Global services giant Cognizant is on an expansion drive in Mexico, with last month’s opening of a new operations center in Mexico City — part of a US$6 million investment across three facilities — being its most recent endeavor.
Nearshore Americas was at the inauguration of the new CDMX offices, where we sat down with Noe Gutierrez, Country Head for Mexico, Jonás Perretta, HR Associate Director for Mexico and Central America, and Iván Zavala, Business Development and Public Affairs, to discuss what is driving this expansion, and how the company overcomes the regional talent crisis.
Nearshore Americas: With such demand for talent in Mexico, how is Cognizant finding and retaining people to continue expanding?
Noe Gutierrez: Retention is a symptom more than a root cause, and is only difficult if you don’t have the right strategy. What we have seen so far is that if you don’t provide people an environment where they can grow, then they leave. If people can experience new opportunities, continue to develop their career and skills, then retention is not that difficult.
Jonás Perretta: Even so, retention is a big challenge for me as a talent manager in Mexico. We try to offer good work environments that help a lot. In Guadalajara, for example, we have a foosball table, ping pong, seating and rest areas, and benefits on top of the legally required ones, such as extra vacation days, private health insurance, life insurance, and food tickets, which employees value a lot – the health insurance benefit is actually valued the most.
Our competitors can be quite creative with their approach to employment, but we hire everyone 100% on our payroll, which again is important for people. One benefit of this is that employees can apply for loans from the Mexican federal institute for worker’s housing (INFONAVIT), which helps people buy houses while they work for us.
Noe Gutierrez: Typically, the monetary compensation and benefits are vital, but giving people identity and purpose is much more important, because if they receive a better offer inters of salary or perks then they will jump ship. You have to motivate people to stay by enabling them to make a difference and contribute at different levels. Everybody at Cognizant has a job to do, but the idea is to give them a career and develop to the next level, so they are not stuck in that job forever.
Jonás Perretta: While we do initially hire people for specific requirements on single projects, they immediately become a Cognizant employee, allowing them to apply for internal positions anywhere in the world, which is another strong benefit for many people.
Nearshore Americas: What tactics do you have to train people in a company that provides such a broad range of services?
Jonás Perretta: We have an internal academy for development and training, which prepares people in a classroom setting using a mix of on-site and online teachers – associates may be participating in these sessions from different locations around the world. For specific projects, we provide certifications that people can apply for if we need it, and the company reimbursed the cost to the employee.
Each individual is able to create their own career path within the company. Once a new employee starts with us, we identify their initial role and assess the skills that they have, but that person can also tell us what skills they would like to have, or what roles they would like to perform in the future, helping us to create a role development plan for everyone.
Nearshore Americas: Noe, as Country Head of Mexico, how does you connect Mexico with Cognizant HQ and other markets? How does your corporate structure support this market?
Noe Gutierrez: First of all, our three Mexican branches – Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey – all report to me. Mexico is part of the larger region of Latin America, which has around 3,000 people for Cognizant, and growing. We have senior leaders in what we call horizontals and verticals, who have specific knowledge of domain skills that are shared across the region. This helps with efficiency and to share best practices on a regional scale.
Latin America reports to Growth Markets, which is, for Cognizant, everything outside of the US and Canada. The US and Canada represents around 77% of our revenue today, which is something we want to change, not to make North America revenue smaller, but to increase the revenue of Growth Markets. We are well on the way to achieving that, as there are a lot of synergies between Latin America and other regions, specifically Europe, Middle East, and APAC.
Also, next year, all the country managers from the Growth Markets regions will get together in Abu Dhabi for a planning session, allowing us to share experiences about what works and what doesn’t, as well as share knowledge and increase collaboration across regions.
Nearshore Americas: In terms of IT and technology in Mexico, what is holding Cognizant back and where could you see the industry start to improve? How does talent play into this?
Ivan Závala: In our view, we don’t see a struggle but an opportunity. Mexico is maybe a couple of years behind what is happening in Europe or the US. Things like chatbots, VR, and digital in general are generating traction in Mexico, which is where the large opportunity comes from.
We are here, not only to deliver basic services, but to propose digital transformation for companies, and Mexico is on the right path for this. The country is a leader in Latin America in terms of technology adoption – huge global companies are doing this here and that is where we want to engage. This means we have to get them to a position where they are comfortable with innovation.
(ED: For reference, Cognizant is serving four large customers from the Mexico City site: two food and beverage giants, an American supermarket chain, and a global insurance firm, all of which cannot be named due to NDAs.)
Noe Gutierrez: Mexico has excellent talent. It may not have the scale of other countries, like India, but that doesn’t mean the talent is not here. It’s our job to not only find that talent that is available to us right now, but to also take it to the next level. Even if people decide not to stay with Cognizant, for whatever reason, then we make sure that they learn something with us and contribute something toward the country.
Jonás Perretta: By partnering with universities, we send knowledgeable people to train and teach people in lectures and classes, so that even if they do not eventually work at Cognizant, we are still contributing to the talent pool. Students are receptive to the idea of joining a company. Engineers want to create things and be part of something that develops technology. This approach has been successful and is the key to motivating new talent and helping the industry to grow.