Firms going under, thousands of jobs lost: lockdown has hit the European economy hard. But many entrepreneurs are trying equally hard to keep going. Andrea Cruciani in Italy asked himself what he could do to protect his workers.
How have business people coped in the emergency lockdown phase caused by Covid-19? We spoke with Andrea Cruciani, CEO of TeamDev software consultancy and Agricolus start-up, linked to the Economy of Communion project.
How has the lockdown affected you?
“Before lockdown things were going well. For the past 12 years, TeamDev has demonstrated 20% annual growth and we now employ a workforce of 50. Halfway through February we took steps to raise money through the bank. But the lockdown meant by the end of March we had no cash liquidity left. For the first time ever, I found myself without money or opportunities.
The only option left to us was to start laying off staff. I was so unhappy about this because we have always taken particular care to invest in the welfare of the business.
Not surprisingly perhaps, some of our workers took fright and lost confidence in us. To lose the trust of even one employee was extremely painful to me.
Gradually, however, we found ways to meet the needs of everyone. As soon as the business started generating some income again, we immediately began to supplement their unemployment payments through a special ‘Covid fund’. At the end, we were able to give the same pay to all, and they understood there was no bad-faith on our side”.
Have you learnt anything through all this?
“I’ve realized how fragile authentic relationships with employees and collaborators can be. It’s so important that authentic relationships are built on trust. We’ve been amazed to see how some of our people have found new energy from the desire to contribute to the common good. In this period the true humanity within our relationships has emerged”.
Do you have any advice for other businesses about caring for their human resources?
“Let me tell you a story. Three years ago I decided to promote one particular employee to the management of a department. But after a short time, this person quit. I realised that what I want out of life for myself is not necessarily what everyone else wants for themselves. This employee did not want the psychological stress of that management role and was not even ambitious for an increase in salary. Following that experience we began to improve some of our processes”.
Improve in what ways?
“First of all, we turned to a coach to improve the team spirit among everyone working in the company. Then we began to improve working conditions with some quite simple initiatives like offering fresh fruit for break-times. We also ordered seasonal fruit from a Caritas orchard project, to give everyone the opportunity to take what they needed home, free of charge. We also launched a program of integrated welfare, developing our existing long-standing integrated retirement package and other supports such as flexible working to accommodate family commitments. In this way we protect the interests of those working in our companies. And, clearly, we strive to promote the growth of each person to be able to give the best of themselves”.
How do you view the future of the economy in general?
“I foresee a future where it will be ever more necessary to read the present moment and share our own perspective for the future. Chiara Lubich is a prophet for us, EoC business people, because she has taught us how to care for our employees and businesses. Some aspects are covered by the law but many other aspects are covered already by one’s conscience and commitment to love”.
by Lorenzo Russo