By the editorial team
This is not the first time that the aeronautical sector has faced a serious crisis – we need only think of 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, which brough the entire industry to its knees. The impact of Covid-19, however, was much more devastating: the cancelled flights, production slowdowns, and the reduced circulation of people are all symptoms of an unprecedented crisis that, in addition to macroeconomic interventions, will require a profound process of change management.
‘The magnitude of this crisis is measured by its psycho-social effects,’ states Carlamaria Tiburtini, the Inclusion & Diversity Leader and HR Business Partner at Avio Aero, ‘because this emergency affected all of society, by influencing our perception of risk, our feelings and our behaviours. Starting with this consideration is the key step in order for businesses to be able to transform the crisis into a positive evolution.’ To accelerate its recovery, in fact, Avio Aero is counting on two important factors: people and processes.
‘Centering people is not just a matter of organisational aspects related to managing human resources but completely embraces the concept of inclusion, and the healthcare emergency demonstrated this. In our company we didn’t focus exclusively on guaranteeing work continuity but also worked to redesign relationships so we could be close even at a distance. It was fundamental to establish ways of creating emotional closeness and of working according to new blueprints, at both a hierarchical and a peer-to-peer level,’ Tiburtina continues. ‘As a HR department, we found ourselves with a great opportunity on our hands. From being a support system, we found ourselves in a position to be game changers and to define the future for our company, helping our leaders to be the leaders that our company needed in that moment of contingency, and we helped our employees to find the motivation to reach their objectives and strengthen their sense of belonging. The process of defining objectives and setting expectations was participative and the managers involved their teams in order to share responsibility. We created opportunities to share how our experiences with smart working had been and ‘forced’ the teams to stay in touch not only for business purposes – for example, we have ‘coffee time’, which is designed to be a virtual coffee break that replaces the time we would normally spend getting a cup of coffee at the office. We also paid a lot of attention to digital learning, in order to grow our internal competence with regard to the changing needs of the market. Our employees’ responses went above and beyond, and this is demonstrated by the community-building initiatives that came from various branches – from digital donations, to the 3D design of protective visors by one of our young engineers in Rivalta, to participation in digital training that was not obligatory but focused on topics like Lean – with high completion rates (over 40%), extended entertainment moments – online yoga classes, but especially examples of collective creativity, which are summarised well in the video #tuttaposto (https://youtu.be/19kH8ZhN0Eg) which were created independently by our employees. From this point of view, the effort made so far in the creation of a solid employer experience has continued to bear fruit even during the pandemic.’
On the business front, the healthcare emergency was an opportunity for in depth reflection on operational excellence, from the point of view of both strategy and processes. Starting with the Lean culture that the company embraced some time ago, the key words were simplification and digitalisation. The first obvious example of this approach was that of strengthening smart working, which had already been activated in the company in 2018. According to Nino Atzei, the Leader of the Digital Team and Aviation Operating System, ‘Having had an earlier experience was a decisive help in managing the boom due to the Covid-19 emergency, and what struck me particularly was the degree of autonomy and responsibility taken on by the entire team … collaboration was strengthened from afar and even the levels of productivity were sometimes higher than at the office.’
Smart working, according to a recent survey in GE, satisfied 55% of people on average, and if that average is up to 73% at Avio Aero, that is mainly thanks to the team guided by Atzei, that is, to the specific digital competences and capacities of the members who, in every sphere and at every level, contributed to the stability of remote working for over 2000 users. The Digital team – circa 120 people – were engaged in various capacities in putting Avio Aero employees in a position to use the company’s digital tools in a way that was as close as possible to how they were used to working in person. One of the greatest difficulties during the first few weeks was that not all employees habitually worked on a laptop or had one at their disposal. ‘We broke the work down into three stages: installing and configuring, safely delivering equipment, and training employees to use it; without a doubt, after obtaining the equipment, the second most delicate phase was the delivery, given the restrictions and the rigid safety protocols that had been put in place in all establishments,’ Atzei confirmed.
‘Another level of complexity was added by the IT needs of Avio Aero users. The machines and factory processes are managed by many different programmes that require devices with high computing power. In the absence of workstations, the teams were flanked by IT experts who configured their devices domestically so that everyone was able to be able to do their job. From my point of view, it was not just a question of working out processes and providing new tools, but of taking further steps toward the digital transformation of our company. We worked with people to develop a true digital culture, which Covid-19 in some ways accelerated; the decision-making process was necessarily diffused, faster and more interactive because it was managed remotely. A widespread sense of trust and responsibility developed that brought people – even those who were less accustomed to this – to adopt these things very quickly, with a very high learning curve. The results obtained over the course of these months are without a doubt the fruit of targeted organisational choices but also the willingness to adapt to change, even if it was dictated by necessity.
‘This crisis made us understand very clearly that the things that make a difference in an organisation are the principles that govern it,’ concludes Carlamaria Tiburtini. Cultivating a sense of belonging produced effects during the pandemic. We used all the tools at our disposal to make people feel less far away and isolated and the feedback we got were the attitudes, behaviours and awareness of our employees, who did not spare themselves, starting with all those who guaranteed production continuity in the factory during Phase I. This is what we take away from it and into our ‘new normal’: agility, resilience and so much humanity.’
Carlamaria Tiburtini has a University Diploma in Interpreting and Translation and Linguistic and Cultural Studies from the Universitá IULM Milano, and is the HR Business Partner and Inclusion & Diversity Leader at Avio Aero.
Nino Atzei has a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Politecnico di Torino and is the Executive Director, Continuous Improvement and interim CIO at Avio Aero.
PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN DIVERCITY VIII SEPTEMBER 2020