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Work and people. Leadership, engagement, skills and well-being

Kind leadership (54 %) and flexibility in the workplace (64%): what young workers in Italy are looking for
04/09/2023 Divulgatory Research Download PDF
  • Young employees in Italy seek work environments where they feel listened to, led by resilient and humane managers, and where they can balance work and personal life.
  • Flexibility in work hours and workplaces is the priority that companies must pay attention to for 64% of survey respondents; 23.2% of them think that the priorities are corporate benefits and welfare.
  • The possibility of growth is the first criterion considered by young people when choosing a job position, after salary.
  • To increase well-being and retain talent, comprehensive welfare packages are needed: daycare and childcare, physical and psychological wellness programs, training and professional development courses, and extra salary benefits.
  • The most in-demand digital skills in 2023 in Italy are in the areas of cybersecurity, automation, artificial intelligence and the cloud.
  • The top 5 skills to be competitive in the future will be creativity, critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, and skills related to the development and use of technology, including Digital Skills.

The structural changes that are affecting the labor market pose new challenges to the people management universe: personnel management will necessarily have to be based less and less on business needs, and draw more and more from those of employees. Competitive salary, company bonuses, social security, work flexibility, vacations, skills development, and suitable and multicultural work environment the key factors in attracting and retaining the most talented employees.

Today’s corporate staff – propelled by the ongoing digital and green transition – want to work for socially responsible companies that offer both job flexibility and well-defined career paths, but compensation remains the main motivation in choosing to change companies. These are the main findings of Rome Business School’s Report, “Work and People: Leadership, Engagement, Skills and Wellbeing,” by Francesco Baldi, Lecturer of Rome Business School’s International Online Master in Finance; Massimiliano Parco, Economist at Centro Europa Ricerche (CER); and Valerio Mancini, Director of Rome Business School’s Disclosure Research Center.

Wellness, benefits and work-life balance: the survey

Lack of well-being at work not only compromises professional life, but also personal life. For the purpose of the research, a survey was conducted by the authors to 250 people: young employees between the ages of 23 and 30 and managers between the ages of 31 and 60, with the aim of finding out their opinions on some of the most important issues at work today such as well-being in the workplace, flexibility and company benefits, the figure of the leader, and the most in-demand skills. According to the survey conducted:

  • Flexibility in working hours and workplaces (e.g., smart working) is the priority that organizations need to pay attention to for 64 percent of the respondents to the questionnaire – 23.2% think that the priorities for Well-Being in the company are benefits and corporate welfare; finally, only 12.5 percent say it is the services inside the workplaces.
  • Just over half of the sample (51.4%) responds that the criterion most considered by young people when choosing a job position is the possibility of growth. While 45.9 % of the sample believe that said criterion is flexibility, the remainder believe the ESG positioning of the company.
  • Employee Engagement is the most important People Management challenge for 55.4% of respondents – 29.5% of the sample responded that it is Retention, while 15.2% of the sample believe it is Attraction.

“A company that invests in the physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being of its employees will enjoy a more satisfied, motivated and productive team, generating a positive work environment and a successful organizational climate,” says Valerio Mancini.

In fact, Italian companies are gearing up toward better people management: in Italy there has been an increase in the last year in the average willingness to spend and actual consumption in corporate welfare, with fringe benefits (an additional part of the salary that the employer can provide in goods and services) growing in particular, especially in the younger age groups (60 percent of those under 30, according to the Edenred Italy Observatory, 2023).

“Today the challenge is not only personal but for the company. The search for flexibility has become a widespread demand and companies must organize work to find new forms of dynamicity of the same, between synchronous and asynchronous, that respond to people’s value of work-life integration, reconciling it with the business needs of productivity and coordination,” says Massimiliano Parco, among the authors. FlexJobs also confirms this; for 73 percent of respondents, work-life balance is the second most important “benefit” that workers look for and analyze when evaluating a job offer, after salary (76 percent).

The role of the leader

The needs of the employees themselves are increasingly at the center, and more emphasis is being placed on listening to company staff; in this, the leader plays a key role.

Gentle Leadership is for the majority of the survey sample (44.1%), the most important trend regarding the evolution of leadership models-for 33.3% the dilution of hierarchies, and for 22.5% the focus on sustainability. According to the authors, it is indeed up to the leader to perceive the needs of the employees with whom he or she collaborates; he or she must possess, first and foremost, qualities such as understanding and humanity, inclusiveness, as well as decision-making authority, analytical ability in the face of problems, always setting himself or herself as an example for his or her employees.

Future skills and artificial intelligence

According to Future of Jobs 2023 research, conducted by the World Economic Forum, 44 percent of current workers’ core skills are set to change in the next five years.

“In order to be competitive, basic training, and technical training, will need to be complemented by a more interdisciplinary culture: languages, digital knowledge, soft skills, a good level of IT and digital knowledge, the ability to interpret and manage data will be important,” says Baldi, who adds, “In particular, it will be Digital Skills that will make the difference because they are particularly transversal.”

Specifically, the most in-demand digital skills in 2023 are in analytics, organization and communication technologies. In Italy, in particular, skills in cybersecurity, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud will be increasingly coveted. Specifically, for 64.9% of survey respondents, the critical skills to be developed in AI are creativity and relationality; while 18.9 percent believe they are the new unaware skills; and finally, 16.2 percent answered vertical AI development skills.

Finally, to be competitive in any industry, the top 5 skills for the future will be creativity (which also includes content and innovation skills), critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, the skills related to the development and use of technology, including Digital Skills in a narrow sense such as: the ability to know how to read and interpret data or programming skills.

“Technology adoption will remain a key element in driving business transformation over the next five years so it is important to develop digital skills. This means investing in education and adapting to the changing needs of the labor market,” says Valerio Mancini.

The challenges of the future

According to Maximilian Parco, “to increase worker well-being and retention, companies should offer comprehensive welfare packages. Services such as daycare or childcare, physical wellness programs, work flexibility, counseling and psychological support programs, training and professional development courses, and extra pay benefits should be made available.”

In today’s world of work, the biggest obstacles to achieving organizational goals are the sudden changes we are experiencing. This forces greater attention and care on the part of managers toward their employees, so the management of company personnel that is not based purely on business needs, but originates from the needs of the employees themselves. In this context, the role of the leader becomes that of an understanding person with a high degree of humanity in interfacing with his or her colleagues. Leadership, which is increasingly kind, nowadays requires elements of inclusiveness, psychological support and adaptation to context.

Companies to keep up will need to know how to hire and retain staff characterized by a more interdisciplinary culture, digital skills, analytical skills, specializing in computer science, automation, artificial intelligence and cloud, but with strong soft skills. Creativity will be at the top of the top 5 most in-demand skills for the future.

Today, Italy to be competitive must “seize the opportunities, overcome the challenges dictated by the PNRR and pursue the objectives outlined by the possible macro-actions included within the program,” says Francesco Baldi. “New value chains, entrepreneurial realities and startups must be created, focusing on the generation of new complex and sustainable products, the development of new clean technologies and, the formation of sectors of the next generation of Italian professional excellence,” he concludes.