EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life
Manital Spa operates in two main sectors: in general services, mainly in cleaning and surveillance, including the performance of simple administrative tasks, such as the management of internal documentation and mailing services; and in the internal and external maintenance of buildings, green areas, electrical, telephone and telematics systems, heating, plant machinery, mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment, etc. These are mainly operated on behalf of public and private industries, trades and services, as well as large residential complexes, building cooperatives and low-cost/council housing structures.
Manital was established in Ivrea in the 1990s after the Olivetti Group demerged its plants maintenance department. Subsequently, the company grew quickly nationally, merging with other sector companies operating in other regions. Currently, Manital consists of Manitalidea (the parent company), Manital Consortium (with 170 associated companies) and Coplus Global Service Srl. It employs a total of 3,900 direct and indirect workers. Some 20% of staff are white-collar workers and 80% are blue-collar workers. Approximately 40% of staff are aged over 45 years and 50% are women. The presence of older workers (men and women) is noticeable in the more hands-on sectors (especially cleaning), where a large number of workers suffer from disabilities or social segregation problems.
The company’s personnel policy is underpinned by the integration of various types of workers and a strong professional upgrading for the tasks performed. Corporate dialogue is good and the company interacts with the local and regional trade union associations.
The original initiative
In 1997, Manital decided to recruit 338 workers with an average age of 50 years, who arrived from Ansaldo (sites in Genoa, Legnano and Naples), and to demerge its services and maintenance/cleaning department. These 338 workers were mainly older workers with low qualification levels (generally cleaning staff) who were recruited by Manital because they were near retirement age and because an explicit clause of the trade union agreement stated that all staff previously employed by Ansaldo would be offered employment, without age discrimination. Some 69 of these workers still remain and are fully integrated at Manital. They include 20 managers, some of whom enjoy positions of significant responsibility in the company. This initiative also aimed to develop Manital’s existing staff and to increase the company’s turnover. It targeted workers of all ages, without discriminating against older employees, who made up a significant percentage of the company’s workforce (about 70% were aged over 45 years). The main objectives of the integration programme included:
- re-motivation of personnel, mainly older workers and also some workers with disabilities;
- professional development through the introduction of new technologies for implementing services;
- development of a new corporate identity.
A specific trade union agreement was signed for the project, which allowed for the employment of older workers approaching retirement age. The initiative was successful since working conditions for staff, following their transfer to Manital, improved from a professional perspective, and as the years passed, wages also improved. Moreover, Manital valued the experience and overall skills of the workers, including the older age group. As the company met its targeted objectives, it was possible for it to cut service and maintenance costs by over 50% for the period 1997 to 2004, thanks to increased worker productivity and implementation of numerous rationalisation interventions. Considering that the average age of workers recruited in 1997 was quite high, the majority (269 workers) gradually took early retirement between 1998 and 2004. Results included significant growth in the professional level of workers.
Good practice today
Since its establishment in the 1990s, Manital has always focused on initiatives aimed at recruiting personnel mainly over 45 years of age, and employees from companies who were operating outsourcing policies for their staff. The recruitment initiatives were accompanied by special training, upgrading or remotivation programmes for the new employee, using ‘skill reports’ to analyse levels of expertise. The first large-scale initiative of this type was undertaken in 1997, when 338 workers with an average age pf 50 years were recruited from Ansaldo. This initiative was deemed a success in terms of remotivation, improved self-esteem and professional development of workers, including those near retirement age.
Subsequently, the model has been applied in other, similar instances. Since 2001, the project has focused on a specific category of disadvantaged workers: socially useful workers (SUW). Socially useful jobs are associated with projects developed by public authorities, like municipal councils and schools, and are viewed as ‘a social safety valve’ aimed at limiting long-term unemployment (especially in the south of Italy), which is a phenomenon that affects many older workers. However, SUW employment (e.g. surveillance, small-scale maintenance, cleaning) can be precarious because of the lack of a market for these services, which are supplied on the basis of specific demand. The initiative that involved Manital (suggested by Confindustria, Italy’s largest employer Confederation, following a request by the Ministry of Employment), targetted 14,000 workers, based on a series of reciprocal agreements with service providers; trade unions were also involved in the negotiations.
These initiatives aimed to use these workers for specific service contracts, partially funded by government authorities, with the objective of gradually transforming their precarious status of socially useful workers into fully employed staff who could interact independently with the labour market. Manital took on 2,913 of the 14,000 workers and deployed them to work in schools and service provision (surveillance, small-scale maintenance, cleaning, etc). These workers were given permanent employment contracts; shortly afterwards, 134 decided to resign, while the remaining 2,779 workers are still employed, with positive results. Of these 2,779 workers, approximately 50% are aged 45 years or over, most of them having been prematurely forced out of the labour market due to restructuring of large or medium-size companies. There is a slightly higher percentage of women (51%), although no specific gender measures were implemented in this respect. Altogether, the Manital initiative was applied in eight Italian regions: two in the north (Piedmont and Lombardy) and six in the south-central regions (Marches, Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily) through 14 syndicated businesses.
Apart from the primary benefit, i.e. permanent employment, this initiative has also enabled employees to upgrade their professional skills through training programmes. Equally important, it has allowed them to carry out their tasks according to a new philosophy, i.e. using new technologies and state-of-the-art work organisation processes based on empowerment of personnel and, where possible, micromanagement and self-employment.
The instruments used to implement the project targeting inclusion included:
- optimisation plans (rational redistribution of resources by optimising the cost/performance ratio);
- information systems (placement of individual workers, also by valuing their skills and with a specific programme of professional growth based on the skills report);
- communication plans (at all levels).
The instruments are also applied to older workers close to retirement age, and have encouraged a significant increase in self-esteem through the gaining of a new professional identity.
So far, the results seem to have been positive, both for the company and for the workers involved. Company turnover has risen and there has been a clear improvement in worker motivation, autonomy and professional expertise (both in planning and management and in the technical-operational aspects). Key instruments used by Manital have included re-motivation of workers, ensuring continuity of workers’ salaries, greater focus on the worker’s specific area of expertise, and their inclusion in an intensive development and training programme. It is expected that the intervention model applied by Manital will almost certainly be adopted in the future for recruitment of new personnel.
Contact persons: Graziano Cimadom, CEO; Erica Ferlito, Marketing and communications manager
Company website: www.manital.it