What role did the HR function play in managing the pandemic?

During the lockdown months we had the pleasure of accompanying the De’Longhi HR team in the development of an initiative that involved all the people of the Group. At the end of this experience, we wanted to look back at what had happened together with Sara Zona, Group Talent Acquisition and People Development Director, who told us about her experience supporting the people of the De’Longhi Group.


“As soon as we closed the different offices around the world, starting from China, as an HR group we felt the need to make people feel that they were not alone, that the company was there, and that we were all in the same situation even if in different countries”.
Sara Zona, Group Talent Acquisition and People Development Director De’Longhi


Stay safe. Stay active. Stay together.


In order to do so, an HR group worked together, launching three initiatives to support people

STAY SAFE: to ensure transparency and continuous updating in a complex and confusing period, such as the one that characterized the months of the pandemic. Stay safe has allowed people to stay updated in real time with respect to the decisions taken by the Company to deal with the emergency. At the same time it has also been a space where to take care of people’s well-being, providing support podcasts and listening centers.


STAY ACTIVE: to maintain a healthy balance between work life and private life, by offering people a range of activities, from one-on-one training to activities they can do during their free time with their families.


STAY TOGETHER: to work in a connected manner with common goals despite the distance.

For a company like De’Longhi, which just recently had introduced smart working, it was not easy to manage work from home. Sara tells us that the first timely strategy was to make available tools for managing meetings and feedback, which people already were familiar with (e.g. check-in, kudos), but revised in digital format.


Later on, people were offered the opportunity to participate in 3 experiential webinars facilitated by Peoplerise, with the goal of reflecting and sharing how they were experiencing this time of uncertainty.


What are the ingredients for success?


What were the key elements in making these initiatives happen? Let’s take a look at what happened behind the scenes by asking Sara how the HR team worked together.


“ The mix of professionalism in the team (talent acquisition and training), made us realize how powerful it is when we combine skills and don’t stay in silos.”
Sara Zona, Group Talent Acquisition and People Development Director De’Longhi

The composition of the team was fundamental, made up of people with different professional backgrounds and skills in HR. The team members were united by a huge passion, determination and desire to do something important for the people of the company. The team worked horizontally, meaning no internal hierarchy, and agile. Decisions were made and implemented quickly, and feedback was gathered from the field, potentially needed to change direction. Feedback from participants was particularly important. In fact, the project team was working from home, based on perceptions of what was happening. Receiving feedback from participants allowed them to redirect some of the activities as they went along.



The focus on the goal was another important element in carrying out the work in a timely manner: it was clear to all team members how central it was to work on motivation and connection between people, in such a particular moment of uncertainty. 


And how did it go?


“Attending this webinar has been very useful for the situation we are living, and it will surely be beneficial for the future”
Paola, Italia.

One of the main results of this intervention has been the impact on people’s engagement, which in particular can be seen from the high rate of participation in the activities. The strong perceived connection has contributed to maintaining a high individual motivation and a sense of belonging to the Group, despite the uncertainties linked to the current period.


Additionally, the transparent information provided in the Stay Safe initiative meant that people were always clear about the direction that the company was taking to deal with the situation, thus providing common boundaries within which to manage uncertainty.


These elements of connection and clear direction were critical to the restarting. Upon returning to the “new normal,” people were immediately ready to resume to business activities. Staying connected with their colleagues and the company created the conditions to (re)start with renewed energy, motivation and focus.

smart working

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash


Looking into the future 



In Peoplerise, we like to view this moment in history as an opportunity to take a careful retrospective look at what happened. What have you learnt from this experience?


“We are aware of that a decision-making process adopted during an emergency cannot be the same on a day-to-day basis, but in light of how we’ve worked in recent months, we would like to streamline project phases.”
Sara Zona, Group Talent Acquisition and People Development Director De’Longhi

According to Sara, another thing that marked this period was the deep connection that was created between the people who participated in the program. Although the relationships were entirely virtual, they evolved and became very strong. This shows that even digital relationships, when facilitated with meaningful questions in safe conversational spaces, can be characterized by depth and authenticity.




The communication style that was adopted during the months of lockdown between the Company and the employees was very different from the past. The keywords were transparency, frequent communication with respect to decisions made and requests for feedback on activities launched.


This kind of attention made people feel truly involved in the life of the company, nurturing a sense of belonging to the De’Longhi Group. Sara tells us how, according to her, it is no longer possible to go back to previous communication styles. An open question then arises, “How can we evolve the style of communication with people?”


What advice would you give to HRs reading this article?


“Have courage, dare and take the initiative. We found ourselves giving life to this initiative in a context of blocked financial resources. However, we were convinced that it was necessary to do something for our people, to be close to them and show our presence. This led us to search for the resources and energies we had at home, rediscovering qualities and skills that we can carry out in order to realize valuable projects in which we believe“.
Sara Zona, Group Talent Acquisition and People Development Director De’Longhi


It is also essential to remain deeply connected to the context, through a process of constant feedback. This allowed for activities that really interested and served people, at a time when looking at the essentials was important.


In the past few months, different ways of working related to emergency and necessity have been adopted. Implementing them while remaining flexible and continuously seeking feedback has provided a strong push for innovation within the program.



We hope you find these insights helpful in finding the courage to take action with and for your people! 


Are you interested in learning more about another project carried out during the lockdown? 


Find out about the intervention with SapereCoop!

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