Across the globe, finding and keeping skilled talent is one of the greatest challenges facing service delivery firms. From Buenos Aires, Argentina, Carlos Stella sees this challenge every day as head of human resources for Tata Consultancy Services for Latin America, which has 8,000 employees in the region.
Global Delivery Report recently asked Stella what works, the challenges he faces, and lessons he’s learned about managing human capital in Latin America.
GDR: How do you find and recruit employees who will work well in a global, multicultural work environment?
Stella: The main factors we consider during the recruitment process are whether the applicant is open to relocation, has the ability to work in a team, their language capabilities, and whether they have the flexibility, leadership and customer focus we need.
GDR: How do you assess some of those less tangible skills, such as leadership and customer focus?
Stella: References are very helpful. This industry seems huge, but at the end of the day, we know most of the people in it very well, and can ask them for references. For areas such as teamwork, flexibility and autonomy we also conduct psychological testing on candidates who make it to the final selection round.
GDR: Tell me about the importance of relocation.
Stella: Almost 70 percent of our recruits are young people, and most of them are open to having experiences outside of their own countries. Since the IT industry is similar across countries, we can move them from one country to another to assume different roles with more responsibilities.
GDR: Wouldn’t it be easier to give your employees similar opportunities in their home countries?
Stella: Because TCS is a very flat organization, it can be challenging to find the right growth opportunity for someone within their own country. Relocation can thus, for the right candidate, be both an incentive to stay with TCS and a way to develop their career, which is a very big part of our HR strategy.
GDR: There’s a lot of talk about the challenges of merging Latin American and Indian work styles. How do you deal with this?
Stella: There is a lot of learning and communication that goes both ways. For example, our HR team in Latin America has almost 80 people, of whom some are from India on assignment here. They teach us about everything from Indian culture and HR processes to even cooking, food and sports preferences. In Uruguay, for example, there are a lot of Indian expats who prefer cricket. So we’ve organized cricket games between them and the locals.
GDR: It sounds like you’re a big fan of travel.
Stella: I’ve been in the IT industry for almost 15 years, and most of that time I’ve been traveling across the world. I feel that has made me a new person, more open, more flexible. I’m able to learn from others. We have an expression in Spanish that translates roughly as “Traveling opens our minds.” I’ve found that to be true for myself, and for our associates.
GDR: What changes do you see in today’s recruits compared to new employees you’ve seen over the years?
Stella: I’ve been working in HR for almost 25 years, and the thought processes of our new hires – at least the 70 percent of whom are between 22 and 28 years old – are different. You have to show them, almost immediately, that you will continuously challenge them with new responsibilities and tasks. The communication also has to be more open than in the past. They’re also more willing to move among employers more quickly if they’re not finding what they’re looking for in a short period of time – say, one to two years.
GDR: Does all this make it harder to train them in the standard processes that are necessary in global delivery?
Stella: Being a CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) Level 5 company, our people must have strong and deep knowledge in processes and quality, and we have very strong programs in place to educate them in both technology and processes. So process is not an issue for them. At the end of the day it’s part of the DNA of the company. Most of them appreciate the processes and technologies we have. For us, it’s an asset.
GDR: What three questions should customers ask a services provider about their HR processes to determine if the provider is a good fit?
Stella: What are the key values that the service provider and its employees share; what are the main technical and soft skills of the workforce; how do you provide a career path and performance management for your path, and finally, show me your employee survey results for at least the last three years.
GDR: And are you willing to share those yourselves?
Stella: Yes, because it is a service provider’s employees who will give the customer the most honest and open view of what the organization’s values really are.