Outsourcing is all about relationships, which means outsourcing is all about people. Finding the right people, and enough of them, is what keeps HR directors and talent scouts awake at night. Brazil — well, parts of it — has acquired a rap as one of the most difficult places in the world to hire IT talent. For a first-hand account of what it’s like to search for skilled workers in Brazil, and for some good advice, we turned to Julio Mosquera-Stanziola, Talent Acquisition Senior Manager for Dell.
Before joining Dell, Julio was regional human resources director for Latin America for a large contact-center and BPO company, where he developed strategies for recruitment, employee relations, labor/legal compliance, and HR management. His geographic domain has included Brazil, as well as Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Chile.
NSAM: We often hear about a shortage of IT workers in Brazil. Does your experience reflect that?
Julio Mosquera-Stanziola: Brazil has a high number of skilled professionals. In fact, some of the best IT workers in the region can be found there. Brazil is a self-sufficient country, capable of supplying their own demand for talent, and there lies the only problem: This talent can support domestic needs for the most part. If you are looking for professionals to support the Brazilian market, you have it made. If you are looking for talent to support markets in other languages, then there’s a challenge. Very few Brazilians speak English, more speak Spanish, but still not in large enough numbers or sufficient quality that you can build a strategy around it. The hardest cities to hire in are Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Being the largest cities, they concentrate some of the best talent in the country.
NSAM: Is it mostly a matter of supply and demand, of growing really quickly? Or is the government, the education system, and business not doing enough to train tech workers?
JM-S: The Brazilian university system is good. It prepares great professionals in all areas, including technical professions. There is an increasing number of companies looking to do business in Brazil, and when this happens, you are bound to find a shortage of talent because the demand has increased all of a sudden; Brazilian workers can take their pick. This is palpable in the recent drop in the country’s unemployment rate, which is the lowest it has been in recent years. Also, the BPO industry, typically, has the stigma of a non-desirable job, which makes for workers who are hesitant to move to these types of jobs. As more and more companies in the industry start proving to be better employers, the more workers will make the switch.
NSAM: In terms of culture and personality, what should outsourcing customers know about doing business with Brazil?
JM-S: Brazil is a very formal country when it comes to business. Brazilians value and respect hierarchy very much, and will develop respect for those who have the appearance of being in a high position (formal business dress code is important to show this). Brazilians are also very polite, which makes them less direct in their feedback; they will beat around the bush to make a point just to ensure they are not hurting anyone or anything. They have a tendency to come up with their own rules as they have been in their own world for so long, so they will try to make all policies Brazilian (chances are that most companies will have to adjust to local labor law and union agreements, anyway).
When searching for work, Brazilian candidates will look for a company that is viewed as elite, so building your company’s reputation, as well as the business appearance of those already working there, will be key.
NSAM: Another knock against Brazil is the price of IT workers, which some attribute mainly to labor laws and unions. What is your assessment of labor costs in Brazil?
JM-S: Cost of living dictates compensation, and the cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are ranked as the most expensive cities to live in North and South America, according to Mercer’s 2011 cost of living survey. This is mostly due to how the Brazilian Real has been strengthened against other currencies, including the US. Unions have been part of the Brazilian employment history for more than a century and it has become a more common practice, with approximately 30% of the country’s workers being unionized today. Of course, unions are a major driving force for increased wages in Brazil, being that a unionized worker can earn between 15-20% more than a non-unionized worker in additional benefits.
Now, all companies are obligated to be represented by a union and all employees in that company will benefit from the overall union’s agreement with the organization. Some employees decide to become unionized and enjoy additional benefits from being associated with the union.
Although most Brazilian professionals do speak English, these are high-level people that would be less interested in entry-level outsourcing positions.
NSAM: Do you see labor unions becoming more of a force affecting the world of outsourcing?
JM-S: Unions are present, especially, in those industries that have typically been considered high-intensity labor (i.e., long shifts, substandard working conditions). Although the outsourcing industry has changed a lot of its practices to accommodate better conditions for its workers, unions are very protective of their affiliates and future affiliates in outsourcing. SINTTEL and SINTRATEL are the most prominent unions in the outsourcing industry. Even when it is not an obligatory practice to join a union when employed by an outsourcer, it is a common practice.
NSAM: Is there anything unique or different about developing talent in Brazil as opposed to, say, Mexico (or any other Latin American country)?
JM-S: Some Latin American countries have a marked US influence that helps people understand “the American way” more easily. Brazil has developed a self-sufficient culture in which there has been little to no influence from other countries. They take pride in who they are and in not needing anything from any other parts of the world. Although, there are many US-based companies in Brazil, they are mostly servicing the Brazilian market, so they mostly play by US standards but “tropicalize” a lot in their internal and client relationships.
NSAM: How would you compare outsourcing from Brazil with other nations in the Nearshore region?
JM-S: Brazil is limited by its language capabilities. You may be able to outsource for US business in English and Spanish very effectively and cost-efficiently out of Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, or Panama; however, Brazil will mostly help either serve the Brazilian market within the country or in the US. Although most Brazilian professionals do speak English, these are high-level people that would be less interested in entry-level outsourcing positions.
NSAM: What would be your advice for companies thinking about doing business in Brazil? Is there something that you wish you had known when you first started working with Brazil?
JM-S: First and foremost, when thinking about Brazil, companies must understand the capabilities and availability of the labor force in terms of language skills, technical and job-specific skills, and then map those to their business needs. Then, it is necessary to review compensation ranges and practices of the skill-level they are looking to employ in order to detect the feasibility from a financial standpoint — and compare to other locations in both skill level and compensation.
Finally, it is important to have solid knowledge of the complex labor laws that govern employment so there are no surprises once you are already established. The best recommendation I can make is to engage a trustworthy legal office in Brazil that has a strong employment law branch and that is connected to or recommended by your local legal counsel.
Brazil is becoming more and more attractive as we identify more of the technical profiles that are required to conduct business in the US. Language continues to be a challenge for operations with large people requirements; however, Brazil is a great country to find highly qualified specialized talent.
This article originally appeared in Sourcing Brazil