“We have coordinated the logistics for the Covid-19 vaccination for every employee, 82% of the staff have already had the first dose”
Nora Colón, the manager of the Human Resources Department of La Aurora, joined the La Aurora family in 2011. After the separation of the Grupo León Jimenes factory, an opportunity arose to create her own Human Resources Department. She has always developed her professional career in this area, and so she took over this new department.
“When I arrived at La Aurora, it was expected that there would be growth,” she explained. And she made that growth happen. When Nora Colón joined the company, there were 237 people and now, after 8 years, La Aurora has around 2,300 employees. “Every 15 days there is a new incorporation, it is the result of the development process that we always have as an industry. We have grown a lot”, she added.
Nora Colón identifies with the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. “La Aurora is a socially responsible company,” says Nora, who “is satisfied” that people feel good about the projects carried out by the company. Therefore, this area is always working on new initiatives for its employees, the public and the environment.
How do the selection processes work at La Aurora?
It depends on the area. There are mechanical processes that are very different from those in the manual area, which is more static. Opportunities always arise because there are a lot of young people and because of the schedules. There are three shifts and there are people who cannot adapt to working at night. Another factor is the new opportunities and new projects that we begin. Since I started here, there have been about nine or ten large projects, in which about 200 or 300 people have entered.
How should someone apply if they want to work with La Aurora?
Our preferred and most successful way is via a referral from a current employee. In other words, any employee who has been with the company for more than three years can refer someone to interview with the company directly. In any case, the first thing that someone who wants to work here has to do is send us their CV, commonly by email.
Do the people who become part of La Aurora already have previous experience in the sector?
For the recruitment process, everything depends on the position that the potential employee is applying to, but we have many processes that require training, learning new things and limited past experience. We introduce new employees with two-day instructions, in which everything about the company and the position is explained to them. Except in the case of a tobacco shop, as in this case, employees usually already have previous experience. But we have also trained existing staff in this area and we have brought in new staff to teach them how to make cigars in-house.
La Aurora is governed by values and principles, to what extent do workers identify with them?
Part of our introduction is to explain the values and principles of La Aurora. The interview is focused on capabilities, and this reflects the values and principles of each person.
Are these values and principles of La Aurora also reflected in its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives?
When I first entered here some initiatives were already in motion, but not in a formal way. Grupo León Jimenes provided the advantage of a large company with many programs in which both its own people and external affairs were developed. La Aurora, once separated, continued with many of these practices. In 2018, the company decided to assume the objectives set by the United Nations (UN) in the 2030 Agenda. In other words, we established our projects as a strategic initiative that has been growing. We have always done many things, although the rule implies that one must do things both internally and externally, we, being based in a country that is economically poor, have developed a large part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program internally and we focus on supporting our people and their families, as well as the community.
How do you feel about these types of initiatives to help employees and society in general?
Personally, I identify a lot with society and it feels very natural because I like it, I have done it voluntarily on a personal level before. I like it and it works for me. A focus has now been given to achieving and contributing a grain of sand to those goals. And working with new employees, because there are many issues of vulnerability and so on.
Are they always the same Corporate Social Responsibility programs?
There are programs that are already many years old, some around 25. And others that are just emerging. For example, in 2018 we included coastal cleaning. We had never done it before. We had cleaned rivers, streams, communities… because the issue of the environmental footprint in the Dominican Republic is complex. There are other objectives that have to do with improving the quality of life of employees, that the company has the opportunity to impact the family of our employees and their environment. We also take into account the issue of education and what it means for the development of the nation.
How do new initiatives emerge?
Programs arise because we recognise needs. Some of those needs are in the interest of society as a whole, and others that are focused within our La Aurora family. We wanted to analyse how our people live. For this reason, a person from our Human Resources Department visits the different areas every Friday and talks to the employees about their living conditions. This allows us to have data on how our people live. There are also thermometers that emit alarms, such as when a person comes in several times with signs of violence in the home, that allows us to act.
In addition, we propose ideas of many things that can be done, we see them, we analyse them and we implement those that we see as feasible. For example, we have a blood donor bank. We also have a housing assistance program for employees who have been with the company for eight years.
Another thing we do is follow key dates for special movements or initiatives, and link activities to those days.
How are environmental projects?
La Aurora is a socially responsible and environmentally friendly company. We have a lot of interest in environmental issues and take action on this interest in various ways. La Aurora has always prided itself on being at the forefront of these issues and we have had many relationships with state entities related to the environment. Many people who see what we do feel very represented by it, and identify with our projects. We are always looking for a way to innovate.
How do employees receive all these projects?
The employees are very responsive and very responsible. People merits this kind of thing very much because they understand that it adds value to the community. In addition, we have an employee recognition called seniority. It is done every five years: when they have been in the company for 5 years, 10, 15, 20 and up to 25 years. It is an activity in which they are given a sweater with a colour and in which they are said to be part of the story, and they are also awarded a plaque. It is a very beautiful activity, it is a recognition of loyalty. We have been doing it for three years and people value it. People value being recognised and appreciated.
As head of Human Resources, how do these initiatives make you feel?
They make me feel really good, I love doing them. It fills me with satisfaction that other people feel good. If something is achieved here for someone else, I feel it as if it was an achievement for me too. If an employee, a colleague or a collaborator receives something beneficial, I understand that that adds up.
All this work, do you have your appreciation?
Almost all the awards given to the company take into account the CSR plans. For example, the state exporter or quality awards as well as the recognitions made by some magazines. All of this is very exciting! We are always in favour of thinking about more ways to improve.
Like all sectors and companies, La Aurora has had to face the new challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. What measures have been taken?
The company has a special situations committee, which has been in charge of developing the protocols to guarantee that our operations are carried out with the greatest safety. Following health recommendations, several protocols have been put into practice. For example, the sanitation of all buses that transport our employees; carrying out PCR tests and follow-up controls on all personnel, the delivery and mandatory use of personal protective equipment such as a mask and glasses, as well as signs that encourage social distancing in all high-traffic areas. We also promote programs for psychological help and medical support in difficult times, as well as virtual classes and refreshing knowledge and policies for our employees.
Regarding job performance, what initiatives were taken?
The biggest transformation has been having to convert, wherever it is possible, our operations to virtual mode: from meetings, training, and the presentation of new products to the public, being an industrial company with continuous work processes. In addition, we have managed to have everything ready with the protocols for when we started work again.
Now is the time for the vaccination to stop the pandemic, how has La Aurora been involved in this important point?
We have provided support for the vaccination of employees. Two vaccination days have been carried out in which the first dose of the vaccine has been given to 82% of the staff and the second dose to 50%. At the beginning of July, the third vaccination day will take place to put the second dose to whom it corresponds and to continue supplying the first to those who do not have it yet. The vaccines are administered by the Ministry of Health of the Dominican Government and we coordinate the logistics so that the employees do not have to leave, but that the vaccine is supplied right here. In addition, we have carried out many activities to distribute among our collaborators about the importance of vaccination in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 because there is a lot of scepticism about vaccination, and many young people do not want to be vaccinated. To promote the vaccination process and encourage people to get it, we created a raffle for a motorcycle among La Aurora employees who are already vaccinated. To participate, they had to present their vaccination card with the two doses received. We also use social media to send messages about the need to get vaccinated, both for ourselves and for society as a whole.