Remote working and leadership models, the post-pandemic scenarios

Remote working and leadership models, the post-pandemic scenarios

Remote working, new competences, work/life balance and soft leadership: the pandemic has shown that another way of working is not only possible, but urgently required. In the age of liquid organizations and disintermediation, managing human resources can no longer count on chains of command and hierarchies. This is the opinion of Guido Stratta, Head of People and Organization at the Enel Group. “It is time to set cynicism aside and activate our individuality to the best of our ability, the game will be won with individual generosity, with no more looking for alibis everywhere.”


From home working to redesigning workspaces, to the possible disappearance of the office as we know it, the impact of the widespread introduction of remote working has been more cultural than technological, forcing all organizations to rethink their models. In the age of disintermediated relationships there are broad topics on the agenda, like project management and new working processes, a focus on goals and the marginality of working hours, career plans and the right to professional development, but also, and above all, the revolution in managerial behavior, encouraging the development of leaders who are capable of guiding businesses that are increasingly liquid and diversified. Legislators and social bodies will also play an important role in these issues, establishing the prerequisites for the efficient management of human capital, in line with the growth requirements for the entire country system. Guido Stratta, Head of People and Organization at the Enel Group, explains all this and more in an interview with HR-Link.


Guido Stratta, can you describe the leadership of the future?

“I issued a provocation: the future will come with soft leadership. Let me explain: prior to this emergency the world was organized based on successful command and control models. Leaders reached positions of authority and had an asymmetrical vision of relationships in which they confused hierarchy with participation. This mechanism led to a way of thinking that the boss’s ideas were the best, the boss’s advice was the best and that acknowledging that someone else’s advice was better was the equivalent of undermining the boss. Conversely, we are entering into a very complicated world, people are on the move, companies are destructuring, young people are increasingly well qualified. There are hybrids between startups, private work and being employed. Ideas don’t have a hierarchy and at this juncture softness is an area that creates a listening space between people and allows for the expression of ideas before decisions are made. This is the future, where hierarchies don’t disappear but enter a second phase, of production, of listening, the soft leader provides space for people. When deciding, soft leaders explain why they are choosing one thing and not another and take full responsibility for their decision. This model is the successful one. Clearly, this breaks the mold of old certainties.”


On the subject of certainties, in the age of remote working, where command and control no longer seems to function, what is staff motivation based on?

“In giving space to everyone’s deep callings. Sometimes people find themselves doing jobs by chance or for necessity, but over time it’s necessary to take people where they want to express themselves. It may seem theoretical but in reality it’s practical: if a person has a calling just ask them what it is, take it into account and over time even allow for some exchanges: you could discover that maybe there’s a passive cycle administrator who loves sales work. By asking questions you begin to understand each person’s needs and find the courage to invest in mobility. It is important to remember that a person who feels a calling for a certain profession becomes courageous. We can’t split the world into the fearful and the courageous, people have their fears and their courage too. The question is: when does this courage come to the fore? When the need to succeed in something because of your interior drive activates the courage and cancels out the fears. If you take a person and you get them to work on something they love, they will have more courage to do it than fear of not being able to.”


Can you give us a practical example, at Enel was this process already active?

“Not entirely, and for this reason we’ve been trying to raise awareness among staff, communicating that the age of power is over. First there were 70% in the back office and 30% in the front office. Today we are inverting this percentage. And so the people at the front have no more than 150 staff to manage. The model is different from before, when everybody or almost everybody was a specialist and people were managed from 1 to 500, with the risk of not even knowing your own colleague well. We have developed the idea of the active participation of the corporate population, which chooses its own managers. Think what message it sends for those who aren’t one judges them, but it’s clear that the internal client, i.e. the colleague, is sending a message. It’s like giving a breath of fresh air to the organization. It’s an issue on which we’ve begun to set an example because it was easy to talk about soft leadership and then end up controlling. We completely changed the way of talking to young people in the recruitment process. Today, to join Enel it’s necessary to pass through a new process in which the young people, I’m talking about new graduates, find themselves in multidisciplinary groups of 20 – engineers, philosophers, geologists, economists. They each have one minute to introduce themselves, they talk about their passions, they do a group project on a topic that we give them, a very creative task, and they present a business model to everyone. In the end these young people vote for the person they liked the most in the individual presentation, the presentation about their passions, the subgroup and the general presentation. These are four points that measure leadership, engagement (passion), team working and storytelling. The suitable ones are those who top the rankings voted by the rest of the candidates taking part. Then they are divided into the relevant professional groups and proceed with the detailed interviews. But if in the original classroom there are 20 phenomenal candidates, the recruiter has an option, if they liked number 9, they can choose him/her but they have to follow the original rankings: if they all liked the 20th then the entire group is suitable. This has disintermediated the selection of people that are similar to us, the people whose attitude is considered suitable are chosen by their peers. First there was asymmetry: the boss did the interviews and chose who he/she liked, now those chosen are those selected by the young people themselves. It’s revolutionary!”


Are employment policies fit for purpose for this revolution?

“If we don’t let ourselves get down about the fact that someone always has to solve our problems and we start with the individuals, then we will succeed. I think that things happen because people begin to fight to make them happen, policies can’t solve things that they can’t see. We have to set examples and the policies will be carried along on what interests people. In this way the laws will come, we mustn’t wait for them. The Recovery Plan will bring 800 thousand jobs and we still don’t know what these positions will be or how to convert them. I’d prefer that a discussion is opened rather than saying “these are the people that unfortunately have to leave.” It’s better to say “these are the operative needs we have,” let’s sit down and organize reskilling that will benefit the entire system.”