The future is already here: Well-being is going digital


The ability to adapt has decided the advent of the human being. A winning characteristic also for organisations: having passed the test of mandatory full remote, companies find themselves imagining the working world of the third millennium, between smart working, employee well-being, renovated offices and solid operational management. All the while building a system of shared values. For Societe Generale Securities Services, the first criterion is responsibility, the compass that guides decisions and behaviours. Here's how to stay on the right track. In an interview with WeWealth, Giovanna Pensalfine, Head of Human Resources at Societe Generale Securities Services in Italy, explains all about new ways of working and digitalisation: the red thread that links knowledge & skills and creates a pact between generations.

It took thirty years and a health emergency, but the issue of the digital divide has returned to the top of the list of priorities (and challenges) of our society. It has done so in a renewed form: the digital divide that was created in the 1990s between those who could afford access to the Internet and those who could not is now being addressed in new terms and also affects businesses. Making full use of the technological innovations available does not prevent the development of a new potential gap between those who can master them and those who cannot. How can we act preventively? What is the role of companies in this respect? We discussed these and other topics with Giovanna Pensalfine, Head of Human Resources at Societe Generale Securities Services in Italy.

What will the digital divide look like in 2022?

From a certain point of view, digitalisation today is like speaking English a few years ago. Mastering a foreign language made things easier and in some contexts it was difficult to envisage a career without it. Today, however, it is recognised that knowing only one's mother tongue is no longer enough. The same goes for technology, whose adoption in the workplace (now almost certain) can pose the risk of creating a new digital divide. I think about three years ago: not all employees knew how to use the online meeting platforms and this lack of knowledge and skills could be a problem in the execution of their work.

How do we bridge this gap?

We have to remember that we are not all aligned when it comes to new technologies. The reason for this is age: there are analogue generations and other digital natives, who have lived these last years in a very different way, between those who had to learn new ways of communicating and those who already had the most innovative languages. Between the two, there is a journey of 30, 40 years. In this respect, I think that to bridge the "modern" digital divide, we need not only technical training, but also a transfer of knowledge, an approach that unites, that is inclusive.

What does this mean?

The main risk is that the corporate culture is divisive, that it is not based on the establishment of consistent values such as responsibility, kindness and, above all, trust.

What are SGSS's concrete actions in this regard?

In the company, we had already started smart working before 2020, a practice that we consider central to the well-being of our employees as well as to the environment. This is also confirmed by research, including the one promoted by the Politecnico di Milano, an institution with which we actively collaborate on these issues. In fact, the study "The Spread of Smart Working - 2022" showed that the welfare levels of smart workers are higher than those of full-time and non-agile remote workers; the planet also benefits, with emissions savings exceeding one million tons in Italy alone. However, adapting to full remote working was not easy, as it meant to perform our tasks without the 'organisational parachute' provided by the company. The experiments we conducted were aimed at understanding how we could best equip ourselves, as well as promoting a new culture, a hybrid of presence and distance. I'm thinking of the virtual coffees in the morning and the meetings conducted with the video on: it was important to replace the distance with the sight of a familiar face, also to avoid that feeling of loneliness which, in the long term, can affect the employee's mood and, consequently, the quality of the services provided.

It is also possible to bridge the gap by training your employees. What is your experience?

As we have always valued a skills and knowledge-based organisation, it was crucial for us to teach our employees how to make the best use of the available technology and how to ensure the same level of security when performing daily tasks. The aim was not only to train them on new skills to be acquired, but also on the behaviours to be put in place, in order to maintain a constant level of risk in the management of operations.

What is the role of virtuous companies in this context?

Companies must be aware of their responsibility towards clients (as producers of goods and services) and employees (as employers). The objective is twofold: to maintain a high quality of supply for the former and to promote the well-being of the latter. The company must be able to organise communication between the skills that different people have proven to have or have shown a willingness to learn. Finally, only with a generational pact of inclusion between the different souls of the company will it be possible to obtain a distinctive competitive advantage.

We mentioned the word responsibility: what does it mean to SGSS?

It is a topic that is very dear to us, so much so that we decided to give it our own definition, namely "to act with conscience, courage, empathy, transparency, trust and care towards the company, clients and the community for the sustainable success of all". This is also why we created the digital guide "Respons-able", a project developed in five distinct phases. After a Group focus with the management committee, in which the word was associated with the values that characterise it, we organised a workshop with the managers, who translated these principles into observable behaviours and associated good practices. This led to the creation of the e-book, which makes the results of the workshops easily accessible and which was shared with all employees. A campaign was then organised to provided managers who assess their teams with the most useful tools for assigning behavioural targets for accountability and identifying appropriate measurement criteria. The project resulted in the creation of a group of 'champions' who have been demonstrating the work done in the previous phases, with regular meetings on the subject with all employees.

Looking into the future: what are the priorities of SGSS?

During these almost three years, we have sketched out the concept that we imagine as a model for the company of tomorrow. Some features are already clear; we will identify others as we are able to challenge ourselves to meet future challenges. However, we want to remain true to the values that have always distinguished us in order to shape an organisation that responds to the needs and demands of employees and clients. We want to understand where flexibility creates value and well-being. We want to deploy the talents of each individual to become conductors of an orchestra in which every instrument has meaning. We want to discover in digitalisation the common thread that unites (and does not divide) skills, knowledge and behaviours, and generations. To guide our compass, there is only one word: "responsibility". 

All the figures on smart working (and not) in Italy

Article published in WeWealth in December 2022.

Source: Data from the study La diffusione dello Smart Working1 - 2022, conducted by the Smart Work Observatory and presented last October. The report is an initiative of the Politecnico di Milano School of Management and was carried out in collaboration with and various partner companies, sponsors, supporters and patrons. The methodology included: a survey on flexible spaces, which interviewed 87 managers of coworking and business centres; a survey on large companies, with the views of HR and IT managers from 209 organisations with more than 250 employees; a survey on small companies, with 555 organisations with between 10 and 249 employees; a survey on public administrations, with 409 public organisations with at least 10 employees; interviews, with 30 company cases; and a survey on workers, with 1000 respondents, carried out in collaboration with Doxa.

1The spread of smart working.