Unicredit Produzioni Accentrate Spa, Italy: Redeployment, training and development
Set up in 1999, Unicredit Produzioni Accentrate (UPA) provides administrative and accounting services to the banks and companies of the Unicredit Group, a bank group created by the merger of seven Italian banks. UPA’s core business covers all aspects of the back-office operations.
The company has 2,197 employees located in nine cities: Milan, Turin, Perugia, Bologna, Modena, Trento, Verona, Trieste and Treviso. Around 56% (1,231) of employees are women. Around 53% (1,168) are aged over 45 years and the number of older workers is increasing, even though recruiting favours younger workers. Employee turnover is low, but is balanced by mobility inside the Unicredit Group.
UPA values older workers because its specialised activities often require considerable experience. Younger employees get on well with older workers, respect their experience and try to learn from them. The company’s human resources department recently implemented age management initiatives.
Relationships between the company and the trade unions are generally good and cooperative, depending to the issue. However, the company bypassed the usual collective bargaining process and took most of the age-related initiatives on its own, merely informing the trade unions of its decisions.
The original initiative
UPA’s original initiative, which dealt with redeploying resources, was required in the setting up of the company after the consolidation of seven large banks into one group. The merger created the need for a central institution to deal with back-office operations. This initiative related particularly to workers aged over 45 years, who made up most of the back-office workforce.
Before the creation of UPA, back-office employees were considered less important than the younger employees who did front-office work. Setting up UPA instilled greater respect for both the back-office work and its workers, who felt more satisfied in a role that had gained dignity and relevance.
The redeployment of about 1,000 workers necessitated a large training exercise. Over time, more banks joined the Unicredit Group and their back-office workers were regularly seconded to UPA. This increased UPA’s employee numbers, especially those in the older age brackets. In 2001, 23.7% of the employees were aged over 50 years, in 2003, 25.2%, and by 2005, the proportion has reached 30.7% of employees.
The success of the initiative suggests that, in the case of internal reorganisation, it is better to avoid geographical transfers of employees, but focus instead on managing workers by age group.
Good practice today
In 1999, when seven banks merged to form the banking group, Unicredit, UPA was established to manage the group’s back-office business. This required the redeployment of many back-office employees, most of whom were aged over 45 years.
Both the company and the employees are satisfied with the redeployment, which was successful in terms of efficiency and productivity. The back-office employees, who were previously held in lower regard than their front-office colleagues, have developed strong feelings of loyalty and commitment to the company and are more satisfied with their work.
UPA provided an additional training programme exclusively devoted to its older employees. This course, for which 50 years is the minimum enrolment age, is designed to impart new skills and work strategies. It aims at helping older workers to deal with continuous change in job demands and to adjust to culture changes that result from merging several companies. It also tries to eliminate behaviours – such as those caused by low motivation, resistance to innovation and lack of self confidence – that negatively affect work performance. Above all, the training initiative aims at increasing respect for older workers, whom the company values highly.
In 2004, the company started a pilot project called ‘Over 50’ in its Turin centre, which involved 21 (around 30%) of the employees there who were aged over 50 years. The project was a three-day training course to develop relearning skills. Employees studied cognitive and memorisation strategies at three different levels: ethical, psychological and cognitive. The pilot project was so successful that the company has extended it to all of its older employees at all centres. Those who took part greatly appreciated the course. The company had decided on the training initiative and informed the trade unions, who approved it.
Although most older employees appreciated the course and hope that it will be repeated, some hesitated at the outset because of resistance to innovation and change. Some employees in Milan refused to take part in it because they perceived it, not as a favourable initiative, but as a discriminating intervention. Other employees were at first rather perplexed, but they became enthusiastic after taking the course. By encouraging cooperation and a general positive approach, the training improves relationships among the employees.
Another 2004 initiative was a survey of workers aged over 45 years, conducted by Laboratorio Armonia of SDA Bocconi of Milan. This involved a sample of 35 employees in all, with different professional designations from various companies, in four focus groups, as well as an interview with managers.
The results for UPA were excellent. They reveal that the company’s older workers strongly identify with their work, feel self-confident and believe that they can make a real contribution to the company. The results also find that older UPA workers have good relationships with their colleagues and are satisfied that the company appreciates their experience and professionalism.
Dr Anna Simioni, Responsible for the management of resources and organisation (firstname.lastname@example.org), Luigi Strabello, Responsible for the organisation management (email@example.com), Chiara Varri (Department of Resource Management –Training), Giuseppe Papotto (Department for Resource Management), Annida Sartorio (Responsible for the personnel of the Turin office and participant in the Over 50 project).
Workers’ representatives: Maurizio Calvitto (participant in the over 50 project and UILCA representative), Teresa Conti and Emanuela Dallapiccola (participants in the Over 50 project).