Students from EADA Sustainability Club have been speaking to a range of professors and experts from the EADA community to discuss how we can learn about COVID-19 and what this means for sustainability & business. In this mini-series, we are exploring how the role of business in society is shifting and adjusting to these unpredictable and complex times, covering topics from digital data technology, emotional intelligence, to global governance.This week, Dr. Federica Massa Saluzzo shares her thoughts on the importance of leading with empathy.
Federica Massa Saluzzo received her bachelor in Business Administration from Bocconi University, her Ph.D in Strategic Management from IESE Business School, and her post-doc from the University of Bologna. She joined EADA in 2016 where she is a professor of strategic management. Before entering academia, she worked as a strategy consultant. Her research interests include social value creation and social innovation. In light of the pandemic, she sat down to discuss the imperative role of empathy in business and the importance of designing new business models.
The Role of Empathy
COVID-19 has shed a light on the importance of empathy and empathy-driven business. As governments strive to contain the pandemic through imposing new regulations, citizens are suddenly faced with the reality of being locked down for long stretches. Dr. Massa Saluzzo believes that it is necessary for “governments or businesses to start considering what it feels to be locked in for so long.” Beyond the scope of financial needs, people stuck at home will face new challenges that require a more empathetic perspective. When asked what an empathetic intervention might like look, Massa Saluzzo illuminates to the hotels in France offering rooms as a safe refuge to victims of domestic abuse during quarantine. COVID-19 is exposing how many households are unhealthy and dysfunctional and how, through empathetic regulations and business ideas, we can alleviate some of these concerns.
Empathetic Business Leaders
Dr. Massa Saluzzo also notes the role that businesses should play in their employee’s lives. People experience vastly different realities behind closed doors and our societal roles are beginning to bleed into one another. People who are now working from home are bringing their work into their living rooms. Massa Saluzzo offers her personal example of having to merge her previously segregated life as a teacher, researcher, wife and parent, all together. COVID-19 makes it incredibly difficult to separate these multiple roles and our current business models are not built to support this amalgamated lifestyle. resulting in affected work performance post-crisis.
There are many needs that we are currently forced to leave behind when it comes to work and education: our mental health, our children, our learning style, our household dynamics, and our access to technology. Even simple issues such as an employee’s unreliable internet connection or if they must share their device with other family members are not being addressed in current structures. It must also be acknowledged that most of the domestic work is typically done by women and this can lead to an unbalanced lack of productivity for women
What if businesses could empower employees to be efficient as their whole person, complete with all these needs? Massa Saluzzo believes that employers have a responsibility to design new models that address their employee’s personal needs and COVID-19 provides the perfect environment to test these assumptions. By addressing an employee’s multiple identities, companies will see a competitive advantage.
Advice to Students?
Dr. Massa Saluzzo implores students to “propose ideas and move the theoretical frameworks into action.” There are theoretical frameworks that have been dormant but are now more applicable than ever. This is the time to apply them to companies. We are living in one of the few situations where business leaders will be open to new ideas and where those ideas will be strongly considered. Once our infrastructure returns to business as usual, companies will not have the capacity to explore new ideas. Now is the time to step forward and provide solutions.
Need more inspiration? Dr. Massa Saluzzo added some key videos and readings on systems changes below:
Mini sessions on System Change:
- A super short but very attractive animationfor beginners about the essence of systems change, 4 videos, 9 min total, plus worksheets.
- A medium-length crash courseon systems change for early-stage changemakers co-developed 3 videos, 2 hrs total, plus worksheets.
- An in-depth online courseon systems change for Fellows and other changemakers who want to develop a systems change strategy. 9 videos, 3.5 hours total, plus worksheets with detailed instructions. Skilled facilitation for this course is recommended.
- Reading: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
About the author
Izzy Ahrbeck is a German/Canadian student currently enrolled in the International Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation and is one of the leaders in the EADA Sustainability Club. She has lived and worked in in 8 different countries including Canada, Japan, France and Switzerland, and is passionate about seeking the truth and giving a voice to the less heard.
About the interview series
In this series of interviews, contributors to the EADA Sustainability Club Newsletter explore how the role of business in society is shifting and adjusting to these unpredictable and complex times with COVID-19, covering topics such as digital data technology, emotional intelligence and global governance. Other articles include: Back-to-basics with Associate Dean Jordi Diaz, Technology as an “enabler” with Richard Ferraro, The Future of Fashion and The Challenge of Ethical Leadership with Professor Ferran Velasco.