Photo: The global head of Human Resources at Banco Santander, Roberto Di Bernardini. Credit: courtesy of Roberto Di Bernardini. 

By José Manuel Blanco 

The speed of the fourth industrial revolution forces people to constantly develop and reinvent themselves. An example of this is the global head of Human Resources at Banco Santander, Roberto Di Bernardini, who 30 years into his journey managing people, is now immersed in the process of digitally transforming the bank. Additionally, the crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced a reckoning on the importance of telework. 

Like his colleague Elisabetta Galli, he understands the importance of data in “discovering trends and making decisions.” His message is hopeful: the future won’t have fewer jobs; new ones will appear, and people will have to adapt themselves to the market. 

How are the management and development of people influenced by technology?  

The presence of technology within companies is changing everything, including the way we manage, attract, and retain talent. I think that technology is dramatically accelerating the abilities of any business. In the financial sector, these are the capabilities we need to attend to the needs of over 140 million clients. This is perhaps the biggest change brought on by technology: I am going to need capabilities that are completely new to continue serving these 140 million people. 

This means that I have to either attract incredible talent that has all of the market’s capabilities (which is impossible), or train, improve, and develop the professional qualifications of thousands of people. I currently have a workforce of 100,000 employees that is going to transform their capabilities. If I try to do it face-to-face, I’ll take five, six, seven years to do it. This creates the need to think up development and training strategies and leads to implementing technological solutions. A few years ago, it was impossible to imagine training hundreds of people at the same time. Today, with digital platforms, this has become a flexibility that Human Resources must offer a company. 

What is the best way to manage a workforce right now? 

Knowing what the important data is to manage development, commitment, workforce distribution, and abilities… All of this can now be done with a cloud-based platform, which gives you the opportunity to instantly access all of the data on your workforce, something which used to be impossible. This allows you to use that data to navigate the day-to-day, but also to conduct predictive analyses that can serve to accelerate development, cut costs, save money…  

How should a bank’s Human Resources data be used? 

We must organize it so we can identify trends and make decisions. 

What technology is your department using? 

We are increasingly using more artificial intelligence to combine [employees’] interest in learning with the options that we have. We are also developing a digital learning platform in the cloud that expands week after week. This way, everyone in the company makes a lesson plan and they are offered a personalized development program.  

The coronavirus is forcing us to stay home to protect everyone’s health, so there has been a move to telework. How do you think the current situation will change the way companies work? 

With the coronavirus we have two options: a remote work model or to continue in a physical location. We are facing the need to give our employees these options. If you have the option of supporting telework, your activity will continue as always. What we have to do is create an environment where we have these possibilities.  

Given the technological changes we are witnessing, what do you think the future of work will be? 

I feel calm. There are catastrophizing theories that point to a future with less work. I have a very different opinion: the only certainty we have is that today is the day with the highest number of jobs. Tomorrow, one hundred percent, will also be that day, because I don’t put much stock in catastrophizing theories that say that the world is going to disappear. 

It’s like saying that climate change is going to destroy the planet. No, because we are going to change behaviors and climate change is never going to happen or we are going to stop it. The same is true with the labor market: digitalization offers an enormous possibility to do things more efficiently and create other jobs, which we have seen happen up to this point. I don’t believe even for a minute that my children will have a harder time finding a job. With one condition: they are going to study a lot to bring the market the expertise it requires.  

Published by OPINNO © 2022 MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW spanish edition