The human factor, cyber security and digitisation: the new HR challenges

Here’s how the human resources sector is evolving through innovation

In an era of digital transformation with artificial intelligence, cobots and big data, what seems to be making an even more increasing difference is the H factor. With the “H” of Human it is Human Resources, which are the real stars of the extraordinary changes taking place in the world of work.Last February 21, in Bologna, at the Hera Group headquarters, the first stage of the Roadshow HR Innovation 2019 was held by Manpower Group and Defensis to reflect on the evolution of human resources, examining the present and especially the future of the profession. With one certainty: not everything is (only) technology.“A couple of years ago Google started searching for a Chief Philosophy Officer and many other Silicon Valley companies followed suit, hiring philosophers in the company. This is proof that innovation as an end in itself is not enough. What is needed is profound meaning – reflects Alessandro Camilleri, Hera Group Director of Training Development and Organisation and moderator of the meeting – The difference lies in the ability to transform innovation in value through people. Human Resources are appointed to do just that: to promote a conscious approach, which starts from the distinctive characteristics and the infinite resources that people possess. For the HERA group, innovation is a key issue, integrated with our business”.In fact, workers in a company are being asked to make a qualitative leap, to continually update their knowledge acquired in decades of work with new skills and above all new approaches. And to do this, one needs to fully understand the reasons for the change.Smart workingAn example?

Smart working

“This is much more than just remote working. It means rethinking work activities in terms of space, time, tools and performance, avoiding confusing effectiveness and efficiency with physical presence. This means investing in the relationship of trust with one’s employees. This confidence will be rewarded by a greater sense of responsibility and therefore an improvement in the worker’s activities”, notes Camilleri, who won the Smart Working Award 2018 with Hera. After a pilot project involving 370 people, the Group extended smart working with the involvement of as many as 1,500 employees, with a consequent improvement in work performance and absenteeism rates, a reduction in atmospheric emissions (due to fewer journeys), better work planning and more efficient use of company spaces.But smart working is just one of the innovations in the field. More and more often, in fact, we are using the Agile methodology in HR too, which is based on four values: focus on individuals and interactions, the centrality of software, collaboration with the customer and adoption of a process that responds to change and that is not tied to a plan. It’s an approach that assumes a new way of understanding responsibilities in a company. “We live in a complex world where we need agility. Or better yet, of lightness, that, as Italo Calvino said, does not mean ‘superficiality, but gliding above things, not having weights on your heart’”, reflects Alessandro Montanari, HR Director of Reda Group, underlining the pressing need to abandon the “culture of guilt”. This paradigm not only does not stimulate innovation and creativity, but rather develops demotivation. “For this reason, taking up the concept coined by the Lebanese philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, we should talk about Anti-fragile HR or HR that works to make people aware of what they can do and become within an organisation. It is therefore essential to adopt an “understanding as a continuous and sustainable process, in which risks and errors are further opportunities for growth” – explains Montanari.

Learning culture

Continuous education is, after all, a central theme. “We all know that it is highly likely that in five years we will not doing what we are doing today or, at least, we will be doing it differently. This is why we are interested in the possibilities of personal development, as well as the content of a particular job. Hence the need to integrate learning into daily activities through ‘learning in the flow of working’”, suggests Roberta Gentile, Global Director Curriculum Development for Vertiv. This evolution is strongly supported by new technologies: “Today we have so many more strings to our bow, as long as we are not afraid to experiment. Speaking of curriculum development means in fact integrating activities of various kinds: training, assignments, work projects, interactions with experts and mentoring and coaching programs. Because the wealth of learning only in part comes from the classroom and can instead be put into practice every day”.A case in point in Vertiv, an American multinational that likes to call itself a “start-up with 18,000 employees” because following the recent acquisition by the Private Equity Platinum, it had to redefine its strategy, market position and the actual corporate values. “Defining and globally implementing new values ​​means impacting on the DNA of the company. The challenge can be won by learning to keep your roots anchored to the past, but only to learn from the lessons learned over time, to then launch into the construction of the future with open arms”, explains Gentile.

Cyber security

But there is also another aspect that is strongly affecting the field of human resources: cyber security, an issue on which Experis Academy has based a master’s degree to train future IT security experts through an in-depth program on hacking, cryptography, cloud, IoT, cryptocurrency and blockchain. An all-round training course designed in partnership with Clusit, Microsoft, Oracle, WESTPOLE, SonicWall, Defensis, CryptoNet Labs and RSA. “Cyber security is an issue that HR has begun to explore in recent years, hand in hand with the updating of policies on the use of company tools. If until a few years ago companies boasted about their databases full of names, now for those who cannot keep up it can become a problem”, notes Michele Cogo, CEO of Defensis, a specialist in the fields of security, fraud auditing, digital forensics and investigations. “Thus, along with digitisation and related threats, a law has been drawn up (GDPR, ed.) that allows companies to ask themselves questions and decide, independently, how to deal with the issue of data protection”. The first effect is that of a greater awareness, which is accompanied by the birth of a new position that is gradually becoming a well-defined professional identity: the security manager. “Although – acknowledges Cogo – given that 80% of Italian companies are SMEs, the prerogatives of this function often fall on HR”. A new opportunity, therefore, for a function that more than others is being called upon to redefine itself by incorporating new responsibilities, but also new ways of being, thus becoming an all-round generator of meaning. For the first time, in fact, HR is being asked not only to deal with procedures and organisational structures but, above all, to deal with the human element, making people the prime focus. This will probably be the biggest change in the coming years.


Silvia Pagliuca

Silvia Pagliuca Giornalista professionista e Comunicatore pubblico, è laureata in scienze e tecnologie della comunicazione, con Master in management della comunicazione sociale, politica e istituzionale e Master in giornalismo presso il campus IULM - Mediaset. Scrive di lavoro, startup, innovazione e imprenditoria per Corriere della Sera, Corriere Imprese e Corriere del Trentino. Collabora come copywriter e consulente in comunicazione per diverse realtà pubbliche e private.