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Inspiring Best Practice 12 July Jul 2017 1423 12 July 2017

From video games to corporate networks, the new corporate welfare system

Companies once again provide assets and services to improve their employees’ quality of life but welfare develops through innovative methods in companies today.

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What has a Formula 1 race to do with a concert ticket? And what links a video game to a scholarship? The magical word is gamification, a winning strategy that has been adopted by corporate welfare systems. Now, let’s take a step backwards.

Many leading Italian companies, from Olivetti to Fiat, and even Dalmine, once adopted a paternal model by taking care of their employees as much as possible, even when they were outside the factory or outside working hours.

This model has collapsed long since, but in recent years the corporate welfare system, which was strongly promoted by the Renzi government, once again offers employees services outside the work environment for miscellaneous aspects of daily life.

Companies are attempting to create a virtuous circle for employees working in a more serene and flexible setting to improve efficiency. They provide personal benefits that will, in turn, enhance the productivity of their work force.

These are not commissions but scholarships for sons and daughters, tickets for cultural events, healthcare coverage and even fitness courses. The investment remains the same but the different taxation policies ensure that both the worker and the company find it advantageous to establish an exchange of assets and services, instead of money premiums.

The dissemination of these practices, which is also encouraged by provisions laid down by the last two governments, is witnessed by Welfare Index PMI reports, a study perfected by Generali Italia, Confindustria, Confagricoltura, Confartigianato, Confprofessioni and by experts in the industry and academic world.

In this year’s report, the Welfare Index PMI analysed a specimen of 3,422 small and medium-size industries, underscoring the fact that, despite differences in the variety of services offered, the corporate welfare system is, anyhow, steadily growing in terms of dissemination, without developing particular variations based on the territorial location of the companies.

But what is the best management method for the corporate welfare system?

Sidip World, an Italian cleaning service, has invented the Merit Game, a video game that associates working efficiency with the results of a virtual car that races the cars of colleagues.

Most of the leading Italian companies have chosen a more conventional method by providing benefits that vary by company and can be either partly associated with the good performance of employees or equal for all without distinction.

Some of these companies, like Tetra Pak or 7Pixel, decide what benefits to propose or for what empty slots can be allocated by requiring employees to regularly complete a questionnaire. Likewise, Colorificio San Marco takes into account the opinion of workers, considering a dedicated software for staff interaction and discussions. Then we find more innovative strategies.

The case of Sidip World, an Italian cleaning service, is the most interesting. The company has invented Merito Game, a video game that links the efficiency of workers with the results of a virtual car that can be fully personalised by employees, and which races the cars of colleagues.

What is the goal? At the end of the month the best ranking cars in the races obtain more points to obtain benefits provided by the company, including medical assistance, educational material or concert tickets.

Every avatar participating in the race is associated with the parameters of work attendance, feedback from clients, the opinion of corporate managers and even results achieved at school by the children of employees. The competitive atmosphere improves performance at work, and the game allows everybody to start on an equal footing. Hence, even the new recruit can, from the first month of work, obtain better results than staff employed for a longer period.

Sidip is a unique case in Italy but it follows a common trend in the United States. Networks such as Happily Welfare or Day Gruppo Up converge groups of small and medium-size companies to share some services offered, ranging from food vouchers to gym subscriptions, in order to reduce the cost.

The use of video games, called gamification by the Americans, has always been indicated for training and motivating employees.

Large multinationals, such as Microsoft, McDonald's and Coca Cola, have made gamification a tool to make internal communication more attractive because, besides using an innovative language, it allows to exploit the competition component in a virtual game-like format.

But the world of leading companies stands apart from the Italian entrepreneurial fabric, which mostly comprises small and medium-size companies.

Beyond competition, our companies focus on creating sustainable welfare through trust-based relations with workers. This is the case, for instance, of 3C Catene that does not require employees to comply with established entrance and exit times from the office but, instead, provides a time bank from which each one can choose their shifts, as long as the sum of the monthly hours is consistent with the contract.

Trust and sense of responsibility are also core factors of the project implemented by Cooperativa Baobab, which rents out a holiday home for 6 months, dividing the cost between members and employees who commit to maintain it and who may take it in turns to spend a week’s holiday in that house with their families.

Welfare development is essential among these companies but the initial investments are not always sustainable for them. The above 2017 report of the Welfare Index PMI underscores the fact that companies presenting a larger number of welfare initiatives ranks as specified, 6.8% in companies with less than 10 employees, 16.2% in those with 10-50 employees, 24.6% in companies with 51-100 and 44.7% in those with 101-250 employees. This underscores a clear correlation between the number of employees and the possibility of investing in welfare.

Hence the creation of some networks, like Happily Welfare or Day Gruppo Up, which converge groups of small and medium-size companies to enable them to share some services offered, ranging from food vouchers to gym subscriptions, and to thus provide a good welfare programme.