The value of people

Interview to our (unconventional) HR Director, Andrea Picco

 

Andrea, as in the best interviews, let’s start with your presentation.

I was born in Milan “around the 70s”. I have a degree in international law. Except for some subjunctives, I speak Italian well and Spanish and English very well. Un petit peux de Francais has allowed me to make my former Parisian colleagues smile over the years. I have a wonderful wife who has tolerated me for almost 30 years, two grown-up children who study in Holland and Sicily respectively, and a “little one” who is in high school. We live in Bergamo in an old house that we share with Minou, a Ragdoll cat, and Paco, an invasive Bernese Mountain Dog.

 

How long have you been in human resources?

I have been dealing with human resources since 1997. It was precisely in the last millennium in which, as soon as I was hired, I was responsible for implementing personnel policies in a group of commercial companies of over 400 people, located almost all over the world. It was definitely the right job for me, which led me to travel and deal with different cultures. I lived in Canada from 2001 to 2005, dealing with the start-up of a factory and the creation of the HR function. Subsequently, I followed international projects in Africa and the Middle East. I met Raccortubi Group by chance in 2015, at a time when I wanted to change my perspective and I was enthusiastic about the project of being able to build the HR function from the ground up.

 

What does it mean to work in human resources today? How has the role evolved?

People management is a continuous revolution, what companies have built for years in terms of HR processes has become so complex that it is then dismantled. Today we are in a totally new phase, in which people are protagonists and not subjects, and the HR area is an area of services and not a center of “power”, as it once was. The new generations are demanding and what used to motivate in the past is no longer sufficient today. Companies must offer support, development opportunities, transparency and happy working environments. The time of time cards and fixed hours, fixed holidays, etc. is coming to an end. Workers have families, children, elderly parents, worries and needs. Flexible, hybrid and smart working are solutions that allow you to work with greater serenity and also be able to dedicate yourself to the needs of your personal life. There are couples who never go on holiday together because they work in companies that dictate when to do so. These situations are the worst side of old-fashioned personnel management.

We live in a Country that offers among the lowest wages in Europe and which has practically no family support policy. So are companies that have the ethical responsibility to support collaborators in critical moments of their lives, in any way. Even saving on a full tank of petrol (with smart work) is a small help, and all you need is common sense.

 

As HR Mgr, what do you believe in? What philosophy do you carry forward?

I believe that people should find fulfillment in their work, and should not, instead, be crushed by it. You can be happy while working – and you are happy when you whistle while going to work. The healthy and open environment, flexibility, communication are essential elements in which we must invest. We must take care of those in difficulty and always find the best in everyone.

I am an unwavering believer in relationships built on trust: free hours, unlimited holidays are not impossible concepts if you create the right working environment. That’s the whole challenge. How much do we trust those who work with us?

 

How important is it to invest in people’s well-being? Why?

There wouldn’t even be a need to answer, if you think about it carefully. We spend most of our lives working. Those who work in inclusive, positive environments, where people are valued and supported, are very fortunate. Furthermore, the company has much greater negotiating power than that of the individual, so it is important to take all those initiatives that relieve collaborators from burdensome personal commitments or limit their costs. Health and prevention, for example, are important aspects of people’s lives, and very often neglected, either due to costs or due to lack of time. Prevention programs, flexible hours that allow you to accommodate all the necessary medical visits for yourself and your children, are benefits of strategic importance which, in addition to generating consensus and belonging among workers, build a corporate reputation which today is – rightly – increasingly focused on these issues, rather than on profits. As a worker who has experienced the large industrial environment, I remember the times when I took children with fever on Sundays to the doctor in our infirmary, instead of to the emergency room. Benefits of this type – as a colleague once told me – make you feel like “a giant”, regardless of the position you hold.

 

Training: there are those who would like to do more and more and those who, however, never find the time to participate. Is it important to do so much? And what type of training is required by the job market today?

I believe that it is not important to do a lot, but to do what is needed. What we are investing most in today is internal training, i.e. prepared by our own Management. In this way, flexibility is gained, costs are eliminated, people on both sides are motivated and content can be created with infinite variations, depending on what is needed. Training tailored to the specific needs of our reality.

 

How important is it to have motivated employees aligned with Management? What role does internal communication play within the Company?

Communication is the “right arm” of the staff. The thing we complain about in companies is that “communication is lacking”. The feeling that everything is decided “in secret rooms” generates discontent and cancels out the natural need to feel like belonging to the company. We must communicate well, without pauses and uncertainties, all collaborators must perceive that there is transparency in the decision-making and management processes. And if the company has the right initiatives, communicating them amplifies participation and beneficial effects. We must try to bring “on the dance floor” even those who are always sitting at the back of the ballroom.

 

What initiatives have you promoted, in your experience at Raccortubi, to create a better working environment?

A lot has been done, even if every day I think of something to improve.

We have made working hours flexible, and for certain categories even completely liberalized them. We have developed agreements for workers to increase their purchasing power; for example with the “Ennevolte” platform. We have launched a very high level prevention and health program, in collaboration with LILT, thanks to which we have offered thematic check-ups (men – women – cardio – skin) every two years, in the company and totally free for employees.

“Smart-working” has finally become an established reality, with a streamlined and flexible official policy, which thinks first of all of the weakest individuals and families with children.

Our “OneFlex” welfare platform (in collaboration with AON) allows you to convert the performance bonus into welfare through a “user-friendly” portal, and thus increase its value. Furthermore, thanks to the supplementary contract in place, the company makes annual payments into everyone’s “welfare account”, and special contributions are provided for new mothers/fathers.

 

Moving on to the “recruiting” sphere… Can you really understand a person in the time of an interview? Can errors of judgment happen?

It certainly happens, recruitment is not an exact science. It is not possible to understand everything about a person in the time of an interview, but we can try to use the time of the interview to understand as much as possible: we need to put the interlocutor at ease so that he can tell us the things that can help us evaluate how he will behave once in the company. This is the “predictive” purpose of all interviews. By the way…the term “interview” is already old-fashioned by now, it’s better to talk about simply of “meeting”.

 

Tell us some anecdotes about the job interviews you attended/conducted?

In over 25 years, I have hired more than 1.000 people in various capacities. If I had taken note of all the craziest things I heard, I could now make it a best seller… I could mention the young engineer who told me that in high school he chased the math teacher right outside her house to terrorize her.

Or that young man who, in a group selection test, began the session by saying “if you agree, I’m the leader”. Or again, a girl, on a university campus in Saudi Arabia, who, not having had her family’s permission to show up for a group interview, sent her brother.

 

Which questions are off limits in an interview and which should be asked more?

Today an interview must necessarily aim at getting to know the person in depth, and the only way is to make them feel comfortable. This is why interviews are increasingly longer and less structured. After the first embarrassments, people let themselves go and get to know each other. This aspect is important because even more than what a candidate knows or can do, it is what person hides behind the facade, and how he will integrate into the company. That’s where the worst mistakes lurk. So no more “where do you see yourself in 5 years“, and other obvious questions that only produce obvious answers. We must aim at creating a unique harmony with each person. Today the interview has become clearly bi-directional, it is not only used to ask questions, but also to give a honest description of the job being offered. Candidates also have the right to form an opinion, otherwise they may be misled and not stay in the long term. This would be an own goal.

Off-limits questions are those that pertain to very personal spheres of one’s life, where even with all the precautions and with the best feeling, there is a risk of doing irreparable damage. Asking a woman (but also a man) if she wants to start a family, even if done naively to get to know the interlocutor, will almost certainly generate the feeling that we are trying to avoid managing maternity or paternity: therefore, we take for granted that whether he may or may not want a family, it’s none of our business.

If I may add, never, ever, ask to present a pay slip.

 

To stay on topic, coming to the end, what is the best way to end an interview?

Even in this case, times change, and an interview is no longer “one-way”. So instead of concluding it with the classic “we’ll let you know” we could instead give greater value to the candidate by asking him/her how it went.​



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