We are at a time when technological changes are radically changing the world of work and also how we relate to it. Smart working becomes more and more popular and demanded. It is not a new type of contract, but a working modality under which the employee carries out his work partly in the company and partly outside it, at  his home or in other places chosen by him or agreed with the employer, without a fixed position and without specific time constraints. In Italy the law 22/5/2017 n. 81, which regulates “smart working“, or “agile work”, was created on June 14, 2017 . Unlike Italy, Ireland does not have any legislation in relation to flexible working although the concept of e-working has been around for many years. The DJEI (or the DETE as it was then) was issued to the Government Code of Practice in 2000, which addressed many issues associated with home working.

(USDA)

Photo by Lance Cheung.(Flickr)

So as the boundaries between company and personal life changes, the same  concept of work changes radically, disappearing and reappearing in other forms. It is said that the automation of processes will lead to the change and disappearance of about half of the jobs that we now know. However, new technologies will require the inclusion of new, more technical and qualified professionals to manage the new systems.  Training workers will therefore be central in companies if they want to progress.

In the past, when analyzing the strength of an organization, they tended to consider mainly its most obvious aspects such as budgets, remuneration, the number of workers. Today, those at the top of organizations  know if they aspire to great achievements, they must pay close attention to the people who are part of it.

Today people  are changing, becoming  dependent on social networks and mobile phones. At the same time, the workplace has transformed. New professional figures are born such as the “coach”.“Coach” is word that, in Italy is associated by with a sporting context, normally football. Now it  refers to a professional that, through a training course, allows people to reach a desired situation, starting from the current one, discovering and using all the skills that individuals have.

Gian Maria Zapelli Development & Change Consultant, founder of Hc Capaci di Futuro agreed to answer some questions about the changes occurring in the workplace and in work patterns, and in Human Resources.

Gian Maria Zapelli

Gian Maria Zapelli

What is your role? What is your company’s mission?

I am the founder of Hc, which is 12 years old. We focus on helping people within  organizations. We help people to acquire the capacities needed to be satisfied in their  work lives and in life generally. We are all psychologists. We work on the psychological dimensions of the person and we help them to live within the organization and work towards its objectives and within its constraints. At the same time, maintaining the capacity of personal well-being is important. Well-being is often put at risk in a challenging and complicated work environment. To accomplish these goals, we use two  strategies.

One  strategy is to work with groups of employees. We do professional training sessions. We coach managerial groups. We also use digital platforms that do e-coaching activities. We follow people remotely “anywhere anytime” on their empowerment goals

What are the soft skills?

What is called soft skills today is the ability to behave in the organization. This means ways of acting within the organization that complete the knowledge that a person has.

In one of your article you write that at this time, facing life and work, we are all “permanent novices”, we don’t get the chance to become masters of anything in terms of knowledge, but we are constantly learning. How do you see the concept of “permanent novices” applied to new generations who are seeking professional growth and who are like  “travelers” among different working realities?

Professional growth is a desire that not only characterizes only the young people of today, but it has always characterized young people over time. The element of novelty that we have today is the fact that there is a difficulty in accepting boundaries against their expectation of professional growth. They are sometimes  not able put boundaries to this professional growth. Organizational life is not an environment without constraints. Therefore this means that entering into organizational life means learning to accept limits and know how to use and develop your abilities to face it . If you do not become a manager after 5 years, it is a condition natural of your professional path, not a failure. It seems to me that today the expectations towards professional growth  are unrealistic and the young are unaware of the constraints that the world of work has. If you do not have realistic expectations you end up disappointed, because you expect an answer that the world of work is not able to give you. I have noticed that is a difficulty for most of them to procrastinate their satisfaction. It is important in psychology not only in the professional capacity, this ability to postpone over time the satisfaction of a desire that I have at the present.

The second dimension that I find in the new generation is that it  is difficult for them to concentrate on the same content for a long time. Since the world puts us in the condition of being “debutants’, nothing is  hard enough to become a model, a consolidated experience. We always pass through the novelty. We have lost the psychological capacity to keep concentration and interest over time. This is an effect that I find in young people who, after doing the same thing for two years, could  easily become bored and try something else. These consequences from the psychological point of view are produced by an education that the brain undergoes. I am a psychologist of neurosciences. I am interested in how the brain operates on the neuro-biological level . The abilities we have are the product of biological structures.

Young people today have less of a habit of maintaining themselves with the same content over time. Therefore they look for experiences that constantly change in their work and career  but this is not always possible. The business organization is also made of things that must continue.

Then starting one’s career at entry level, would it be a necessary process to grow up not just professionally?

I think, it is essential, because it is a condition to enable and   structure our psychological capacities. If I do not make the effort to do something that is mundane, I damage some neurological resources that are fundamental to me: for instance  the ability to be focus, analytical skills and concentration.

In one of your articles, you talk about the “loneliness  of a leader”, then which is the most important quality that a leader must have?

There is not a single form of leadership. Depending on the context there must there be adequate leaders. If I am a creative leader, I need different qualities compared to the leaders of an industrial sector, for instance. In any case, I would name as fundamental qualities, being solid and tenacious, ethical, consistent. One of the greatest appeal for followers is a non-occasional but constant coherence, and it is this characteristic that makes a leader. He must be  coherent even during difficulties, when it is easy for our values to fail.

What do you think about  smart working? What do you think of is it a  “disorienting work situation”?

For me, smart working is an experience with light and shadow. The light is the possibility of having free time, the possibility of ruling free time. For example, people who commute,  can use the time to go to work, to do more or something else.

It gives free time. However, it disorientates. I have  no longer specific boundaries with my company. The company extends its  boundaries to my kitchen. The people who do smart working, not all of them  have a studio where they can work. People can work in the kitchen, so the work invades this space.  Companies must have precise boundaries. It is essential in a psychological relationship with work. If not,  it can “pollute” the dimensions of life that need to stay out of work.

How important are the  humanities degrees in recruitment and in human resources now?

Now they are less important  than a few years ago. There was a moment when the in HR, humanities degrees were popular. Over the past 5 years, the scenario post crisis is totally changed. The crisis has left indelible marks in organizational models.The crisis has also changed cultural models, so in this last period humanities degrees have less presence. In general, the number of people dedicated to human resources  had been reduced. Now people are more considered a cost.The social contract that existed between the company and its people, that  made sure that there were consistent investments in the training and development of people, was undermined dramatically.

I have read that you possess  both psychology and philosophy degrees. How did the philosophy degree help in your job?

All the philosophy that I studied  was essential to me. Before even an author, philosophy is a way of dealing with  the relationship with reality.Wittgenstein wrote “the limit of your world are the limits of your language”. Philosophy educates to this language. This is the intrinsic value of philosophy. It produces a language that makes your world much wider and this helps by taking care and  dealing with people.