Do we need laws to tear down the “Glass Ceilings”?

A few days ago, on November 25, 'World day for Violence against Women', all the media and social networks reported the gruesome numbers of femicides committed in the last year (more than 100 women killed since the beginning of 2022 in Italy alone) and the chilling videos of what happens to Iranian women - and in the rest of the world.

During the other 364 days of the year, the news that shocks with impressive stories and images is still accompanied by the sensation caused by the election of a female Prime Minister (last but not least, the election of the Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ), while the appointment of the new Rector of the Milan Polytechnic fades almost into the background.

Donatella Sciuto, one of the 50 most influential Italian women in technology with a respectable curriculum vitae, dotted with important positions that could only lead her to very high goals, has been elected to lead the prestigious Italian university. There was talk of another "glass ceiling" being broken.

The same phrase was used recently by Ursula von der Leyen to give the green light from the European Parliament to the Directive on Women on Boards of Directors.

By the end of June 2026, all large companies listed in the European Union will have to reserve at least 40% of Non-Executive Director posts and 33% of total Director posts to women. This consensus comes 10 years after the European Commission's proposal and on which the current President commented: “The glass ceiling that prevented women from accessing top positions in companies has been broken. It's a truly historic and moving moment."

But is it still necessary to 'guarantee' with legislative provisions the access of women to institutional positions (the quotas raised in politics) or to the top management of a company of any kind? Wouldn't it be enough simply to recognize the merit, the careful preparation, the experience gained, the performances obtained as it happens when it is a man aspires to certain positions?

We certainly think that it would be more important and necessary to 'protect' women's lives with more restrictive legislative measures aimed at defending them from the harassment they suffer in many areas of daily life, from work to family.

In conclusion, it is important to make women autonomous and to recognize their independence, but it is essential to protect the freedom with which they decide to live. Only then, in our opinion, will the "glass ceiling" really be broken.

Does a shorter working week equal being more productive and happier? 

Many talk about it, some countries have tested it, some governments have encouraged it and more and more companies are starting to experiment with it around the world.

We are talking about the 'short' work week, reduced to 4 working days, from Monday to Thursday, with a long weekend of 3 days - and of course, without a reduction in pay.

In the post-pandemic era, several economists and sociologists highlight how important it is for companies to consider not just offering interesting salaries and benefits but, and above all guaranteeing  a work-life balance that allows a clear improvement in quality of life.

Among the voices that support the validity of the 4-day work week, is that of Juliet Schor, Economist and Sociologist at Boston College, committed to studying the experiments in progress of the short week around the world. Her research focuses on the intersection of work, society, consumption and climate change. From tests conducted in Great Britain, the United States, Ireland and New Zealand, in the public and private sectors, the results are very clear and all in favour of the short week: workers are less stressed, have a better social life, appreciate more their work and, while it might seem absurd, they are absolutely more productive. In fact, while spending less time at work, people are not working less, because in exchange for a free day to devote to family, hobbies or personal needs, they make better use of their working time by increasing their productivity, without penalizing the quality of results.

Companies that embrace the short week must be convinced that spending less time at work helps workers to find the physical and mental energy needed to be more lucid and focused.. In addition, they can support their employees with a reorganization of work, for example by eliminating or limiting, as much as possible, the less productive and non-essential activities.

Juliet Schor's research then highlights the impact that the reduction of the working week has on the climate crisis. With the four-day week, commuting is obviously reduced, creating a dynamic of long-term decarbonisation. Because when people are stressed by time, they aim to choose faster and more polluting modes of travel and daily activities, while when they have more time they tend to have a lower carbon footprint.

But the biggest reason has to do with the size of the economy. By choosing to work less, countries are choosing not to expand production to the maximum, thus avoiding additional emissions. As evidenced by the carbon-related success stories of Germany and Denmark which have low annual hours. France and the Netherlands also have low carbon emissions and working times.

And in Italy? Taking into account that our country is the second in Europe for the amount of hours worked per week (on average 7 more than those of Germany), the pandemic has led to greater work flexibility - an important development of smart-working and also to the phenomenon of the great resignations.

So in Italy some companies have also started experimenting with the short week. The first were medium-sized companies operating mostly in the digital, marketing and communication sector, but it is news these days that the largest Italian banking group, Intesa San Paolo, is proposing to its employees they reduce the week to four working days, spreading the 36 hours over 4 days, with unchanged salaries.

Negotiations with the trade unions are underway, but it is certain that the work of the 21st century goes in this direction and, as Juliet Schor also points out in her TED speech, it is necessary that governments understand the importance of reducing the working week and take charge of encouraging it, as happens in Spain and Belgium, to go beyond the enlightened companies that already see the virtues of this new work organization.

Learn a trade for a rainy day. And share it.

The 'boomers over 50' heard their grandparents say, "Learn the art and put it aside". And they believed in it, because animated by passion and ambition, experience after experience, stress after stress (yes, even stress is training!), they have conquered job positions that, for at least twenty years, have seen them work, at various levels, within companies or multinationals.

These professionals, managers and executives, aware that they have acquired the right skills to move forward with their careers, ready to share their knowledge with the new generation, in the mid-2000s begin to be 'expelled' from a world of work that favours the entry of a younger and (apparently) more agile, better prepared and cheaper workforce.

The unexpected advent of an economic crisis and corporate reorganizations related to unbridled modernization affect a very specific age group: that of 40-60 years. Men and women not yet close to retirement, but for some already too 'old' for a corporate system that must renew itself and save money.

These 'Young Old People' - as the Financial Times defined them - with proven experience are no longer able to find adequate job opportunities, nor are they able to 'recycle themselves' within corporate structures; they can only aspire to consultancy activities or, the more enterprising, try the way of the Start-Up.

After about 20 years, the world of work and the corporate system appear lost and disoriented also due to the pandemic that changed the rules of the game. We realize that we have underestimated, in recent years, precisely that part of the workforce who have not been given a second chance:

The over 50s are now ideal tutors for the growth of internal staff, being less influenced by the logic of "consortiums" or working for oneself more than for the company.

And it is to the relaunch of these 'Young-Olds' that, in our opinion, the work of the Head Hunters must focus. As with  art, experience should not be cast aside, but instead be transformed into precious and 'transmissible' skills which will increase the profitability and cultural values

From the 7th -12th  June, the 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile was again on stage in Milan.

After a subdued September 2021, due to the many lockdowns, this edition was the first encouraging sign of recovery. It presented itself as big and busy:

"The 60th Salone Del Mobile has confirmed that it is a winning formula that cannot be ignored,” said the President of the association Federlegno Arredo Claudio Feltrin, speaking on behalf of a supply chain that brings together 70,000 companies, with 294,000 employees with a turnover of almost 50 billion euros.

On the front of the social media, 13.5 million accounts were reached, with more than 50,000 contents being generated by the community using the official hashtags (#salonedelmobile2022 and #salonedelmobile60th), 600,000 video views, 120,000 interactions with content and 25 million impressions. In the last week alone, the site has recorded 4.8 million page views with an average of 100,000 daily users (69.2% from Italy, 30.8% from abroad), and a 42% increase in new users registered on the platform.

The great interest of the Social Media for the Salone del Mobile comes also from the acknowledgement of the huge efforts of modernization which have been made in these 2 years,  not only on the suppliers’ side , but also by the international buyers, and the organizers of the Salone.

This year, the focus on sustainability has made the Salone an international stage for business ideas and technological solutions capable of contributing to the protection of the environment - also in the Furniture Sector. Digitalization has also arrived in the Furniture market, one of the most conservative ones in Italy.

Guglielmo and our team are in contact with the Federlegno Association, planning a further collaboration on a bigger scale. We will keep you updated!

The Challenge of Talent Retention

The talent pool in some markets is highly competitive, with candidates receiving multiple offers simultaneously. This is, in part, related to the “Great Resignation”, where approximately 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021 while there were still more than 10 million job openings.

A survey run from Linkedin in 2021 on more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. found that 47% said the coronavirus pandemic changed how they feel about their careers.

While the Great Resignation was mostly driven by mid-career employees, Executives have also been seeking new opportunities at faster than usual rates.

Europe appears to be experiencing a different type of crunch, driven by long-term demographic trends.  Each year, the number of executives in the Baby Boomer generation are retiring at greater rates, while the next generation is considerably smaller. In fact, the pandemic has likely sped up this trend, with many Baby Boomers either being forced out of the workforce or leaving voluntarily in order to maximize their quality of life.

There is a shift in generations in the labour force, including the leadership roles.

Voluntary resignation trend in Italy 2017-2021 (Labour Statistics Office)

The Leadership Role

With new challenges and rapidly changing market conditions, organizations need to redefine leadership roles in their organization. That can range from areas of responsibilities and structure, but it is as much about the soft skills a leader brings to the table as it is about their industry knowledge and expertise.

Former Best Buy CEO, Hubert Joly , interviewed  by an MIT Research  in January 2021, observes, “All of us have to rewire ourselves for a new way of leading. What’s the purpose of work?  I’ve been CEO for 15 years, and the initial part of my time as CEO was much easier because it was purely about the business. But now it’s broader”

The Purpose Gap  

The same research reports that the 72% of respondents of more than 4,000 managers and executives interviewed , strongly agreed that it is very important to them to work for an organization with a purpose they believe in, but only 49% strongly agreed that they believed  in their organization’s purpose.

Digital Competences and Context Collapse

They require a new executive’s mind set and leadership style:

Profit Purpose & Values
Hierarchical Pyramids Network of Teams
Business knowledge Digital & Business Disruption
Directive Leadership Supportive Leadership
Rules & Control Trust and Self Control
Business Hours at office No boundaries home/work

Donatella Paschina
Associate Partner, Milan

We spoke with our team in Milan about Christmas traditions in Italy.

There are Christmas traditions in Italy that are widespread practically everywhere in the country, such as the Christmas tree and the nativity scene. To be fair, however, the Christmas tree is much more common in the north of Italy, while the nativity scene in more common in the centre and south.

In some areas of northern Italy, it is not Santa Claus who brings the gifts, but Saint Lucia. This tradition persists, for example, in the provinces of Cremona but also Brescia, Bergamo and Verona. In particular, the tradition of Santa Lucia is very much felt in Lombardy and Veneto: in Verona it is said that during the holidays of 1200 in the city an epidemic spread that affected the sight of children and that, to avert it, the mothers decided to make their little ones go on a pilgrimage asking for the grace of Saint Lucia, protector of the blind. To persuade the children, they promised that the Saint would have them find gifts on their return. From that moment, on the night between 12 and 13 December, Veronese children, like the Lombards, are waiting for Saint Lucia to carry the gifts on the back of her donkey.

A typical custom of Trentino Alto Adige  is that of the Advent Wreath. Each family makes a wreath with fir branches and intertwined red silk ribbons, inserting 4 candles on this wreath. Every Sunday before Christmas day, families gather to light one, waiting together for December 25th.

In the centre of Italy there is another widespread custom, that of bagpipers - that is, musicians who roam the streets of the villages playing typically Christmas songs with their bagpipes. Sometimes they even knock on doors, cheering with their music in exchange for an offering.

When it comes to Christmas traditions regarding food, while in some regions there is a tendency to celebrate in style during the Christmas lunch, in others the most noteworthy event is that of the Christmas Eve dinner on December 24th. Just think, for example, of the Christmas traditions in Sicily: in some mountain villages, on the night of the 24th, bonfires are lit to warm the Child Jesus. Furthermore, many families, after the usual dinner, tell tales and legends to each other, to entertain the children waiting for Santa Claus.

Of course, these are just some of the Christmas traditions scattered around Italy. While not covering all regions, however, they represent an excellent starting point for a symbolic journey which, we hope, can help to put our international Friisberg family into a merry Christmas mood.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

September is a fresh start for Milan.

After two years of absence in light of the pandemic, September 2021 represents a new beginning for the city:

Milan is going through a slow and gradual reopening - it is seeking a new way of restarting.

Milan Design Week was one of the most anticipated design events to take place in Italy, and it has finally opened its doors to visitors. From the 5th- 10th of September, more than 350,000 architects, designers, artists, and craftspeople from all around the world had the chance to explore new design innovations and exchange ideas about interior design, furniture, and lighting. During the week-long event, Salone del Mobile, the renowned furniture and interior design event of the year, hosted local and international exhibitors at the Fiera Milano, Rho, along with interventions by world-renowned architects across the city.

New this year was the Supersalone, the special event of the Salone del Mobile, curated by the architect Stefano Boeri, that marks the restart in our
post-pandemic city. There were 425 brands in the four pavilions and 1,900 projects on display with spaces dedicated to companies and small consumers. The emphasis was on the smart component and the rediscovery of the home as an environment in which to live. There were 30,000 tickets only on the first day (the expectations were 50,000 for all six days), of which half were foreign visitors. And as we walk through the pavilions, the amount of visitors is undeniable.

"Milan is moving and, with Milan, Italy is moving again," said the Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala. "It is an event that brings to the world the positive image of our city and the country. I welcome and endorse the invitation of President Mattarela, who I thank for his presence, to assume our responsibilities. Milan takes responsibility and wants to lead the restart.".

Guglielmo Sallustio
Partner, Milan

Guglielmo Sallustio, who leads our office in Milan, announced today that Apis has now officially rebranded as Friisberg & Partners International, Italy in recognition of its growing traction in both its Italian and International markets.

Guglielmo said, “We are excited to enter our next phase as Friisberg, Italy. We will, of course, continue to offer the same client-centric approach and meet the growing needs of our clients as we deliver strategic talent solutions at senior and executive level across a wide variety of sectors and geographies. After successfully building our service offering and reputation, we’re proud to align fully with Friisberg, which embodies our modern vision and direction. We’re excited to see what the future holds for us as we build on our established position as thought leaders on leadership in Italy. The benefits to our clients and candidates are immense. Our expanded team of consultants offer greater industry experiences, additional sector specialists and an even more extensive network across Europe, and beyond.”

Friisberg & Partners International operates in highly competitive and fast-moving global markets. Our core values are discretion, commitment and integrity and it’s crucial to our clients that these values are inherent and evident in every aspect of our business; having a strong brand that conveys these values is an important part of ensuring this. As a unified firm, we provide an unparalleled end to end talent solution, without borders, for our clients.

Zoltan Petho, Chair of Friisberg & Partners International, welcomed the rebrand, “Friisberg remains focused on its strategy to expand and innovate to connect clients to talent, internationally. We have made it our purpose to grow with our clients, as individuals and as a team, and this news from Italy confirms our growing significance in European Executive Search.”

The expansion of Friisberg & Partners International is going from strength to strength. It is a philosophy of ‘collective intelligence’ that truly sets us apart as a consultancy-led search firm and enables us to provide unparalleled service to our clients. That we work for a client, together, across multiple Friisberg offices, is one of the many reasons why our clients choose us.

The advantages

For some time now, environmental sustainability has been one of the most important issues globally involving governments, businesses and consumers.

Consumers have never been so aware of the environment as they are today, and in turn this affects the organisational and business processes of companies. Consequently the importance of communicating sustainability is growing dramatically - and on a global scale.

This is why Green Marketing is a new approach for business that aims to develop, promote and enhance products and services which generate a reduced environmental impact compared to the alternatives offered in the market.

The search for environmental sustainability leads to the creation of new products and new lifestyles, making better alternatives accessible, not only for the planet but also for humanity.

What does this mean?

To reduce the environmental impact of the work process, one must invest in sustainable projects, embrace as a team a philosophy aligned to this and commit to communicate it.

Does my business have an environmental impact?

To make sustainability a core value of your brand you must start with critical self analysis.

Post-analysis, and with attainable goals identified, it is essential to involve all employees. Consistency is the first ingredient of green marketing. Therefore all individual participants must be trained and must participate in all activities with awareness. Very often, in order to achieve goals, it is necessary for the employees themselves to change some of their habits.

The obvious assumption of Green Marketing is that potential consumers will see a "green" product or service as an advantage and base their purchase decision accordingly. It is a positive choice as it combines trade, technology, social effects and ecology. It is an activity that is both commercial and environmental, because it deals with selling sustainable goods and services in an equally sustainable way.

Companies that develop new and improved products, and services with environmental inputs in mind give themselves access to new markets, increase the sustainability of their profits and enjoy a competitive advantage over companies that do not care about the environment.

To implement a Green Marketing strategy you must focus on 4 components:

as well as sustainable partnerships with entities or other companies.

It is often necessary to develop new products in the search for innovative materials, and be able to match high performances with a reduced environmental impact.

Furthermore, sustainable product innovation must not only concern the environmental impact of the production and transport of goods, but also the way in which it is used by consumers, for the reduced impact to be maintained throughout the life cycle of the product.

In the absence of a strategic foundation Green Marketing makes no sense and can also be harmful - it cannot be done just because it’s fashionable or because it could bring more contacts to the company. In fact environmental communication which is not based on real elements involves great risks, such as the loss of credibility, the waste of resources or, worse, the accusation of greenwashing.

Green Marketing is certainly not the solution to the problem of climate catastrophe, but it is a way to make people participate in the issue, as it offers ecology creative and effective tools to spread the message.

Marketing is just the tip of the iceberg, the rest of the company must work to make the supply of resources, production and distribution sustainable.

It is only a small part of the solution, but it is certainly the most visible and therefore has a fundamental role because it can influence consumers and change their consumption styles.

Guglielmo Sallustio
Partner, Milan

The Digital Revolution:

Many companies are in a process of epochal change.

The Italian Experience...

Digital transformation is now a strategic priority for companies in all sectors and the past year, due to the pandemic, has highlighted even more gaps in larger companies.

Digital technologies are present in our daily lives and are also forcing companies to change - it is no longer possible to procrastinate.

The increasingly widespread adoption of the Cloud, the introduction of the IoT (Internet of Thing), the need to give value to the enormous amount of data, are causing to all industries to undergo a radical change in processes, in their ways of working and in the corporate culture itself.

Research conducted by Accenture The European Double Up: A twin Strategy that will Strengthen Competitiveness of 4,051 executives of European companies was presented at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum last January. It underlined that for European companies to return to levels of profitability before the pandemic would take 18 months and only 32% of companies expect to realize an increase in profits in the next 12 months. These latter realities, defined as "the leading companies of tomorrow", will focus on the adoption of digital, together with the implementation of sustainability actions. The study shows that around half (45%) of European companies are prioritizing investments in both digital transformation and sustainability, with 40% of companies planning to make large investments in the field of artificial intelligence, 37 % in the cloud and 31% in sustainability.

In Italy, a survey made by the European Investment Bank, still highlights a low focus of Italian companies on innovation with just 17% having concentrated investments in innovation relating to the introduction of software and digital technologies. Proof of the benefits of digitization is the analysis of the productivity level which shows that digitized companies perform better and are more dynamic than non-digitized ones. The EIBIS survey shows the average productivity of digital companies in Italy is 12.3 %, more than 11.7% of non-digitized companies. Furthermore, in the last three years, companies that have undertaken innovations in the digital field have had a growth trend of the workforce higher than that of companies that have not implemented digital technologies. There is no doubt, in fact, that digital transformation requires a profound cultural change and the acquisition of new skills and profiles, which often come from the digital world.

The technologies that drive this transformation are many, such as:

Production and logistics managers as well as network managers will need to acquire more and more new skills in this area to be able to lead the change.

Guglielmo Sallustio
Partner, Italy

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