THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY - Look to the future
By the Editorial staff
Intesa Sanpaolo responded to the Coronavirus emergency with a resilience and speed that cannot be taken for granted in such a large and complex organisation - 90.000 employees, two-thirds of whom are in Italy - leveraging its own financial and economic solidity in terms of innovation and with regard to the participation of all individuals in the group, who demonstrated extraordinary dedication and commitment. The basis of all measures adopted by Intesa Sanpaola from the very earliest days of the emergency was the safeguarding of employees’ safety and security. All measures taken were therefore designed to enable everyone to keep working while completely safeguarding their health and respecting government provisions. Enabling most transactions to be carried out through online banking helped many clients, as well as enabling colleagues to do much of their work from home, protecting their health and that of our clients while guaranteeing the provision of what is considered a public utility service and is therefore an essential need for everyday life for businesses and families. It must be considered that 1400 colleagues who are usually busy with various tasks were tasked with forming an ad hoc task force dedicated to mortgages and credit disbursements (for example, those below 25.00 euro) which emerged following the governmental provisions and our clients’ requests. This was possible thanks to a digital transformation undertaken some time ago that allowed us to carry on with banking activities even during the most difficult moments.
There is a synthesis that best illustrates what the first few months of 2020 represented for a large group like Intesa Sanpaolo: 3 years in 3 months. During this time of great transformation, from an organisational point of view, imposed by the lockdown, smart working played an preeminent role. The bank, which had launched smart working in 2015 and which was among the most advanced Italian businesses with regard to the use of smart working, experienced an acceleration that saw it achieve in three months what it had aimed to achieve in three years. From the 14.000 people who had been facilitated by December 2019, one of the most successful experiences with this in Italy, we jumped to 40.000 colleagues who were smart working. This is a considerable increase, when you consider that the Piano di Impresa for 2018-2021 was to facilitate smart working for 24.000 by 2021. The adoption of smart working was accompanied by two elements: the provision of tools and training. Intesa Sanpaolo has provided 75% of employees with laptops, mobile phones and other devices, purchasing 17.000 devices, in addition to making the bank’s strumentazione available to employees, reducing the use of personal devices to a minimum in order to safeguard IT security, a high priority for Sanpaolo, which has required the investment of significant resources and skills. And then there was training, with “smart learning” for all employees. During the lockdown, 7.000 study units were completed online in virtual classrooms, through coaching activities and webinars that were accessible through all devices. In March and April alone, over 3 million hours of training, over a quarter of the total hours for all of 2019.
To support the digital work dones, the Digital Coach path was also launched, through which employees were offered concrete suggestions and multimedia content to train them in several soft skills that are particularly in demand in the complex current situation and to acquire new skills that are closely linked with “digital work”. But beyond the specific content, it was a way to maintain relationships and create a feeling of closeness, supporting an approach that focuses on learning and growth. This recent past and the present ferry us bit by bit into the future, for which there are many expectations, particularly with regard to what work will look like. Investments in training and equipment are already leading us to imagine a new balance between working remotely and in the office. A recent survey of people who work at Intesa Sanpaolo found that employees appreciated having been able to smart work very much. The bank moved quickly, choosing a way of working that promotes profound cultural change and that improves ways of reconciling time spent at work and with family. This cultural change is obtained by reinforcing the relationship of trust and holding each other reciprocally responsible within offices and between the company and workers themselves, but thanks to the speed with which processes were completed and decisions made, and the availability of the IT equipment, it is unlikely that we will turn back, bearing in mind also that we will not be able to do entirely without in-person interactions, since humans are be definition “social animals”.
Another important topic is that of personal development, where both training on the job and e-learning, as well as upskilling and reskilling will have an enormous role to play that will have to prendere piede with ever greater strength. The subject of training and coaching cannot have only a digital dimension but will have to also be accompanied by physical presence, so once again the key word during this phase will be balance. Capitalizing on our experience over these last few months, Intesa Sanpaolo is looking past the lockdown phase to outline a new evolutionary scenario - defined “the new normal” by many - that will bring the group towards a way of working that will be more agile/flexible, such as advanced digital processes, widespread and flexible use of smart working with the objective of always being able to meet the needs of our clients and employees.