Highlights of Mexico Talent Forum 2016
International Best Practices Can Bridge Talent Gap
Adopting international best practices can bridge the gap between academia and industry, Jorge Barragán, Mexico Director of the International Youth Foundation, told the Mexico Talent Forum 2016 on Thursday at Mexico City’s Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel.
Although the country’s industry and learning institutes share common goals, often the results can clash, said Barragán. “Companies are trying to retain human capital and universities are trying to provide the skills these companies need.”
Barragán spoke of an inherent miscommunication between both entities, with schools more focused on learning and knowledge, while the market, especially in the energy industry, requires hard skills and experience. “There is a need to really analyze what skills are urgently lacking in the industry and curriculums must be put under the microscope,” he said. “Energy companies require engineers experienced in working in the field but courses do not offer this type of training.”
In the hydrocarbons sector in Mexico, for example, Barragán said that analysis revealed three areas lacking in skills: drilling, scaffolding and pipe fitting. “The demand is already felt in Campeche, Veracruz and Tabasco,” he said. “The cost of human talent is starting to rise so we need to take action now.”
Mexico could look to the Korean model as a way to follow international best practices. “Korea has a very specific human talent strategy associated with the development goals of the country,” Barragán said. “The country knows it must produce scientists and engineers to bridge the future gap.”
As a result, its GDP per capita now makes Korea the second most competitive country in the world. This could be a useful model for Mexico to follow given the similarities between the fundamental industries. “Following very specific strategies, Korea’s largest growth was seen in the technology sector,” he said.
The International Youth Foundation created seven schools in the Gulf of Mexico, the pipeline of which will produce 1,000 technicians per year. However, the methodology differs in that the company solicits feedback from human resources executives and is often referred to courses in other countries. “We then source that course and adapt it to the specificities of Mexico, bringing it into classrooms within six months,” he said. “We do not have to start from scratch; we can adopt best practices.”
Pointing out the similarities between degree courses, Barragán said these can be optimized for greater efficiency. “Seventy percent of a standard mining-metallurgical degree curriculum is the same as that of an oil curriculum.”
According to Barragán, skills required for technical posts should be considered as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is social consciousness, the second tier is the ability to learn and the third is workplace competencies. “Higher education has no problem ensuring these areas are well covered,” he said. “The problem lies in level four and onward, which involves industry-specific knowledge, sector-specific knowledge and specialization.”
Barragán said an engineering degree requires 7,000 hours within a classroom in Mexico. However, he pointed to an existing Offshore Drilling Technician course available at Houston Community College, and if incorporated into the curriculum in Mexico, this can replace a student’s first year of university with much more effective skills with only 270 classroom hours. “We must leave the theory behind and move toward empirical evidence,” he said.
Align Objectives to Develop Human Talent
One of the biggest challenges in developing human talent is aligning the objectives of academic institutions and companies, a group of experts told the Mexico Talent Forum 2016 in Mexico City on Thursday.
Mexico has different institutions that work hard to develop talent but there is a clear communication gap between the academic and private sectors. “We can create a supply chain of talent among academic institutions and companies but there needs to be a more transparent division of responsibilities among players that are relevant in the development of human talent in Mexico,” said Jorge Barragán, Director for Mexico at International Youth Foundation.
Juan Casillas, Managing Director of ManattJones and the panel’s moderator, Rosendo Cuellar, Director of Strategic Planning and Development at UVM and Julieta Cuellar, Talent Management Leader at Cummins, also participated in the panel “Talent Triple Helix: Government, Private Sector & Academia” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel.
Cummins’ Cuellar said her experience in San Luis Potosi suggests the two sides can produce positive results when working in tandem. The state is highly active in the automotive industry and struggles to fill its occupational vacancies with skilled technicians. “We had a positive experience with CONALEP, a public academic institution, that was open to adapting its program to the needs of the automotive companies,” she said. “We helped 22 employees that only had middle-school level education gain more professional skills with a tailored technical degree.”
Similarly, in Chihuahua a cluster of 55 companies in a single municipality was struggling to find specialists, recounted Barragán. “We collaborated with nearby academic institutions to create a strategy to close educational gaps.” The companies were tired of having to invest large sums of capital on training programs and the educational institutions did not have the funds to develop expensive laboratories.
“We found a middle point by identifying two critical skills that were of major concern to the companies and that did not require a laboratory: industrial security and quality administration.” The result was a win-win situation because the academic training did not require large funds and it improved the skills of the employees in the area.
Stronger relationships are important considering Mexico has 3.5 million students in higher education and only 170,000 are studying technical programs. “There is a large technical gap to fill. Companies need graduates that are better prepared,” said UVM’s Cuellar.
“By promoting collaboration, the benefits are doubled as graduates become better prepared to handle obstacles and companies become more efficient. We need to further align the interests even though collaboration is not easy,” added Barragán.
UVM, a private academic institution, is committed to filling the labor pipeline in Mexico but it asks companies to do more. “We ask private companies to further allow our students to participate in internships,” said the school’s director. “Developing experienced graduates requires a commitment from both the students and the companies.”
Incorporating international best practices from North American universities and other countries to better manage human talent can also help Mexico improve its human capital environment. “We need to analyze the steps that are needed to better relate academic institutions and companies,” said Casillas.
Helping students reach the finish line must also take precedence. In Mexico, only one in 10 students that start a higher education obtain their degrees, said UVM’s Cuellar. “It is a large problem and we need to make sure that programs can adapt to the needs of the youth. This implies being flexible toward students who work and aspire to finish college.”
Cuellar, of Cummins, said the quality of professors equally needs to be a priority. “In San Luis Potosi, a university was particularly successful when it required all its professors to have experience in the industry they were teaching. Classes that are taught by professionals who have not only academic knowledge but real-world experience make a massive difference.”
Technical programs need to be part of the solution. “Companies need to reconsider not hiring employees that come from technical programs,” UVM’s Cuellar said. “The ‘College for All’ model is oversaturated. We need to rejuvenate the triple helix value and reconsider the value of technical programs.”
Synergies Needed To Meet Demands of Foreign Companies
Mexico’s flourishing industries require increasingly specialized local human resources, a panel of experts told Mexico Talent Forum 2016 on Thursday, calling for synergies between educational institutions, research centers and the government to meet the needs of incoming companies.
Moderator Christopher Ávila, Deputy Director of Government Affairs at Grupo Bal, Alfredo Arzola, Director of Cluster Automotriz de Guanajuato, Sergio Barrera, Board of Directors of Queretaro AeroCluster and Victor Maldonado, Head of Human Resources at Energy Cluster Coahuila, participated in the panel “Clusters as Educational Advocates” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City.
“The best systems are created when the entire industry works together and it is important that we train personnel for the region and not just for each individual company,” Maldonado said.
The Coahuila Energy Cluster was created to meet the state’s energy demand. The private sector, along with municipal and state governments have created committees to focus on finding solutions for the future challenges the state will face to fulfill the demand of specialized human resources, especially with the Energy Reform that has opened that market.
“Although the Energy Reform has not taken off completely and the market has slowed down, it is a priority for the state to focus on training specialized personnel, particularly within nonconventional sectors,” said Maldonado.
Growing industries like aerospace face a similar dilemma, especially as foreign businesses increasingly look to local talent to fill top positions.
“Foreign companies within the Queretaro Aerospace Cluster have brought with them their director generals for many years but now they are beginning to change their organizational structures and have begun hiring national talent,” said Barrera.
The Queretaro Aerospace Cluster accounts for more than 850 direct jobs, which is about 18 percent of the total sector jobs nationwide. Companies such as Safran, Bombardier, Airbus, AirNova and soon Rolls Royce are carrying out operations in Queretaro, making it the number one destination for aerospace foreign direct investment with more than 50 percent of the national number.
These industries have a large gap to bridge when it comes to the specialized and technical workforce that is available.
“We have identified that the labor force does not have the basic academic training needed in the industry,” said Maldonado. The number of jobs in Guanajuato jumped from 25,000 in 2010, to 90,000 in 2016, boosting the appetite of companies to invest in dual programs and increase investment in their HR departments.
Queretaro has over 70 universities that provide training to the sector and has even created the Aeronautics University to support foreign companies in training their human capital. “To bridge the gap, it is elemental that all members of the cluster participate and exchange ideas on how to improve the sector.”
The Coahuila Energy Cluster has already identified an area of opportunity in terms of talent that is specialized in hydrocarbons, particularly in the extraction of shale gas. Weaker oil prices have also caused companies to scout more local talent, further intensifying the demand for specialized employees. The cluster has created a program that moves in sync with the government’s plans. “It is important to align objectives with those of the government because they are the ones that create the rules of the game,” said Maldonado.
Montoya believes the best way to increase the competitiveness of the sector is by allowing recent graduates to carry out internships and receive compensation, especially in areas that have high rates of rotation. By doing this, they will gain more specialized experience in the area and at the same time help companies close the revolving door, he said.
Christopher Ávila, Deputy Director of Government Affairs at Grupo Bal, agreed. “CLUSMIN followed the German model to allow students to spend time in mines as part of their training,” he said, referring to the mining cluster in Zacatecas.
“Younger generations tend to know exactly what they do not want, but not what they want. The challenge is finding the balance between their needs and creating positions that let them rotate duties and learn new skills,” said Maldonado.
Preparing New Generations to Meet Future Needs
Academic programs must adapt to the increasingly quick transformation of global industries while also meeting the demand for humanized and holistic professionals, Victor Rivera, Chief of the Continuing Education Division at the School of Engineering, UNAM, told the Mexico Talent Forum 2016 in Mexico City on Thursday.
“At UNAM, we strive to train engineers that are prepared to face the challenges of the world with a social conscience,” he said during his presentation “Preparing New Generations for Future Needs” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel. “We hope to break stereotypes by pushing our engineers to have a wider spectrum of abilities.”
Emerging technologies are pushing industries toward a massive revolution in every field, Rivera said. For example, a cognitive system from IBM and the program behind Apple’s Siri, Watson, will cause companies to drastically reduce the numbers of employees they need. It can recognize and communicate with human beings and can continuously learn to respond thanks to its database, he said.
UBER is another example. The company is revolutionizing the transportation industry with its self-driving cars that are already being tested in a few cities.
Considering the context of the century’s industries, institutions like UNAM must adapt. “UNAM is preparing itself to combat the massive changes of the future as new sectors are popping up with each generation,” Rivera said.
But keeping students enrolled in highly technical fields is not easy. UNAM is known for its engineering department and Rivera used that as an example. “One in three engineering students in any university in the world, not only in Mexico, tends to not go past the first filter of the career, which is basic science. The majority then tend to change to another career at this point.”
The engineering department at UNAM differentiates itself by offering an educational model that increases the percentage of human development each student receives to 30 percent from the traditional 10 percent.
“We also monitor the companies that employ our students. A large percentage of studies show that our students are well prepared when it comes to technical skills but lag on administrative disciplines.” The department also struggles with the fact that only 13 percent of its engineering students speak English.
Future technological advances are equally one of the largest challenges it faces. “Many studies show that 3-5 percent of a person’s time should be dedicated to education and improving skills,” he said. “It can help close the gap between employees and the changes of the industry,” Rivera said.
Fracking and deepwater exploration will be important future careers in Mexico along with mechanical design of biomedical systems, which few schools offer, he said.
To stay one step ahead of the game, in 2017 UNAM will open a higher education institution in Queretaro to offer studies in the design and operation of satellites.
Research and analysis also help keep the school in line with changes by helping to fill gaps in its programs. Rivera said that engineers who specialize in mining, for example, are the last to be hired to operate mines. Civil engineers are more likely to fill these vacancies.
“Higher education institutes that offer technical programs need to be willing to humanize engineers and recognize that the professional development of an individual is not only marked by technological development but a person’s ability to incorporate a wide range of tools in their work,” Rivera said to end his presentation. “It is for the good of technological development and the overall position of the country.”
Get Ready For Disruptive Dynamics
Companies in Mexico face an array of coming human capital challenges as they navigate a work environment that is rapidly changing, Mexico Talent Forum 2016 heard on Thursday in Mexico City.
The private sector must prepare for disruptive dynamics such as cultural and language barriers, maintaining family businesses and promoting inclusive working environments, while also accepting millennials into the workforce, panelists said during a discussion on “Disrupting Labor Market Dynamics” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel.
Mayte Barba, Professor and Researcher at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Silvia Mendieta, Director of Human Resources Operations at Audi Mexico, Mario Rodríguez, CEO at Arbomex, Martín Esparza, General Secretary of SME and Jan Frowijn, Director of Business Collaboration Sector Mexico & Central America at Rosen, participated in the panel.
“We are in an era of change, where the only constant is change itself. Universities are changing their ways to provide us with the human talent companies need,” said Barba. Companies will face huge challenges, especially when handling work diversity. “As if communication and collaboration in Spanish was not difficult enough, adding into the mix different cultures, ages, capacities and abilities will demand companies accelerate their learning curve and push us to look for new solutions.”
For foreign companies entering the Mexican market, a key challenge will be adapting work dynamics and methods of attracting talent. “For Audi, attracting talent was not a difficult task. We received more than 200,000 candidates for jobs,” said Mendieta. “The problem was that we arrived in a small town that had less than 3,000 inhabitants and we had to hire 4,000, therefore we had to bring in talent from all over the country and even abroad.”
The company also had to send 720 Mexicans to Germany to train for operations here. “We had to integrate our employees into the culture, where they had to learn German. We also created a dual education program in which we train younger generations so they can later work for the company. Companies benefit greatly from these programs because they help meet future demand for human capital,” said Mendieta.
Arbomex’s Rodríguez agreed that language is a difficult hurdle. The Mexican company is a direct supplier of Japanese automaker Mazda. “Although we had translators, there was often noise in the communication channels,” Rodríguez said. From the time the two companies began their relationship to the time the first order was sent, four years passed. This was because they needed to adapt to each other’s work culture and processes of production to create the right synergy, said Rodríguez.
Emphasizing the point, Rosen’s Frowijn said that over the last few years his company has had a policy of only hiring English speakers to accommodate the international nature of its business.
A talent shortage is also posing difficulties, especially in technical industries like oil and gas. As more companies enter the sector the dynamics of the market and its talent requirements change. In an era of belt tightening, it is necessary to align with international standards, said Frowjin. These standards define competences such as knowledge, skills and experience. “Mexico’s true challenge is how to fast track experience,” Frowijn said.
This is also an era of generational change, with millennials now in the market in force. Their attitudes are different from previous generations and companies need to consider the needs of this group. “Companies should go out of their way to create positions for millennials,” said Frowijn.
But the key to retaining talent may be creating an inclusive environment. “There must be a set of strong core values and beliefs in any company that binds all employees,” he said.
A final consideration: family businesses versus “Blue Chips.”
Mexico has a large number of family businesses and the entrance of “Blue Chip” companies is forcing them to match offers. “The problem is that there is a high level of informality in these types of structures, where many employees do not have the benefits or opportunities they should,” said Frowijn. “The private sector must take a look at itself and ensure it provides its employees with the career paths they aspire to, or else the Blue Chip companies will up their offers.”
Understand Generational Differences to Retain Talent
When it comes to talent attraction, understanding the difference among generations and their needs is crucial, a group of experts told the Mexico Talent Forum 2016 on Thursday.
“Mexico has a multigenerational workforce that is strongly millennial,” said Gabriel Aparicio, Country General Manager at Kelly Services. “Companies need to take advantage of the situation and promote cooperation and learning through multidisciplinary teams.”
Laura Obregón, President of AMECH, Guido van der Zwet, Latin America Manager at IPS and Gerardo Elbiorn, General Manager at Corporativo RH, rounded out the panel “Talent Attraction” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City.
“One in three employees is millennial,” said Aparicio. “We find ourselves with the challenge of identifying qualities and areas with a concentration of talent and the amount of specialization among individuals.”
Millennials are also looking more for a life experience than just a secure job. “To attract them, we need to compensate salaries with benefits,” said Corporativo RH’s Elbiorn. “Money alone cannot attract talent and we have seen many cases of employees being stolen simply for a better benefit scheme.”
Highly skilled technicians are among those that companies are looking for and that presents a different dilemma. They tend to be quite selective because they know they can pick and choose. “Talented individuals know they can easily find jobs and it causes companies to constantly try to steal people with this profile from the competition,” Elbiorn said. Companies can avoid losing them by offering a proper work-life balance to employees. “We also need to analyze and take care of our public image and other elements such as sustainability and our social impact,” he added.
Research from Kelly Services showed that 45 percent of people who work identify their company as one that understands and worries about training but few have the security that companies are actually investing in it.
But, simply providing departmental training is not enough. “We find mentorship programs to work extremely well. Individuals feel more comfortable knowing they have a buddy to fall back on in case of any questions or doubt that they can learn from,” said IPS’ van der Zwet.
Elbiorn also highlighted the importance of creating loyalty within companies. “Millennials want companies that can take their professionalism to another level. Universities play a role as well because they must offer careers that offer mobility and a wide spectrum of skills.” He added that Mexico has cultural advantages in comparison to countries like the US, which tend to have a colder personality. “We have a way of making people feel more at home.”
Borders are no longer an issue in this century because individuals now have the mobility to work anywhere in the world. That creates an additional challenge for companies, which the influx of foreign firms to Mexico could help to mitigate. “Individuals that leave the country may have not felt appreciated at home. But there are a number of international companies that are entering Mexico and creating a new work culture. It will be easier to retain talent,” said Elbiorn.
Added van der Zwet: “International exchange is a benefit for companies as it allows individuals to absorb best practices and learn from new cultures. The mix takes the talent to another level.”
International talent can also create an effective combination with their local counterparts. “It generates knowledge and development. It is not a threat as it inserts best practices into companies,” said Aparicio.
Van der Zwet also cautioned that companies should be careful about the promises they make. “Companies need to be clear about what they expect from the team without creating unrealistic expectations.”
It’s Not Just Money: How to Retain Your Workforce
Companies are constantly looking for new members to join their team but the real challenge lies in keeping employees. What happens when economic remuneration is not enough? That was among the questions addressed by the panel “Talent Retention and Development” at the Mexico Talent Forum 2016 in Mexico City on Thursday.
Beatriz Rivas, Director of Corporate Affairs at Great Place to Work, Federico Sada, CEO at INSAR, Mario Rodríguez, CEO at Arbomex, Silvia Mendieta, Director of Production Process at Audi Mexico and Claudia Raunich, Director of Human Resources Mexico American Express, participated in the day’s penultimate event at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel.
Times are changing and money is not necessarily the answer to producing a low-retention rate within an organization. Companies now have to discover what moves their most valuable asset, their workforce.
For American Express, the level of engagement of millennials is much higher than any other generation within the company. “We created various employee networks according to generations and their specific needs and from there elaborated a specific set of both attraction and retention strategies,” said Raunich. Identifying the needs of each employee can help companies create career paths that adapt to their lifestyles and that keep them motivated.
Nowadays employees want to become part of a company or a vision. They seek to have an impact within the organization. “At INSAR, we are collaborators, not employees,” said Sada. “Seventy-three percent of our team are millennials and they bring innovative ideas that are revolutionizing the industry.”
Arbomex is also seeing results from integrating millennials into its vision. “Integrating different generations into teams leads to great results. We achieved our first patent through our team of millennials who are coached by our older generations,” said Rodriguez.
Creating an inclusive environment for employees can drastically increase productivity levels and overall satisfaction. Rodriguez said that creating events which engage not only employees but also their families will give them a sense of belonging. “Having an impact on the lifestyle of an employee and their family will have a higher impact than economic compensation,” said Rodriguez.
This sense of belonging can also be reached through the reduction of working hours and offering home office. INSAR went against the current and began revolutionizing the workplace by allowing their employees to spend more time with their families. “We give our collaborators 60 hours of home office and combining this with flexibility and the proper recognition, we have been named A Great Place to Work for many years,” said Sada. Goals that are based on objectives can increase productivity and can boost an employee’s level of satisfaction.
Mendieta agreed that walking a mile in the shoes of employees helps companies elaborate detailed plans for the future but it is extremely important to maintain the trust of the organization. “Four hundred and twenty German expats were brought to Mexico to help kick-off operations but with the condition that they would have short-term contracts and that once it was completed, they could not be replaced with another expat,” said Mendieta.
“Credibility is elemental within a company. If these expats were replaced with new expats, we would completely lose the trust of our local workforce,” he said. An organization should ensure the credibility of its policies through the development of detailed career plans with goals and expectations.
In some cases, employees leave companies due to a lack of leadership. Sada pointed out that the leadership style should be the same throughout the entire organization. “Collaborators must feel that the essence of leadership is exactly the same throughout all levels and with all members of the organization.”
Role of Women Increasingly a Priority in Workplace
The fourth industrial revolution is not only bringing technological advances, it is also springing a wave of companies that increasingly are prioritizing the role of women in the workforce, said Maria Guadalupe Garza, Chair for the PPG’s Women Leadership Council Latin America, in her presentation “Bridging the Gender Gap: Women Revolutionizing Mexico’s Main Industries” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City on Thursday.
“Women are significantly impacting the industry and its direction. Approximately 80 percent of all sales decisions are made by women,” Garza said. Industries like automotive have incorporated strong female leaders into high-level positions due to the positive effect it has on companies.
Automotive News and Deloitte interviewed 300 women in top positions to understand how they acquired those positions and to find tools that can continue to promote these changes. “The study found that women are quite loyal and committed to the industries they specialize in. When asked if they could change their source of employment, 71 percent of women stated that they would come back to the same industry.”
When it comes to women that do leave, the study found the main reason is a lack of work-life balance. “Other reasons involve the relationships among peers and co-workers due to the stereotypes that exist about women and their ability to work well in the industry,” Garza said.
The questionnaire showed that a large percentage of women believe that female talent is underused due to stereotypes and low expectations among men.
The World Economic Forum released a study that analyzed the relationship between salary and health among other rubrics to find the level of gender equity in countries. “It found that Mexico is expected to improve considerably from 2015 to 2020,” she said. “The study estimates the country to be increasingly more educated and women are highly prepared. Iceland was found to be the country with the highest level of gender equity in the world.”
When it comes to changes in the future, the country needs to prepare itself to manage the new information that will be generated by the fourth industrial revolution. “Women are asking for flexible work hours and companies need to see the benefit of these type of structures. Home office is proven to improve productivity and most people are so motivated by the scheme that they even work extra hours,” she said.
Interfunctional skills will also be key, along with negotiating skills and emotional intelligence. “These are all skills that women dominate thanks to their ability to multitask and their sensibility to their environment.”
The employment of the future is related to the Internet of Things and retention. Said Garza: “As the top four trends of the workforce, we have identified the redefinition of skills, mobility, collaboration with academic institutions and last but not least, taking advantage of the female workforce.”
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