The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of changes, more or less radical, in the normal procedures governing work activities. We decided to interview Giacomo Dall’Ava, HR Manager, to learn how Tapì has reacted and dealt promptly with the crisis.
Giacomo Dall’Ava has been the HR Manager of Tapì S.p.A. since February 2019. He graduated in Philosophy, specialising in Cognitive Sciences and Decision-Making Processes, and in 2017 he completed a Master’s Degree in People Management and Human Resources at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.
He combines classic management of Human Resources with more innovative projects promoting employee well-being and cultivation of talents: both aspects that are becoming increasingly necessary within a company.
In particular he told us about how Tapì managed to carry on with their work activities while protecting the health of employees and collaborators.
Italy is going through a very unusual period, with repercussions in many different sectors: how is Tapì dealing with the management of its employees and the organisation of work?
Tapì was designated as providing essential services in the food supply chain during the lockdown period enforced by the government. This meant that we were able to keep our business going, even if at a slower pace compared to our normal production rate due to the ongoing restructuring of the entire market.
However, if on the one hand we were fortunate enough to continue operations without interruption, on the other hand we needed to focus all our efforts on ensuring the health and safety of our employees in the shortest time possible, following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the instructions provided by the Veneto Region.
To minimise risks as far as possible, my team and I were constantly searching for official information that would enable us to do more and to go beyond the minimum criteria, by implementing more safety measures than those that the government was recommending. Unfortunately, between the end of February and the first few days of March we were quite unaware of just how serious the situation was. Many companies were trying to deal with information coming in dribs and drabs, week by week, and the need to make quick decisions to protect the health and safety of their employees. From the outset we decided to act preventively by adopting safety measures such as, for example, minimum 2 metre distancing between people, screens to separate work stations and smart working.
Implementing a working from home policy, in such a short time, for a company like Tapì was far from easy. In fact, we are a production company and we were suddenly faced with the need to quickly organise smart working for a large number of employees, while taking into consideration the requirements of the various corporate functions related to the production processes.
Obviously, nothing is impossible and we decided to prioritise workers with the greatest needs (the fragile workers, those with health issues or with family members requiring care), then we moved on to the large group consisting of white-collar workers.
As for the production team, the workers used up any accrued vacation days during the peak period of the pandemic. And we have done all of this, to this day, without taking advantage of the redundancy fund made available by the Italian Government to cover this extraordinary emergency situation.
Currently we still have several employees working from home since we decided to maintain limited access to our offices. We have reduced the flow of people going out to lunch by bringing packaged single serve meals to the workplace in order to avoid crowding of employees and contact with places outside the company confines.
Although the situation is now under control, we cannot say that the crisis is completely over and this is not the time to compromise all the efforts made by the State, the companies and by the citizens themselves.
In just a few days Tapì, like most of Italy’s companies, was faced with changes that, under normal circumstances, would have required years to happen. What did this situation involve and what rules did you give to your employees?
As soon as the first hotspots started, the one in Codogno and the one in Vo’ Euganeo, we started informing our employees and collaborators every week via emails by outlining the new rules, internal and external, as well as the ministerial and regional guidelines.
From the start we decided to instruct all our employees directly on the correct use of masks, hand sanitisers and all the changes introduced within the company to improve work flows and avoiding direct contact between people. This was the case for both our factories in Italy: in Rossano Veneto and in Massanzago.
As I said earlier, all the rules that were put in place are still active because this is not the time to lower our guard. It is also a sign of awareness for our employees of what happens outside the confines of the company.
We have become disseminators of what is happening, also because the pandemic crisis has provoked an unprecedented and difficult to manage infodemic, exposing people to very dangerous fake news (for example the one about gargling with a solution of water and bleach to disinfect the body). In times such as these, marked by fear of the unknown, we are more exposed to errors which is why we wanted to open such a large dialogue window with all the people that work alongside us.
What paths has Tapì taken as a result of this crisis to further bolster the innovation that has always distinguished it?
Certainly remote working is one of the innovations, not just seen as simply working from home, but as a way of facilitating work-life balance. In fact, one of the negative aspects of remote working is always being connected and, with Tapì factories spread around the globe, communications may arrive at any time of day.
Considering this aspect, the risk could be that people never take their minds off work which would have a negative effect on their health and well-being.
So once again the task force team became a group of disseminators facing the state of emergency by developing clear remote working guidelines, including the need for regular breaks and clocking off at scheduled times. Our objective was to meet with each employee separately, to gain a clear understanding of each person’s requirements and to find appropriate work-life balance solutions.
At a time of great difficulty like the one we have experienced (and are still experiencing) we decided to strengthen our corporate team even further and on this occasion we received great support especially from our employees, who adapted to all the rules without any problem whatsoever and who helped us throughout the entire information and awareness process.
Has the role of HR changed in this period? If so, how?
From what has emerged so far it is obvious just how much the role of HR has changed. Communication with employees has intensified and interest in the well-being, health and safety of the people who are part of this company has increased significantly.
A great deal of attention has been devoted to training and information, even relating to personal issues.
The crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world of work with many challenges but, at the same time, has offered new opportunities for developing a more ‘smart’ management of the various corporate functions. From your experience, do you think Italy is ready for a more widespread smart working practice?
I feel confident in stating that Italy is definitely ready, but there are a few issues we need to address. We often think that the brakes are due to the low digitization of the country, but the crisis has shown us that in many cases we already have the right tools for working remotely.
I think, however, what we need to focus on is the individual training of employees, managers and entrepreneurs, a step towards a change of mentality that is vital for all of us. Two main ingredients are necessary if smart working is going to continue post-pandemic: trust on the part of entrepreneurs and responsibility on the part of employees.
Today we cannot actually measure if there are or are not the conditions for moving forward with this approach, because in fact there has never been one. We cannot talk about real smart working, because we all simply rolled up our sleeves so that we could continue working while protecting the health of workers and collaborators.
When this virus will have become just a memory we will be able to think about a training course for management and workers, to teach the real value of our company mission and to transmit the real value of our corporate concept: not just a physical place that we turn up to every morning, but a holistic body of knowledge. Not people working as individuals, but an ecosystem created from everyone’s work. Not focussing on one’s own specific technical duties, focussing more on one’s role within the company network.
If all of this works, then I am firmly convinced that a real upgrade is possible.
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