By the Editorial staff
In the corporate world, respect for diversity and inclusion cannot and must not be a separate issue, but a strategic factor in defining activities and, above all, in governing and dealing with change. One area that has undergone major developments, particularly recently, given the complexity of the period our country is going through, is digitalisation. We talk about this with Susanna Zucchelli, Water Manager and Diversity Manager of the Hera Group, one of the main Italian multi-utility companies.
The use of technology is crucial for business continuity, now more than ever. So how important is it to ensure accessibility for all?
"In the past, the priority was the elimination of architectural barriers. Today, it is imperative to strive for accessibility to technology, especially in the workplace. These are tools that we can no longer do without, and 2020 has made this even more obvious. In the group we have been investing in this aspect for some time, so much so that digitalisation has been crucial to guaranteeing citizens quality and continuity of services, even during emergencies. With a view to maximum inclusion, we have started a process of mapping all our systems to precisely understand the level of accessibility of devices and workstations, and to initiate any corrective actions at an early stage. For example, we plan targeted actions, such as the introduction deaf interpreters until the systems on the market are fully adapted. More generally, last year all companies were asked to make a major digitalisation effort. At Hera, we were already ready: a smart working project had been in place for four years and was progressively extended, also thanks to discussions with employees and because we listened to their needs, and this was fundamental for dealing with the lockdown in the best possible way and protecting all workers, especially the most vulnerable."
What are the next frontiers in the field of inclusion, especially in companies?
"In order to make objective decisions that are as free as possible from prejudices and stereotypes, we have long relied on quantitative analysis. Human competence in making effective decisions remains fundamental, but the support of people analytics and artificial intelligence tools helps us take a huge step forward towards a new way of approaching diversity, free from any kind of conditioning. Digitalisation is therefore once again crucial.”
There is a lot of talk about the importance of enhancing the role of women in STEM professions. Do you have projects and initiatives that address this?
"The Hera Group is a public services company that serves around 5 million citizens every day, providing them with water and environmental and energy services. In these areas, STEM professions are fundamental, in terms of service continuity but above all in terms of innovation, which allows us to improve quality and resilience. Our female workers’ development is a priority for us: this is one of the reasons why we have been enthusiastically pursuing the ‘Inspiring Girls’ project for years. We believe that the STEM-educated women in our group can be a real source of inspiration for younger generations, so we asked them to meet with students in the areas we serve, to tell them about the skills that underpin our various activities and our daily commitment to ensuring the best possible services for local communities. And, perhaps, also to dispel the myth that some professions are the exclusive preserve of men."
So it’s once again a question of working on culture?
"Certainly, working on cultural aspects is always the best choice. Putting inclusion and respect into practice generates positive behaviour and messages, including in the areas served. If we then bear in mind that the group employs over 9,000 people, the role that a multi-utility company can play in disseminating these issues immediately becomes decisive. What we want to do is to continue to positively influence and in turn be influenced by external contexts. Dialogue and listening are fundamental to understanding the needs of the areas in which we operate and for creating shared value: we want to be the best and closest company possible for them, because in Hera we not only make room for diversity, but value it."