Case Study Report IRES F.V.G.
Development of case study
The involvement of IRES F.V.G. in the project DivCap. and the decision to participate in the interview is the result of a preliminary meeting with the company contact person and manager of Equal Opportunities, C. C.
In a meeting of more than one hour the interviewer explained in detail the project and its aims and involved the Institution in the research phase.
This interview represented for IRES F.V.G. an opportunity to get feedback from an external entity coming from interviews with internal staff, and also a way to assess how the staff considers the element of diversity within the organisation and in relation to external customers (students). The interviewer let the leaders of the IRES F.V.G. decide the people to interview considering the fact that the Institute has two offices, one in Udine (bigger) and one in Trieste (minor). The control by the top management on the staff in Udine is rather simple, but the one on the staff in Trieste more complicated.
For this reason we were invited to carry out two separate interviews in Udine (with the manager and with a teacher – internal staff) and an interview with a group of two people in Trieste (with an internal teacher that is also referent for educational activities and with an administrative). The first interview was held in Trieste the 23/09/2019 with a teacher and educational staff (coordinator) and someone from the supportive non educational staff (secretary/administration/ reception)
The second interview was held in Udine the 03/10/2019 with the manager and an internal teacher.
The interviewer was Sara Dandelon (Cramars)
Description of the organisation
The I.R.E.S. F.V.G. Institute of Economic and Social Research of Friuli Venezia Giulia, active since 1983, is a Social Enterprise, from about 6/7 years – 2012/2013, a non-profit association with legal personality recognized by the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The company deals with training, research and consultancy for companies and public bodies, for the promotion of the economic, social, environmental and cultural development of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is an independent company. The mission is not visible from the website from which, however, information can be obtained about the fact that the institute deals with various projects aimed at including people who are in disadvantaged situations, disabled, people with low schooling, etc. The website also has a page entitled “immigration”, in which IRES specifies that it has paid particular attention to the migratory phenomena that have affected Friuli Venezia Giulia in recent years. There are however three pillars that characterize IRES, which are: Training, Research and Advice on and for the territory. The institute is very attentive to changes in society and keeps its eyes open on transformations.
In fact, a mission does not exist but there is a sharing of corporate values among the staff, in daily practice, which arises from the problems that are faced.
Until 2008 the institute had 85 employees, now there are 35 employees and 15 collaborators (in the context of Udine and Trieste). Since 2008, at the time of the crisis, the institute has been forced to question its original values, and from this moment of crisis some good practices have remained, regarding the organisation and management of staff (which is done in a shared manner). No more new staff has been hired since then, but the mission is explained orally to those who, as externals (a new external teacher, etc.) enter the company.
From the interview with the manager, it emerges that in fact there are internal guidelines for internal and external managers and staff, regarding equal opportunities (on which a formal work has been done as one of the members, also of the board, Chiara Cristini, is the contact person and a provincial councillor -province of Pordenone). It was therefore developed a document and a program that allows to monitor the situation of equal opportunities in the company. Inside the institute there are referent people who in some way force the staff to keep the attention on equal opportunities (which over time everyone has adopted); twice a year, during the members meetings, the point of the situation on gender policies adopted by the institution is shared.
Regarding company organisation in general, the tools used for the development of activities are based on project advancements, work with objectives and results, identification and achievement of annual objectives. The sharing method is based on internal laboratories to deal with issues, perspectives and proposals, together with all staff members.
The organisation adopts the management of diversity for generic reasons, because it is a social enterprise, and this is then concretised with standardised procedures included in this kind of companies.
About internal diversity, what emerges are the differences in individual values (although the entity is a no-profit, it must be supported, but many employees behave like public employees and are not proactive).
Regarding the students, instead, diversity is more complex as the users of the training services are varied, and often the institution is confronted with various difficulties of the average user, in fact the population of the trainees has changed. The Institute must deal daily with users with enormous expectations but little professionalism or desire to do things, they expect everything from others. Courses’ participants are not selected, but sent by the national employment centre; mainly they are courses for the unemployed and for this reason users are mixed in age, cultural background, competence, gender, etc.
According to the trainer, “diversity” represents a richness from the cultural point of view and the growth of people, we are talking about a sort of fluid society that is better to manage rather than letting it manage you.
The basic learner of the institution is already a fragile person, identifying the “different” is almost secondary.
From the point of view of the migrant population, fragility lies above all in adapting to the customs and habits of the place with problems relating to: cleanliness, course attendance, respect for timetables, ways of presenting oneself to others, civic behaviour, sharing, great expectations for work, heterogeneous age group, mental health, originality difficult to manage, generic fragility. From the vision of the company’s website, in reconstruction, no information emerges, images that refer to the involvement of the institution with a focus on migrants; on the other hand, however, the images and information are very neutral so that the diversity of any type (gender, sexual address, age, etc.) do not emerge.
Summarised, the organisation IRES F.V.G. is a research and consultancy firm that collects research in the field of education and employment. A private organisation with 2 offices (Udinese and Trieste). The collected research data is urgent for regional economic development plans and matching issues (education and employment) aimed at the business community. It considers itself as a social enterprise with knowledge in this field (as the only organisation). It is a fairly task-oriented organisation and (semi-government oriented approach, the employees act as civil servants, serviceoriented).
Institutional in the migrant society
There is no specific focus of the institute for migrants or political refugees, but the institution works a lot and in collaboration with the associations that deal with the integration of migrants and political refugees, IRES is involved in training and in inclusion projects and deals with the training of the unemployed including many migrants or people of foreign origin.
Specifically, being a research organisation, an analysis on regional migration flows was commissioned to IRES by the region Friuli Venezia Giulia.
In the case of the Trieste branch, it is a border city with Slovenia, therefore involved in welcoming passers-by to the border, specific courses were organized for political refugees in collaboration with Caritas for individual consultancy and entrepreneurial training. As regards the Udine headquarters, especially about courses for unemployed that include mixed groups, the percentage of attending students with migrant origins cannot be defined, but 10/15% of the total courses (including the Trieste office) is specifically dedicated to refugees (their data refers to the years 2018/2019).
Only in the Trieste office all courses in general involve 40% of people with migratory backgrounds or refugees who are present for about 25/30% in courses for unemployed.
One comment made by the interviewees about this target group is that the dropout rate is quite high (as they attend courses exclusively for job placement, but when they understand that IRES is not a temporary agency that can make them work in the immediate future or when they find a job even of short duration, due to contingent needs, they leave the courses), often the courses specifically dedicated to political refugees have short duration (12 hours) and are generally dedicated to linguistic literacy. From 2002 to 2008 IRES took care of the Statistical Yearbook dedicated to immigration for the FVG Region.
The visibility of the organisation (mission document, vision diversity) is insufficient. Also in terms of the use of communication tools that in terms of language are also aimed at reaching certain client groups.
Human Resource Management
IRES employs a total of 50 internal persons – 35 employees and 15 collaborators (with VAT number/contract) employed long term plus a long list, which changes from year to year, of trainers and external collaborators useful for the development of training courses. None of which has a migration background. While recognizing the important intercultural competence, there are no elements that make such competences emerge if not specifically required for the management of particular target groups or users. The institution tends, both externally and internally, to use a neutral approach, so there are no differences, if not related to the competence needed to perform a particular task.
From an organisational point of view, the approach is to work in the field and when a problem arises, solve it in agreement with the service manager.
There is a formal document on equal opportunities and more referents regarding this topic that are available to suggest methods and find solutions, if necessary. The same referents twice a year, following a constant monitoring, report to the assembly about bringing back the results of the work or projects carried out.
Concerning the recruitment, which has not been carried out since 2008, curricula arrived from selfnomination or through the national employment centre and the resumes were usually evaluated in order to follow the neutrality policy that distinguishes the institution. If limits were indicated, these only concerned the minimum skills possessed.
The institution website includes a specific page related to immigration that concerns research curated by IRES from 2002 to 2008 for the FVG Region regarding the Statistical Yearbook dedicated to immigration. This allowed the organisation to have all contacts with the immigrants in the region. In direct form and for the management of the courses, IRES collaborates with the major referents and associations among which in the area of Udine we can mention:
- Oikos – https://www.oikosonlus.net
- Caritas – http://www.caritasudine.it
- Ospiti in arrivo – https://ospitinarrivo.org
- Caritas – https://caritastrieste.it
- ICS (Italian Solidarity Consortium – Refugee Office) – http://www.icsufficiorifugiati.org
The Trieste group also collaborates with various cultural mediation associations, various cooperatives and above all Slovenian trade associations. For vocational training courses the institution is in contact with shipbuilding companies in the area of Trieste and Monfalcone (where there are employed mainly foreigners) where IRES places migrants for on-the-job training or for internships or training internships.
In the promotion of active courses or entrepreneurship, the institution collaborates with these immigration-related associations for the distribution of promotional leaflets to their users, this applies not only to migrants but also to other types of diversity, in fact IRES maintains regular contacts with centres of mental health, Casa delle Donne (woman’s house) and ICS to integrate their users in the training courses they organize. Usually, from an organisational point of view, only some people of IRES have contacts with such networking which are the leaders and the coordinators of entrepreneurship courses or company courses.
Among the educators there are no differences, except in the obvious field of competence and no problems are found.
With regard to support for migrants, reference is made to the tools valid for all courses such as the guidance of the course by a coordinator and the availability of a tutor for each problem identified in relation to classmates, trainers, training environment, tools available, information on formalities etc. In some cases, financial data or financial aids are given (purchase of bus tickets, train, contribution for lunch, etc.)
The Trieste branch is able to manage the participants of migratory origins independently, in Udine they sometimes make use of the professionalism of the cultural mediators.
A major support for this target is the use in the classroom of tools facilitated for understanding the topics covered, such as videos, group work, role-playing games, sometimes in some courses the main purpose is not to train people but to better amalgamate the class.
The most important challenges for trainers, who are often professionals in the field they teach (they have their own company) are those of letting migrants perceive the usefulness of the course (often students are passing through, sometimes with a different destination than Italy and, in some cases, it is difficult to make them understand that it is important that they learn Italian) especially the usefulness of training in the long term, because what generally characterizes groups of foreign users is their “urgency” to be placed both bureaucratically (recognition of citizenship or administrative documents) and at work (must survive)
The teachers interviewed answer that for them the greatest challenge is the cultural one, they must know the diversity that they will face in class to be able to manage it e.g. the situation of economic, physical and mental distress, etc. To try to understand they often inform and / or ask for advice to other trainers who had similar experiences of diversity to manage.
Summarising, the organisation does not focus on diversity policy. Nor is it its core business. The Equal Opportunities project is the only starting point (as a project with other cooperation partners/Charitas) regarding the relationship with diversity (migrants) and influx of labour migrants. Nevertheless, the institution considers itself to be a specialist in the field of influx of migrants and acknowledges to have the know-how as an organisation. There are no migrant workers in the workforce. There is a discrepancy between desirable and actual. On the one hand, the organisation is of the opinion that it has an intercultural personnel policy and has migrants among its client groups (although this is minimal).
Personal Impressions of interviewed people
|Open to collaboration
Great willingness to collaborate on the part of everyone, despite being interviewed by a “competing” institution (Cramars). Opening, especially by a teacher, to make available all the smallest details on the work done in the classroom (a sort of sharing of good practices)
Preparation of the management
The manager was available to provide additional information
Different opinions confirm the results
The interview with small groups or individuals allowed to identify the different perspectives (institution or teacher worker) and how they deal with the topic diversity
Diversity is not perceived as such
The perception of the different within the entity is equal to the perception of normality
Availability of basic documents
They have a manual / regulation on equal opportunities
There is internal exchange
A good company practice emerges, not underlined in detail, of internal exchange of information and internal sharing laboratories
|Lack of time availability
The manager had little time to answer the interview questions because he missed the scheduled time
There is no clear idea about diversity
It was difficult to identify what could be defined for IRES “different”
The documents are not public or published
The manual description on Equal Opportunities was not available online not shared with interviewer
The manner of internal meetings is not clear
It did not emerge whether their internal sharing meetings/tables deal only with objectives or bring up also problems, possible solutions and good practices
Commitment with mission statement and diversity policy
All the interviewees seem to have very clear the objectives and values of the institution although there is nothing written or a mission statement except the paper, which everyone must know, about equal opportunities. This forcing, according to a teacher, allowed him and others, outside the organisation, to know the theme of equal opportunities and with time, also to develop a deep sensitivity on this topic.
The entity in itself and by its nature is a body in which diversity becomes normality for this reason and respondents are prepared to confront each type of diversity; the greatest limit is foreseen by accessibility as, for example, in some cases the elevators are not large enough to accommodate a regular wheelchair and safety instructions are not made for blind people.
What should be changed?
What emerged, from the preliminary meeting with the equal opportunities manager first, and with the management later, is the fact that, for the staff, more than having a manual for diversity management, it would be useful to share roles and activities that everyone should carry out in order to follow the company intent. According to the managers, the staff’s attitude is not so much about co-responsibility as it is about working as little as possible, adapting more to personal schedules than to the needs of learners and clients.
It would be interesting when the staff had a mission statement and that in the official website there was information in other languages as well, giving also an approach that reveals the users of the company. Neutrality is sometimes counterproductive for those who are already struggling to speak our language and do not recognize themselves as users in the images. It would be interesting if the teachers could compare and create a manual of good practices on how to deal with certain problems in the classroom, especially related to the understanding and easiness of the tools made available.
What should not be changed?
- The participatory approach and the sharing of objectives by the staff.
- The commitment that some staff members have towards the institution.
The language regarding diversity within the organisation
During Trieste’s interview (2 persons) the trainer and course referent spoke more than the administrative, so I asked individual opinions from both, and feedback and confirmation about main sentences or agreements.
Significant differences in the way people are looking at and thinking about the diversity in the organisation
At the beginning it was defined which are the roles and responsibilities of each interviewed people and it came up that the answers are different.
During the group interview, the interviewees were not influenced by each other when answering the questions, also because the roles in the organisations are different.
It emerged that the people working for longer in the company have a better perspective and are more committed to the company values and responsibilities.
There are no prejudices emerging from the interviews, coming from different roles covered, also because the answers were coherent among the interviewees.
An activity that could be useful to the company regards the understanding of the idea on diversity, in relation to the roles and activities undertaken in the company. From the interviews it emerged that the idea of diversity depends on the role played in the company.
Arrangements and power relations
What emerges from the interviews is that at the moment in IRES F.V.G. there are two different points of view, as follows: the staff feels committed but the managers say that the staff is not involved in the business activities and, in some way, does not take great responsibility. This is perhaps because, with the revision of the work contracts, some staff members have had to accept a reduction in working hours.
There are two types of contract: those related to staff (with permanent contracts) and those coming from the board, with more responsibilities but with contracts with independent forms. This first diversity should be overcome (while maintaining legality).
These differentiations come from a major process of change that took place about ten years ago that completely separated the “managers” from those who managed the daily activities. This process was very impactful for the institution and their members.
While in the past it seemed that all the workers were totally involved in the activities of the company and somehow, in addition, shared the values, they did their utmost to help the company; currently, the management seems to be centralized and in the hands of the board that takes the decisions for all. Twice a year there are meetings but only to share the results obtained and for future planning. It is difficult to know the opinions of all the people who are part of the teaching body and coming from the outside of the organisation, who also have temporary contracts.
Motives and motivations to work on diversity policy in the organisation
Also in the case of motivation, the role played in the company sets a difference when speaking about the idea of diversity and the policy related to it.
Possible benefits for the learners
We have to say that from an external and a learner’s point of view, the commitment and the use of a diverse policy is not visible and learners that consider themselves “diverse” will not know in advance, if not from the general information obtained by the website, if they would be accepted in the company.
It is visible that (from the regional rules) all people are accepted and can attend the courses, but then there are no images that can define the “whole” in the website, that is available just in Italian version. Changing the website could be a very good step (the company is already working on that direction). IRES could provide information outside the building (both buildings in Udine and in Trieste are normal residential building and there is no information at the ground floor about what IRES does or provides. In Udine the reception desk is a bit narrow and learners are not able to understand that this is a place where courses are provided.
From the first impression, arriving in the building, no info is provided, and it is necessary to ask for information at the reception. But once someone is already in the process of training the impression is that the teachers are able to welcome and help students for every need and in case sustain them in personal issues.
Stage of the organisation
|7. intercultural organisation|
|6. intercultural diversity management|
|5. cross-cultural HRM policy|
|4. inflow of migrant workers|
|3. intercultural service management|
|2. service to migrants|
|1. monocultural organization|
Scroll over then names of the stages to get a definition of them
- My organisation has migrants among its clients.
- In my organization an intercultural training has been done aimed at improving sales to migrants.
- My organisation has a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants.
- My organisation employs (a) migrant worker(s).
- My organisation has a policy aimed at the influx of migrant workers.
- In my organisation there has been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership.
- My organisation has an intercultural personnel policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of general quality policy with regard to sales/service provision and personnel.
Even through diversity management in IRES F.V.G. is not seen from the external, but generally known from other institutions dealing on the same subject, this organisation deals with migrants especially in the section of Trieste. Some teachers have immigrant backgrounds, but from an educational point of view they grew up in Italy and so culturally they are Italians. The statue of the company foresees the “diversity” target group. For their status and type of company it is taken for granted that the organisation has an intercultural personnel policy, that intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy and a natural part of general quality policy, with regard to sales/service provision and personnel, but nothing is formalized internally and for the external public.
Change and consequences
What is change here actually?
To change is having the same motivation among the staff persons and share responsibilities. Give easier information to the public about the courses availability, have an open access to the structures.
What does it mean for the education process?
That means offering a broad possibility of services, with a wider range of services and more time dedicated to the activities, giving more information and more possibilities to the public to know about services.
What does it mean for the management?
Define better roles and responsibilities, work on motivation with staff, define the mission, share values and mission, reorganize the spaces in the office.
What does it mean for the staff?
For the staff it means re-evaluate their roles in the company, give more availability to the company.
What does it mean for the learners?
Getting a better service, knowing openly the services and courses provided by the Institution.
What does it means for the organisation?
Rethinking about their services, having a more open approach to clients.
Following this premise and considering that it is the board assigning resources and money and to evaluate the work done, it could be proposed, for a change of system and to favour the integration of the staff to the company values, to increase the awareness and responsibility of everyone , giving new tasks and responsibilities, sharing problems, involving the public in communicating diversity towards the outside.
Actions possible are:
- new definition of roles and responsibilities,
- work on motivation with staff
- shared definition of company mission and values
- share mission with the public
- reorganize the spaces in the offices (to get it more open)
- staff should re-evaluate their roles in the company and give more availability to the company
- rethinking about services provided · have a more open approach to clients.
The idea is to present in detail the results of the interview with the representative of the Equal Opportunities of IRES and then discuss what they would like to do and how to do it (e.g. within the organisation, starting from the redefinition of the mission, etc..). The question will be whether to attempt a shared approach in several groups of people and of the staff, either in an extended form or by sending a request for definition of “own” company values via e-mail and then listing them in a common report, from which to draw the mission that will partly derive from the expected status and partly from new ideas coming from the whole staff.
Not having done much in the field of diversity, except for a program related to equal opportunities, the company has many steps to take in order to be considered a company that manages “diversity”. For this reason, the sharing of 7 stages model can be considered the starting point for the development of a long-term transformation that depends, of course, on their will and on the target they’ll decide to involve in the future.
Obviously, the reformulation of the mission would not only mean the realization of a document, but it would include a whole series of monitoring and evaluation activities, in order to verify the implementation of this mission.
IRES F.V.G., being mainly a research organisation specialized in reading numbers and collecting data, has no barriers in using the same methodology in its favour and to facilitate the integration of the “different”.
What is the right approach for this way of changing?
Sharing information and problems with staff, find out common and shared solutions, speak about diversity and how to welcome the diverse, organize some courses about it.
For the process of change, we can recommend the red print approach of the colour model of De Caluwe & Vermaak, this because for its statue the institution is a research company dealing with numbers and data. Probably, for their internal change they should review their natural approach that, as seen, was not valid till now. For the process of change we will propose to stimulate people in the right way and through exchange exercises, to a motivating solution that best fits all staff. Being a research company, interventions can be developed by an HRM expert as project-based work and through strategic analysis targeting procedures and atmosphere, but also setting and communication. It will be better to foreseen not granted results and work more step by step in a piloting way to, measure and finally know what is best for the company. The risk would be, from the staff, a superficial understanding and a development of activities just because they are compulsory.
DivCap referent person will share with the E.O. referent person of IRES F.V.G. the results and report the analysis undertaken in their institution pointing the starting point. The strategy is to define together which will be the point of arrival, the goal that the company wants to achieve and in what time frame. We can propose to IRES, within the company, a return meeting of the results with all the employees, perhaps coinciding with their social meetings and opening a discussion table to define together, given that the research has brought out the need to involve all the staff in the company’s activities, what actions could be possible or what the staff is willing to do to improve the situation. Some persons of the staff or of the board should be the referent person to monitor the activities that have been agreed together. The proposal will be to work on staff involvement, to involve them in defining the mission of the company. Another point could be related to the external communication and the contents of the website, especially the parts related to immigration and courses for migrant people or unemployed people. Identify if there would be the possibility to change the structure of the welcome room in the office in Udine and propose the communication of the material also in another language that could be English, but also Slovenian for Trieste’s office.
Apart from the mission, because the company has a chart for Equal Opportunity, think about modifying the same documents in a vision that will be not only related to gender or disability, but also to an integrated list of diversities.
Commitment with Management and Staff
The interviewed people agreed that there are some missing points, the website to change, some formal documents to be developed; from the management point of view to the teachers and other staff, we saw the availability to do something. Of course, the proposal must come from the company and not from an external, the IRES entity itself considers itself to be the best training centre in the region and so the change must come from an internal commitment and will.