for any organization.

An employee who feels cared for is much more likely to feel happy and engaged at work. Ensuring employee satisfaction creates a more efficient and productive workplace and increases employee retention.

More and more leaders are becoming aware of their responsibility and understanding that they must contribute to health and well-being—physically as well as psychologically—in the workplace.

Mara Schär, CEO and Founder of Joy Corporate GmbH is one such an exemplary leader with a human touch who is contributing so much to the lives of employees and making a difference.

Below are the highlights of the interview between Mara and Insights Success wherein she shares her notions of an employee centric leader and also a few insights into her journey as a Founder and CEO:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.

I would not call myself a leader. I do not lead people; I work with people. And I am learning every day from them. My journey took me to different countries, cultures, corporate jobs. I worked as a journalist and in the corporate field for many years. I experienced myself as an employee in different professional situations.

Getting things done from the team is just one part of the job of a leader. You cannot survive as a leader if you become good at just giving order. I believe great “leaders” become great because they receive and offer great support. And this point is valid not just for leaders, but for almost anyone who is looking to grow in professional and private life.

When I chose the people I am working with, I always have a strategy in my mind, and not just look at their certificates or achievements. I even would say I use intuition as my first counselor. I “feel” them and try to understand them.

Intuition is part of our human resources strategy. We have clear concepts, directions, and big goals. Right now, I must say that I’m very proud of my team. We are working since many years together and we are doing great. I’m myself in a continuous learning process. I’m learning to provide guidance, feedback and be direct while still showing empathy. Some days are difficult, but some days are great, and it is truly rewarding to see the growth and evolution of our company.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Yes, for sure. It is my husband. He believed in me as a leader and entrepreneur first. He was one of the very few people that sustained me in leaving my corporate job and creating a company. Support, especially from a significant other, is crucial to the success of a business. One should be able to go to his or her spouse and express ideas, and the spouse must provide emotional support and constructive criticism to produce a successful business.

For female entrepreneurs it is probably even more complicated because women are still, to a degree, expected to prioritize building a home and family, especially in Switzerland, which is a very conservative, traditionalist country. I also learned a lot from my husband’s vast experience as a businessman. I think we are a good team, and we support each other not only in business, and this is not a matter of course.

According to you, what are the highest-value opportunities for improving talent management?

The highest-value opportunities for improving talent management are therefore a consolidated human resources strategy. It should be clear in which direction a company concept will develop to find the right future personnel. Therefore, strategy development first requires a strategic analysis to correctly determine the number and quality of talents.

The strategy should include the merging of different functional areas of a company, as well as the exchange of current specialists in the field of feasibility and development. Regular communication regarding new ideas and related key qualifications for implementation should also be part of the strategy.

What values are important to you as an HR leader?

Communication is key. HR leaders need to be great communicators, an essential trait that is crucial for success. Clear, effective messages can boost morale, increase loyalty, and even save the organization money. And with outstanding verbal communication skills you can help your workforce to understand better their roles in driving organizational results and motivate them toward peak performance.

HR professionals need to think strategically, connecting a HR function with an in-depth knowledge of their organization’s core business issues and aspirations. An HR professional should practice value-based and ethical behavior. Because HR professionals often lead the process for fair and equitable treatment of all organizational members and thus help to internalize and demonstrate organization’s values and ethical behaviors.

How according to you has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the HR industry?

Countries, regions, and industries are affected by the pandemic in very different ways. While doctors and nursing staff do hard work, many other companies fear for their existence. The crisis is also accelerating changes in the personnel environment. For example, there has been a trend towards the home office for years. The pandemic forced companies to let their employees work “remotely”.

HR must therefore quickly adapt to the changed framework and ensure the continuation of the business. Companies are required to assume social responsibility. The aim is not to cut jobs, but to develop alternative options. Companies must also ensure the health protection of their employees and keep an eye on their well-being.

The pandemic had a tremendous influence on the wellbeing of all people everywhere around the world. We don’t need a huge team of specialist in order to understand this. Increase in loneliness, depression, and fear, and decrease in happiness are there.

Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen, published a study on subjective well-being, loneliness, worries, and behavior in the age of the corona virus pandemic. After several years with only slight variations in life satisfaction on a population level, life satisfaction decreased drastically in almost all European countries in 2020.

At the end of October, more than half of the people surveyed by the Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) rated the mood in Switzerland as bad or very bad. We can extrapolate this of course to the organizations. If we consider a few important aspects as fear, loneliness, and social isolation, they all have dramatic and substantial effects on quality of life.

Certain media sources affect fears and worries too throughout the pandemic. And we all know that a happy workforce is also an efficient and productive one. So, it is time for leaders to develop programs and make recommendations to protect people from the negative effects of the pandemic going forward.

Our company offers online courses and webinars which treat themes like “Mind Well-being”, “Healthy Sleeping”, “Communication”, “Conflict Management” etc. We offer also online yoga, ergonomics, and mindfulness webinars for the employees. Very important in this critical phase is a continuous and clear communication and involvement of employees.

What are, in your opinion, the most important characteristics of an HR leader?

Leaders need the ability to support when necessary, especially in times of crisis. They need a clear value system and clear goals. They should know how to motivate employees. Top executives want to achieve a high impact. That is why they regularly question their actions. Because they know: A top performance- also in the area of leadership- can only be achieved in the long run by those who strive for improvement. Accordingly, they are willing to learn and change.

What advice would you like to give to the emerging leaders?

Be open and keep learning your whole life. By learning, you can develop new perspectives and skills. Keep a special focus on communications skills, they are vital for your success as a leader. While you develop your strengths, remember to keep your integrity. Good leaders seek out advisors and coaches to help them learn, change, and grow. A mentor can give valuable insight on the business.

What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see HR industry in the near future?

HR management have been in a profound change process for years, due to digitization and automation. Some jobs are becoming superfluous, while at the same time completely new job profiles are emerging. The change also affects the way people work and collaborate. And the pandemic has dramatically accelerated these changes.

Remote work has become reality and a necessary way to be able to continue to work. HR departments need now stable processes and efficient tools to face the challenges. Remote working, home office and agile working methods should be technically and organizationally anchored in the company this allows a fast and flexible response to changing external conditions.

Structured further education and training and the holistic development of one’s own talents are a matter of course. Employee training is essential and should be done in webinars and online courses. Workshops should be proactive and help employees reach their full potential at all levels: physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.