Digital disruption on People, Leadership and Organizations

Marta Rosa Spiga

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Luca Solari,  Professor of Organization theory, Resource Management and Change at the University of Milan spoke to the Circular about the Oracle Digital Night in Rome. In this occasion, Hr directors and experts discussed digital disruption on People, Leadership, and Organizations.


photo credit of Merrill College of Journalism Press Releases

What was your impression of the event?

It was an event in which there was a very open and frank debate on digital opportunities in the relationship with new ways of organizing work and well-being of workers, both in terms of aspects to be kept under control with a group of HR experts from the different areas involved who have integrated efficiently the various steps of the event with questions and some reflections on how much they live within their organizations, In general, I have to say with respect to other events, this one  was  a more realistic  and less alarmist.

What is your point of view on future human resources?

I believe that this is, I often say it to my students in the classroom, a time when the person in charge of HR has a window of unrepeatable opportunity because on the one hand, the human variable in many of the organizational processes is central because these processes require the capacity for innovation and development of both new products, services, and processes, but also different ways of making the organization work, which is a non-replaceable capacity and which derives directly from the degree in which we can attract and motivate people. Secondly, because the development of new technologies leads to a profound revision of both places and processes, a change that opens up new challenges, such as a new description of the organization’s models in which the work of the people is integrated with increasingly automated agents; this second aspect also requires a strong competence in the knowledge of the human variable.

What awaits a director of human resources in 5 years?

In 5 years, the director of human resources will have to radically redesign his function, giving space to two new areas not represented today: an area that concerns the construction and use of data that derive from the technologies that we will use in the management of spaces and people. Someone, however, must be dedicated to ensuring that these databases are maintained and managed appropriately. I happen to work with many companies, and one of the main problems is the issue of data quality, although is an important insight, does not give rise to the problem of the quality of the input of the format or storage of data. Maybe you delete the data, and when you want to do the analysis of, voluntary turnover would be the case to maintain. I do not think the HR manager will have to develop these digital and technical skills, but he will have to be supported by personalities who have these skills and can help put these skills at the service of the business. I believe that from the HR side, these will become more and more business problems and less tied to the management of administrative problems.

How do you see the Italian market compared to technological innovation?

From the HR point of view, I have to say concerning what I have observed abroad, there are still taboos toward the data. So frequently does it happen that one does not trust the statistics but trusts the intuitions and experiences of the qualitative story of what is essential. Secondly, there is a level of low risk, making that is necessary. The problem is that when you want to offer  an innovative solution, the interlocutor that  you are facing is not willing to make a small bet; he requires  to know if this technology has been used in many organizations, but it is clear that it has not been used in many organizations, or otherwise it would not be innovative. It is a very regular habit world as they tend to compare to how they have always made process, and it is difficult to change them.

Do you remember any particular question during the event?

One question that impressed me was the fact that, along with the transformations we were discussing regarding the configuration of new workspaces, the development of new technologies, such as blockchain, can lead to a more radical condition, that is, the replacement of the traditional hierarchical model. For the first time, it is practically possible to achieve co-ordination and control work without having leaders. This observation was very consistent with what is being stated by those who are developing a project of organization based on   the concept  of “agile.” As a consequence, some managers ask themselves what their role is.

There is a fascinating quote that is being discussed in the English market; will the half of the works disappear?

It can be said that half, 30%, or 10%, of the data can all be true and all false. No one can foresee what the positions are. The studies that are there tell us what the degree of risk experienced by the different professions will be. The estimates are influenced by the initial assumptions, especially in a radical transformation phase, and it is difficult to use the forecast of departure to predict what will happen. It is evident that different technologies will replace some components of human labor. The real question is whether they will replace different categories of work or change the nature of work?

When I graduated in ’91, I had to write a paper, and for that, I had to go to the library and make photocopies.  With the advent of technology, now, I could easily download the same books. Has my job disappeared? Not, it has become more efficient and productive, and I  can use the free time to do something else. The process of transformation will concern all countries. Some countries are more impacted than others, which may be related to the demography of labor. Indeed, these changes will require changing the models and working methods, as it happened many times in the past. Compared to my active university life now, almost 27 years after graduation, there are more readings, research, and interviews on the impact of technology and the changes after the advent of the computer and the internet. I have to say that I feel quite serene because the things announced today have been said so many times. The world has changed, but an apocalypse did not happen; instead, the people who spoke about it in the past have remained the same. Today, I find it hard to believe these extreme situations.

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Marta Rosa Spiga