In September 2021, Simone Badioli, the CEO of AEFFE SpA met with an external consultant, Giulia, and a few company directors to lay out a plan for the upcoming future. At the time of the case, the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a governmental response in the form of an emergency plan, which simplified the access and the use of the Smart Working (SW) policy, allowing employees to work from alternative locations outside the main office for almost two years. As the emergency plan is about to expire, AEFFE should now make an important decision: whether to formally provide its employees with the option to work in a “smart” way even with ordinary operating conditions or not. The recent large-scale SW experiment has revealed that many jobs at AEFFE can be carried out outside conventional office premises; it has also accelerated the extent of digitalization within the company, sustaining the proliferation of new ways of working. However, while paving the way to SW, the pandemic has also shed some light on the various challenges and limitations that some departments inevitably face when their employees are not collocated on a day-to-day basis. Complicating the picture is AEFFE’s reliance on traditions and heritage, which has brought the widespread belief that the traditional ways of working are a key strategic advantage for the company.
Target for Teaching
- Human Resource Management
- Change Management
- Performance Management
- Sustainability Changes
Target audience and Issues
The instructor can use the Aeffe case in MBA courses, graduate and undergraduate levels.
The case requires students to evaluate the business case for SW in general and in greater detail at AEFFE. It also asks students to draw a possible policy for AEFFE regulating the access and use of SW. The case allows for a critical evaluation of SW applicability across different settings and functional areas. It leads students to reflect upon the potential costs and benefits of flexibility while wrestling with questions about business strategy, organizational performance, inclusion, cultural change, and companies’ responsibilities to various stakeholders. Students also engage in critical appraisals regarding what “smart” working means in any given context and explore the challenges of implementing new ways of working in companies where the cultural premises of prior success are deeply embedded into the walls.
- To critically analyze the “smart” working concept in a context where traditional ways of working have been a source of competitive advantage.
- To evaluate the applicability of SW to different organizational settings and functional areas.
- To determine factors critical to successful implementation of SW in an operational and strategic sense.
- To strengthen students’ understanding of managerial challenges of managing flexibility.
- To identify organizational actions that support performance, work-life balance, and inclusion.