Axa Italia, commitment and co-design for a hybrid and smart work

Axa Italy rethinks the way of working by focusing on a hybrid arrangement that includes the office and Remote Working, and on activity-based logic. Part of an insurance group operating globally in insurance protection and asset management with a total turnover of 133 billion euros, the Italian division – which has 3 offices (Milan, Turin and Rome), 1,800 employees, 650 agencies and 4 million customers – based on its mission “to act for the progress of humanity by protecting what matters”, it has always also cared about protecting the people who work in the company.

The approach to the Smart Working paradigm, which began in 2016, fits into this framework.

He told it Pascal Bernard, Head of H&S / Skill Lab / Program Manager New Ways Of Work in Axa Italia which, on the occasion of the Digital Transformation Academy Observatory’s third workshop on the theme “Smart & Hybrid Working”, reproduced the work done over the years in hybrid working and the next steps from now to the next months.

Trust and a sense of responsibility are at the heart of the “smart” strategy

From 2016 to 2019, the interventions in Axa Italy focused on the redefinition of the concept of “space”, to help employees and managers free work from the physical place, and therefore no longer linked to the concept of office, as ” business that must performed”. In this phase, the company has worked on two fronts: on the one hand, technology that allows access to the company’s systems, anytime and anywhere, and on the other hand, on people’s trust and sense of responsibility. In addition, there has been a redefinition of workspaces through the introduction of desktop sharing. These interventions led to 74% of business partners experience Smart Workingworks on average one day a week remotely.

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In 2020, with the pandemic, people were working “full remote”, with sporadic returns to the office on a voluntary basis. Although induced, this was the second revolution for Axa Italia in Smart Working, which made 96% of collaborators work remotely. A situation that has shown that Remote Working does not jeopardize productivity: in fact, all the company’s goals have been achieved.

The future of work at Axa Italia

In general, the situation created by the pandemic was an opportunity for Axa Italia to carry out a large-scale test, and the positive results made the company review the logic of agile work, work with culture and awareness.

Not only that, starting from the assumption that in the last two years the concept of Smart Working has often been used incorrectly, confusing what is “smart” with what is “remote control”, Axa Italia has decided to pursue a model that not only allows the activities that were previously managed in the office to be carried out from another location. And to do this, the company works on empowerment, that is, on strengthening employees and refocusing the needs of customers and the team, in close cooperation with people. “This is a co-design process that we carry out with business partners and managers. Everyone has a different culture, and in our opinion, having a single model wouldn’t work effectively and we wouldn’t really meet everyone’s needs,” said Benard. Hence the adoption of a “test and learn” approach, which provides a moment of confrontation where the different work teams will be called to periodically question the way we work with a view to continuous improvement. And this is where another key element comes into play: for the model to work, management must no longer only operate according to rules defined at company level, but according to principles. It was therefore decided that each team can define its own operating rules based on the common business principles. This will make it possible to enhance people’s maturity and empowerment. Fundamental to this approach will be the use of data to support analysis and decision-making.

The three phases of Axa Italia’s path: engage, co-design the change journey and develop capabilities

The path taken by Axa Italia was structured in three phases: engage, co-design the change journey and develop capabilities. In the first phase of engage, specific workshops were organized for collaborators at all company levels with the aim of involving them and making them part of the project. From here, the co-design phase started, which started with an assessment of people’s maturity, carried out with the administration of a survey with situational questions based on the maturity model devised by the Smart Working Observatory of the Politecnico of Milan. The results showed that the individual’s sense of maturity does not exactly reflect the behavior of the same people. The assessment phase is essential to build an action plan for people and managers to help them become more productive and motivate them. Managers have always had an important guiding role in the company, but in a hybrid context it is people who must be mature and responsible. Soon there will be another assessment aimed at examining the team’s working methods and the involvement of people, which will give the company a more solid foundation on which to build future work models.


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