A “purpose-driven leadership” for the strategy’s full success

In line with the evolving context, Hera has identified a new leadership model that it is now rolling out across the entire corporate population. Born from listening to the 10,000 people who work in the Group, the model is enriched by the use of a Generative Artificial Intelligence app, which evaluates behaviours in everyday life and allows practising those same behaviours by improving them according to feedback from reality.

At the heart of the new leadership model is the belief that the more people find an alignment between the purpose of what they do and the purpose of the Company, the more confident Hera will be in the successful execution of its strategy.

A further, recent Hera’s achievement is the certification gained for gender equality, which proves the reality of an inclusive and caring corporate culture. Hera has thus introduced its management system in accordance with the UNI/PdR 125:2022 reference practice.

On the strength of a long and genuine vocation to put gender equality into practice, Hera has processes in place that result in numbers that are already very flattering. However, the drive for continuous improvement pushes the company to do its part not only to set an example, but also to improve conditions in the external environment of the recruitment pool.

We discuss these two topics in a two-voice interview with Alessandro Camilleri, Central Director Personnel and Organisation, and Alessandra Galeotti, Head of Personnel, Innovation and Corporate Services.


What are the reasons that led you to evolve Hera’s leadership model?

Hera had already identified the exemplary leader as its leadership model back in 2010. Recently, we realised that a series of changes in the external scenario required not a simple adjustment but a deeper rethinking. Let’s think, for example, of the new evidence that emerged with the pandemic: in that case, it became clear how essential it is to have a clear mission in guiding decisions and behaviour at critical moments, with priorities that go beyond the financial dimension and that must also take into account the all-round well-being of people.

What understanding has driven you along the path to define the new leadership model?

We want people within our organisation to have the desire,
but also the ability, to identify the meaning of the things they do,
both in the work and private sphere, and to be able
to identify how best to align their role with the Company’s
multi-stakeholder mission

How did this new leadership take shape in the day-to-day activities of each of the almost 10,000 people working at Hera?

For the first time, we involved the entire workforce in defining the new leadership model: describing everyone’s day-to-day behaviour will help us align the meaning of everyone’s role with the achievement of the company’s mission.

Of course, we have defined competences that are differentiated according to levels of responsibility, paying great attention to the fact that the new leadership model can enable an effective implementation of our Change Plan.

After having rolled out a series of listening initiatives during 2023, at the end of the year we announced that we wanted to embrace the new model. At the beginning of 2024, we therefore held two kick-off events, first with the entire senior management in presence and then in streaming with plenary participation. Today, we are conducting a widespread training process that will take us to engage all the people at Hera by next June.

We are shaping a new concept
of emergent leadership that is applied,
disseminated and participated in as widely as possible.  

What are the training tools you have planned?

We decided to use different channels. In addition to typical classroom training, we have planned to use digital and innovative channels, such as Generative Artificial Intelligence, which, through a special application, is very useful for us to observe, analyse and offer new solutions in everyday behaviour. In practice, we not only analyse and classify behaviours on a typical 1-5 scale, but also offer the possibility to practice those behaviours. The approach is unique for all people. Then, of course, there are different levels of challenge depending on the individual’s level of responsibility.

Can you provide an example of how you employ this Gen AI app?

More than an evaluation exercise, it is a real dialogue that is developed with people. Let’s take the subject of complexity management as an example: we start with the recording of a speech that contains a description of behaviour. The app, which in the meantime has ‘practised’ and is familiar with our nomenclature, helps us to identify how to find a balance between the different dimensions of the service, in a choice between quality and speed. Similarly, in the field, it helps us to carry out interventions that ensure the highest efficiency without compromising the security of infrastructure and the safety of people.      

What reactions have you experienced to the adoption of the new model?  

All very favourable. Of course, in the younger generations it is more immediate to self-identify with a purpose-driven model. However, we have seen that through the training activities, even the senior figures, when they get to the heart of the new model, rediscover the roots of their own identity and regain the vocation that from the very beginning has characterised the actions of Hera, committed to creating value and giving it back to all its stakeholders.  

Hera was recently certified for gender equality. The Board also approved the Gender Equality Policy and appointed a Steering Committee to ensure its effective adoption. What is the significance of these new steps along a path that has seen Hera committed to gender equality since 2011, with results already widely recognised by its confirmed year-on-year presence in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index and the Refinitiv Global Diversity & Inclusion Index?

Indeed, the UNI/PdR 125:2022 system certifies a path we have been on for a long time. In a business that is predominantly male by nature, Hera has always wanted to protect and support women, ensuring fairness in the recruitment process, in career advancement and compensation, and over time introducing welfare tools that promote a better work-life balance. What is new today, therefore, is that we have asked to be certified on a model that we had adopted and deployed for some time. The significance of this effort lies above all in the will to send a message to the outside world, to the companies in our area, and demonstrate that the implementation of a serious programme to create gender equality makes a strong contribution to the success of the organisational model.

A key element of this certification experience
is that we did not have to change
anything about our processes
, we simply certified them.

Then, of course, we introduced a new Steering Committee, which did not exist before. But, basically, we did not need to revisit what we were doing before.

What is the added value for Hera from this certification effort?

For sure, we have an increased awareness. We now have numbers next to each individual process. We know how far we are from having a score of 100 on the individual aspects. We also have clear understanding about what we have to do to maintain the good levels already achieved and to close the gaps that still exist: this helps us in continuous improvement.

Which elements were the most challenging for you in this certification?

Overall, the path did not present great obstacles because we received good scores on average; however, on individual aspects, because of the way the KPIs of the certification are structured, it should be recognised that it is difficult to give a complete representation of the real margins for manoeuvre available to us to further improve the situation. In particular, on the fairness of career development, it is very difficult, for a company that relies on merit, every year to have exactly the same percentages of level changes for both genders. The same applies to pay alignment because, at the level of the individual company, in a single year it is difficult to have complete alignment even if the gender equality criteria are met.

Beyond the difficulties of metrics in capturing real fairness in treatment without sidelining merit, what are the obstacles Hera is struggling to overcome in implementing its policies?

The main issue is in the recruitment pool, which is unfortunately still penalising for us. In sectors such as ours, it is indeed difficult to find an equal number of male and female candidates: in university courses in STEM disciplines in Italy, there is still a strong male preponderance. Let us be clear: we are not passive in the face of this situation, as we have long been very active in promoting scholarships in technical disciplines dedicated to female students.

Are you satisfied with where you are today?

In absolute terms we can improve, but relative to the sector we are already at a good point. Today we have a female population incidence of 27.5%: this is 11% higher than the average for Italian utilities. Even in terms of female presence in positions of responsibility we have reached a level of 33%, which puts us in a pioneering position in the reference scenario. Since 2011, when we started our Diversity Management journey, we have always worked to improve processes, without letting ourselves get caught up in the desire to chase target numbers. Sometimes, in order to reach a certain number, wrong choices are made.

Instead, we believe that numbers will automatically improve
if the underlying processes become more effective.

Alessandro Camilleri, Alessandra Galeotti
Alessandro Camilleri, Alessandra Galeotti
14 May 2024
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