From training to being: how managers can see people’s complexity as a resource

Mar 30, 2021 | Events & Meetings

The constant evolution of organizational models and corporate culture have an impact on professional development, which generates a new type of leadership. Today, traditional learning methods don’t work for learners, and they don’t go far enough for managers either. Companies have the opportunity to make the move from “training” to “being”, becoming increasingly aware that people’s identity dimensions are a resource, and not an obstacle that needs to be overcome.

Even assessments can touch on the richness of our people. It’s as if their lives are a series of concentric circles that represent their (positive) complexity. It’s what we discussed at the HRC event The development challenge stems from managerial training, alongside Lifeed CEO Riccarda Zezza.

The HR department has an incredible role in the life of a company, giving managers the right tools to be able to value their people’s identity dimensions. But values and purposes must be the living experiences of our leaders, especially when they’re intermediaries”, explained Laura Bruno, Head of HR at Sanofi.

The employee-boss relationship has become increasingly complex, thanks to remote working through the pandemic. HR Directors “can facilitate this relationship, even if it means encouraging managers to ‘manage’ with courage, kindness and generosity”, says Tiziano Suprani, Corporate HR Officer at Ferroli. To do so, we need both a “stimulus from the employee’s side, or rather a willingness to focus on self-directed learning”, as well as proactive managers that “know how to guide people’s talents”.

Coaches need to move onto the pitch

It’s not enough to be a coach on the sidelines. We need to move onto the pitch. Today, organizations are fluid and traditional hierarchies no longer work. “Being a leader is a transformational process that requires flexibility”, says Marina Collautti, Head of Employer Branding, Recruiting & Mobility at Generali Italy.

Today, a good boss must be “visionary and anticipate what’s coming, understanding the effect that change has on people”, pointing to a new culture of error, open to experimentation, as well as good communication, creating a trusting environment for employees.

It’s not one size fits all, either. It depends on the context and there are lots of variables. That’s why we need empathetic leaders, in sync with people and their different circumstances. They need to be able to talk with them in an authentic way, able to create relationships based on listening.

As Lavinia Lenti, Direttrice HR at Sace said, “Future leaders need to be empathetic, inclusive, open to digital and innovation”. That’s why when the company trained its managers, they focused on three key principles: managing employees remotely, evaluating and developing employees (with a focus on gender diversity), as well as innovation, digital and data.

HR has the opportunity to work together with managers to favour engagement and motivation. It’s a chance to strengthen the leaders, where we need to “value their role as a guide for their teams. Just like we care for our children, we must care for our employees”, adds Lenti, who thinks “we need more job rotations and a mix of generations and genders at the higher levels of our organizations”.

Traditional training doesn’t go far enough

In this context, traditional training “is useless”, says Fabio Nebbia, HR Director at Coopservice. “Culture can be translated in ‘knowing how to be’, or rather the way things are done within the company”. So to create culture, we can’t focus solely on classic training methods: “We need to consider people for all they really are. And skills must be translated into behaviours that can be measured”.

On the other hand, work and life are no longer separated. Everything is connected within the professional sphere, and certain aspects such as flexibility and welfare are becoming more important than salaries and job titles. Nebbia believes “managers need to be aware of their people’s wellbeing and the reason that they come to work each day”.

A new type of training needs to be accompanies by leaders becoming new role models.Managers are asked to break down stereotypes and frameworks, and to do so we need a rich culture”, says Fabio Colacicco, Group HR Director at Banca Sella. He talked about three areas to highlight: disruption, growth and freedom.

People’s complexity brings more resources, because their traits allow them to demonstrate skills that would otherwise remain hidden in the workplace. By breaking down skills into behaviours, we can discover new transferable skills in both the professional and private spheres. Self-awareness is linked to life experiences, and can therefore become a substitute for traditional training. The more people find coherence in what they do, the more they behave ethically. That’s why managers need to be able to catch a hold of people’s complexity. And then treasure those precious resources.

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