Office Space an Experience that Reflects Company Pillars
Office space needs to be understood as an experience and must reflect the organization’s pillars, with an understanding that a company’s workers are internal shoppers, Andrea Soria, Senior Workplace Knowledge Consultant at HermanMiller, told Mexico Talent Forum 2019, as she reflected on how office space impacts workers’ efficiency and productivity.
“When employees have the necessary tools and an office space truly designed for their activities, productivity can increase up to 25 percent,” said Soria at the Hotel Marquis Reforma in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Soria said that there are five key issues related to space that change the user experience within organizations. The first is attracting and retaining talent, which Soria says is related directly to mobility within the office. “When people are able to move freely within the office and can choose where to sit, they are more productive.” Innovation is also impacted by an office’s space. “Workers are more creative when the office space is non-traditional.”
The implementation of the so-called people can interact around a nice coffee bar or station within offices also has led to an increase in worker efficiency and allows the creation of an emotional bond with coworkers, which also lowers employee turnover. “People with strong emotional connections in their workspace can take up to two more years to quit their jobs even if they do not like it. More importantly, a sense of community can lead to a 28 percent increase in productivity.”
Soria said that these spaces also foster communication and impact knowledge transfer while also strengthening the connection between employees and the brand or company. However, for these spaces to work, Soria said that there needs to be a change in the way companies measure employees. “We need to start measuring our employees based on results rather than by traditional visual control.”
Despite the positive impact on businesses from technology and work mobility, these elements are also leading to an underuse of office space. “In Mexico, on average 25 percent of offices are not used correctly. An efficient management and use of office space could lead to up to 30 percent of savings in real estate that could be better used for talent development.”
Part of the change Soria suggests for traditional office spaces include meeting rooms. She points out that collaboration between workers happens mostly in workstations rather than in meeting rooms. “Meeting rooms in offices tend to be oversized. According to our studies, around 75 percent of meetings tend to include only three people, while most rooms are designed for eight to 10 people.” Soria said that new technologies, such as IoT, can provide important information regarding the way office spaces are used for better planning.
More importantly, Soria said that implementing IoT solutions in an office can boost wellness. “Having a living office can lead to mobile spaces that generate physical activities and allows workers to mold the office to their preferences.”
Economic Downturns, Migrating Employees Force Companies Into Flexibility
Panelists at the fifth edition of Mexico Talent Forum, held Wednesday at Hotel Marquis Reforma, addressed strategies for talent management in Mexico’s fluctuating economy and changing workforce. “We should be prepared for recessions as Mexico is always in recession,” joked Gabriel Pizá, Managing Partner at Pizá Abogados, setting a jovial mood for the discussion on “Proper Talent Management During Economic Downturns.”
Economic downturns force businesses to make hard decisions but some sectors can take advantage of slower periods to invest in the future. “The energy sector sees a lot of movement but we see slow periods as opportunities to train our people,” said Guido van der Zwet, General Manager Americas of IPS – Powerful People. In other sectors, a recession might lead to layoffs. In that case, companies must prioritize morale and retention of top talent. “Frequent talent reviews are essential to identify those employees we want to retain during times of crises,” said Claudia Escalante, Head of Human Resources for the US, Mexico and Central America at ROSEN.
Blanca Conesa, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, highlighted the need to retain strong leadership during economic downturns. “We surveyed 800 investors and observed that eight out of 10 point to leadership as a reason for choosing companies in which to invest because those are the people who will lead the organization and help it survive economic downturns. We identified five essential characteristics for leaders who can support companies during economic downturns: Anticipate change, Drive results, Accelerate business, Prefer partnership and generate Trust (ADAPT).”
There is, however, no one one-size-fits-all approach to talent retention. María Luisa Rocha, Regional Director of Staffing Operations for Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America at ManpowerGroup, explained that preferences for work benefits can vary among generations, which is significant considering the breakdown of today’s workforce. “Of today’s workforce, 35 percent of all employees are millennials, 35 percent belong to Generation X, 6 percent are baby boomers and the remaining belong to Generation Z,” said Rocha. The benefits employees want also changes by generation. For instance, Rocha suggested millennials want more than a good salary; they also prioritize the development of their careers. “Companies look for long-term employees but modern workers prefer to constantly change companies to advance their careers. This changes the dynamic between employers and employees,” she said.
Van der Zwet expanded on talent retention strategies and pointed to flexible hours, medical insurance and home office as work benefits greatly valued by Mexicans and encouraged others to implement them. Conesa also pointed to providing employees a healthy work-life balance. “Companies increasingly want to provide employees with a work-life balance because this increases engagement. Bosses play an essential role in this by empowering employees and avoiding micromanagement,” said Conesa.
Speakers also addressed concerns regarding outsourcing as a solution to personnel needs during economic crises. Van der Zwet pointed out that “there is good outsourcing and bad outsourcing. Sometimes outsourced employees do not get the same work benefits as regular employees. Outsourcing can be a good solution if done properly.” Rocha agreed, explaining that bad outsourcing companies do not pay appropriately into their employees’ healthcare and pension funds and fail to pay taxes properly. “Bad outsourcing hurts employees and companies. Bad outsourcing companies do not care about their employees and they do not care about the company that hires them,” said Rocha.
The panel ended by highlighting the importance of companies adapting not just to market needs but to the needs of its top employees. As van der Zwet said: “The company that adapts is the company that will survive.”
Generational Integration Without Leaving Anyone Behind
As companies move into a workplace transformation, they must be aware that they are bringing with them members of four different generations, each with their own preferences and motivations. According to Francisco Briseño, Human Capital Partner at Deloitte Mexico, 27 percent of the world population can be classified as millennial. “Millennials represent over 2 billion people and companies must learn how to help these people develop, without neglecting other members of their organization,” said Briseño during Mexico Talent Forum’s panel “Developing Millennial Leaders,” held at the Marquis Reforma hotel in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Jaime Cervantes, President of Grupo Vitalmex, said his company has built an approach focused on organizational well-being to merge the needs of different generations. “By creating human, social and economic value, companies can lead their workers to prosperity and the company to higher returns,” he said. Implementing this change, however, implies sensitizing companies’ management to the differences and cultural contrasts between Baby Boomers and members of the X, Y and even Z generations.
Beyond personal differences, the transformation process society is going through is fueled by technology, said Andrés Sánchez, CEO of Randstad México. Cervantes agreed with this premise, saying that new generations have a strong technological background that gives millennials new capabilities that can add value to companies. However, Cervantes added that younger generations must reconnect with the human side of participating in a company. “We have changed our working environment, our strategies and codes to accommodate millennials but they must also be open to rediscovering values, to manage their emotions and to be inspired by a project from a human perspective.”
Said Sánchez: “Millennials want the best of both worlds: they want the freedom of having their own business with the comfort that the corporate world offers. However, they must understand the reality of the corporate life and the needs and priorities of each project.”
For millennials to understand these concepts, companies must make visibility and communication priorities in their management process, said Liliana Méndez, Community Director of WeWork México. “Rather than wanting to know how their work changes the world, millennials want to understand the impact that their work has on the company and on the company’s relationship with its clients,” she said.
Unlike older generations that were accustomed to the corporate ladder, millennials seek to move through the ranks faster. Understanding this is also key for companies, according to Carola Rosillo, Director of Human Resources at AVON, who said that building a development plans is essential for companies to support workers in their professional career. Méndez, though, believes there needs to be a distinction between a career plan and a growth plan. “Millennials tend to think that if they are not getting a promotion, their career is stuck,” said Méndez. “By identifying the areas that candidates still need to work on and preparing a development plan, millennials can see their growth according to clear metrics, regardless of the position they occupy.”
AI Can Have Positive Impacts on Recruitment Processes Positively
Technology and AI are forcing people to change how they look at job recruitment and the work organizations, Tracey Friend, Vice President of Talent and PRO at Agile One, told Mexico Talent Forum 2019, as she reflected on how AI is changing HR processes and the way possible candidates and companies engage each other.
“When people hear about AI in HR processes, they think that it is about replacing the work that humans do. However, it is not like that; the implementation of AI in HR processes is about looking where in the process it is going to have the greatest impact and allowing people to do people things,” Friend said during the forum at the Hotel Marquis Reforma in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Friend added that the use of AI in the form of chatbots is helping employers and recruiters to better engage with the specific population they want to target. “AI has an important impact on finding the information that is relevant for any specific person.” She also said that around 66 percent of job applicants believe that chatbots are useful tools for a first interaction with any given company.
While AI can be an important tool for engaging with candidates and can even have a deep impact on scheduling meetings with applicants, Friend said that its full application depends heavily on the level of talent that organizations attract. “AI is reducing the time required to find a candidate but we still need to talk to them and the engagement strategy is going to vary depending on the talent level the organization needs.”
The two spheres of talent recruitment where AI can have a significant impact are the candidate experience and back-office automation. Regarding improved candidate experience, Friend said that AI simplifies job search, notification of the stage of the recruitment process and can even make the on-boarding process for candidates more interactive. “We have found that AI increases candidate flow by almost 40 percent; this means that AI-powered platforms allow candidates to find job vacancies more easily.”
In terms of back-office automation, Friend mentioned that AI helps recruiters in a number of ways that include re-engagement of applicants who in a particular moment showed interest in the organization, mining candidates from social media platforms, notifying people interested in the organization about new job openings, as well as marketing and analyzing the benefits and job experience offered by the competition.
Friend warned that while AI offers new and interesting possibilities, applying it within organizations involves a change in the mindset of recruiters. “The use of these tools requires a change in how people think and work.” Moreover, she said that different operational levels within a company might resist the change, making it essential to find allies within the organization who can help push technology solutions. “We need to set up influencers inside organizations to become champions of new ways to work,” Friend said.
No One-Size-Fits-All When Training a Workforce
The value of education programs in the workforce was put to the test during Mexico Talent Forum 2019, held at Hotel Marquis Reforma on Wednesday. During the panel “Rethinking the Role of Education and its Impact on Talent,” speakers analyzed the real benefits and costs of providing their employees continuous training programs.
“Education has been the most questioned activity in talent management, since companies are supposed to recruit people who already have the capabilities to fill a certain position,” said Lilia Ana Alfaro, Director General of Lopealfa Consultores. While the importance of continuous training is often touted as beneficial for the growth of a company, panelists questioned the real applications of providing general education courses to an entire workforce. “Offering the whole workforce a wide variety of courses is not necessarily good for the company,” said Jaime Zapata, Corporate Training Manager at Interjet.
José Antonio Quesada, Director of the Business School at ITESM, agreed and indicated that sometimes employees request courses that will benefit them personally. Businesses must analyze whether providing courses is good for the company. “Companies are evaluating the benefits of providing training courses when they do not directly benefit the company but only provide value for the employee if he wants another job. Companies must evaluate their needs in order to develop tailored program as one-size-fits-all does not exist,” said Quesada.
Another problem with company-provided training programs is that they follow an offer model instead of a demand model, explains Alfaro. “Often companies buy many different programs developed by schools and afterward select the individuals who might benefit from them. This often leads only to economic losses and no real benefits for the company.”
However, when done properly, employee training can be a real asset for businesses. “Developing specific employees with strong potential by providing them training programs tailored to their needs is much better for the company and for the employee,” said Zapata. Alfaro agreed and elaborated that companies must be highly selective regarding what courses they provide their employees. “We must switch to a demand model where we identify the areas that the company needs to improve and ask for courses that address these areas,” she said.
Eduardo Curiel, University Manager of SuKarne, also highlighted the importance of investing in the development of good leaders and pointed to a mixture of hard and soft skills as a necessary quality. Zapata agreed and said that not every individual is fit to be a manager. For that reason, companies must identify the strengths of each employee and invest in training programs that allow them to be better at their current position.
While some businesses might see training as beneficial only to the employee, when done properly it can also result in significant benefits for companies. As Zapata explained: “Training is not a necessary evil, it is fundamental for a company to reach its goals.”
National Growth Subject to Adequate Talent Development Roadmap
Although talent development is normally seen as an individual activity and the responsibility of companies or universities, there is also an overall vision that drives a country’s growth strategy, said Gustavo Linares, HR Director of UNDP Mexico and moderator of the last panel at Mexico Talent Forum 2019, held at the Marquis Reforma hotel in Mexico City.
Each country has different objectives in terms of growth and talent development, according to Joao Nunes, Executive Director of Michael Page. In the Netherlands, for example, companies favor contract flexibility and an objective-oriented work strategy. In China, each city has strategic objectives focused on the mass market and the final customer. “In Mexico, there is currently a transition in how we view talent. The country was ideal for companies to start their industrial operations but it has gradually evolved to offer knowledge and specialization in higher value activities,” said Nunes.
Mexico’s strategy under the López Obrador administration is to establish clear and defined policies to promote the internationalization of all municipalities in the country and Alberto Uribe, Director General of Political Coordination at the SRE, said the government must pay attention to city and regional development for the country to grow. “Mexico should grow at the same rhythm as the companies that generate the national talent,” he said.
For this strategy to be successful, the country needs specialists who can address the needs of the global industry, said Margriet Leemhuis, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Mexico. “Flexibility and diversity are crucial factors,” she said. The country, however, is still not ready to meet industry needs, according to Nunes. “The important thing is not to determine if the talent exists in the country, because it does. The real question is whether this talent is adequate for the needs of the country and so far, it is not,” said Nunes.
Talent evolves with the country and industry and the private sector plays a key role in identifying and developing the right capabilities for the country. Nevertheless, the government must be more active in establishing relationships with the private sector to make this happen, said Uribe. “The government is also a source of opportunities for talent,” added Leemhuis, who gave the example of an internship program organized by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When looking for talent, though, companies must improve their approach, said Nunes. “Companies are too focused on attracting the best talent but they should learn to differentiate between a good-looking CV and the best candidate according to the needs of the company and the skills needed to fill a position.” Talent retention depends on defining the role of the company in its industry to then create adequate talent development plans. “If this is not well-defined, companies cannot hire the best person,” said Nunes.
HR Role Evolves into Strategic Sphere
The role of human resources has evolved from technical activities to a more strategic arena that is responsible not only for payments or hiring processes but also for intangible values like happiness and commitment, Jorge Becerril, HR Director of Altlán Redes, told Mexico Talent Forum 2019 during his discussion on how to develop happiness in the workplace.
“A few years ago, there was no conversation about human development and workers being happy in their workplaces. However, today concepts like love, compassion and appreciation have a space in the conversation within organizations,” Becerril said during the forum at the Hotel Marquis Reforma in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Becerril said that human resources departments have taken a more important role as they have transformed from their technical responsibilities to helping employees feel engaged with their work. “Happiness at work has to do with distinction for employees.”
Moreover, employees’ happiness and satisfaction with their work is related to their understanding of what is expected of them. “Employees need to know clearly what their responsibilities are, the rules and policies of the company and that they are receiving a fair compensation system,” he said.
A problem companies usually face is that they ask for creativity from their employees but any idea that is too radical is soon halted, which leads to a paradox in workplaces, Becerril said. To generate engagement between employees and the organization, management needs to provide an outlet for the expression of creativity and sense of community, such as family events or internal events that foster engagement. “Employees need to see the management areas excited about these events. There needs to be congruency regarding the values that companies express and the way leaders treat their employees.”
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