When it comes to the shortage of Nearshore IT talent, global behemoths like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) may see less impact, but the challenges of attrition and retention remain the same.
Speaking with Adriana Torres, Country Head for TCS Mexico, at the company’s Mexico City office, Nearshore Americas queried the local talent challenges that one of the country’s biggest IT providers faces, as well as discussing the client-side experience of dealing with such a process-oriented company.
Nearshore Americas: How has Mexico been growing and scaling for TCS, and what is changing in the local IT market?
Adriana Torres: The Mexican market often thinks of TCS only as a software development factory, but we are not. We are larger than Accenture and IBM in terms of human resources in Mexico, where we have 6,000 associates and growing every week — just in this Mexico City office we get an average of 200 new resources every month. There are local companies that are larger than TCS, but as they are local they don’t have the strength of the global influence we enjoy, so we are not competing with them – in fact we don’t compete much with our main competitors because we are targeting different types of companies.
The Mexican market is growing all the time. The government is investing a lot in IT, the banking and insurance sector is growing, and telecommunications and retail accounts are strong. In terms of market share, TCS Mexico has been growing little by little over the last three years while other IT companies are decreasing – the IT market is not investing more, and has decreased that investment, but expects to start investing more from now until 2025. We expect to penetrate this market by being aggressive in certain sectors, such as banking and insurance, which are looking for more ways to interact with the client, specifically user experience.
Nearshore Americas: When it comes to customer experience, culture is important, and that culture varies across the world, so how does TCS balance the variety in customer demand for global clients?
Adriana Torres: Around the world, we have 45 nationalities working for us, which is why TCS decided to hire a Mexican country head to better understand the local culture. In previous years, the company didn’t grow until we started spending more time with the clients to understand their necessities, and those of the users.
Users want something fast, nice, and something that can be managed everywhere. With a bank transaction, for example, you want a good experience and the right result in a very short time. In the end, that experience is the most important thing, which is why banks are investing so much in digital transformation.
In our CDMX office, we have people from India, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, UK, all over the place, because we need to have this globality in one place. Every day, we face this globality with our clients, in emails, on calls, so we don’t have a problem with cultural alignment, often bringing the most experienced resources in to deal with particular cases from anywhere in the world.
Nearshore Americas: How difficult is it to integrate those teams, because there must be challenges to mixing people from all over the world?
Adriana Torres: The language is the main barrier. One of our clients wants operations in Mexico to support Latin America and the US, but they are concerned about support coming from Mexico because they only knew TCS in the UK, where the team has an Indian accent. In Mexico, we have the advantage of having people in Guadalajara and the north where they speak fluent English with an American accent, which is vital for Nearshore.
Everybody in Mexico is conscious of the importance of diversity, but children in Mexico need to learn more about different accents when learning English. We will often bring somebody in from each country that the client wants to serve in order to better understand the culture. Even in Latin America, one word in Mexico can mean something completely different in Chile, for example, and we experience that every day.
Nearshore Americas: What is TCS doing to find enough talent and then retain it in such a competitive environment?
Adriana Torres: This is the biggest challenge we are facing in Mexico. With new technology trends, there is limited talent to meet demand. For example, with analytics, everybody wants to do something with data, extract that data, and predict user behavior in the near future. How many students do you think are learning about this in school? Very few. How many associates can we find in the market with a competitive salary and the skills we need? Very few. So, we have no other option than to train our existing resources.
For niche technologies, scrum masters, and digital experts in iOS or Android, we see resources in their mid-twenties earning more than experienced people in their sixties.
Today, we have several internal schools, one for project management, another for analytics, another for digital services, and another for agile and scrum masters – there is no other way. We are training some resources with no more than 10 years’ experience, and transforming Java experts with new technology skills as per customer requests. We are doing part of this training on the job, in schools, and bringing in expats, mostly from India, who we plan to spend three years with before they move to another country for more training. As the skills of more experienced resources become more outdated, we take these people and re-skill them on different platforms each month.
Nearshore Americas: In Colombia, we recently found that the talent crisis is driving up prices and salaries. How is this crisis affecting costs here in Mexico?
Adriana Torres: For traditional technologies we don’t see any impact; however, for niche technologies, scrum masters, and digital experts in iOS or Android, we see resources in their mid-twenties earning more than experienced people in their sixties. These guys are working on new things and releasing them each week, whereas the experienced guys need more time to release a product in older tech.
There is a lot of attrition in the market, and there are a lot of head-hunters who are looking for trained resources, so they will offer double salaries to young people with just a couple of years’ experience. We cannot increase everybody’s salaries so we are not competing with these companies, instead letting go of the people that choose to leave – we have to respect the salaries bands and the progressive growth in the company. People in their mid-twenties are still learning how to work and how to deal with certain things, so they can often lose the reality of things to the allure of more money, falling behind on training and not having much to work for, which decreases motivation.
Instead, we try to keep resources with ideas about how to get the most from their talent in this company. Mexico is not the limit; they can select whichever country in the world they want to work. Everybody can apply to job opportunities in any country.
When I re-joined TCS, there were some vacancies for Mexicans in Malaysia and China, because they wanted someone who spoke Spanish and English for a client out there, but no-one wanted to go. Students in Guadalajara, for instance, are not even willing to move to CDMX, as they are very comfortable there, so we need to work with them and their families to convince them to explore the world and grow their skills. This diversity can only be understood if you work close to other cultures.
Nearshore Americas: TCS is highly process-oriented by design. What are the pros and cons of that deeply process-driven approach?
Adriana Torres: There is a price, of course, which is that clients sometimes comment that our response times are slow. In the long-term, however, they appreciate that, because being careful and taking these processes very seriously allows us to maintain the business without breaking any rules. In some cases, we have lost deals because we don’t give as much flexibility or reduce our price, which some competitors do, even at a loss, just to secure the project. If we’re going to offer something with value-added, the price is fixed, and we don’t want to have a negative margin, because that is not respectful.
Another example is that a client may ask for a resource in a new technology for the next day, but in some cases we may have to fly a particular resource in from another country, which takes much more time. The only way to react in the right way is with planning – if you plan with the client, and internally, then you can respond in the adequate time.
Nearshore Americas: What are the disruptive technologies that are changing the way that TCS operates, and what is changing about your business approach as a result?
Adriana Torres: We have implemented RPA with several clients, which has helped us achieve the same result in a shorter time. If clients want more users, then they need to deal with more data, but they don’t have the resources to increase to that level, so instead need technology to allow the same resources to do more. In that way, our processes are changing also, as we adjust to the necessities of the market.
Right now, our finance team is moving a resource from Mexico to Brazil and bringing in the best finance resource from Brazil to Mexico to deploy some new tools. Why Brazil? The country is more advanced in digital transformation, with more clients dealing with more digital channels. In retail, for example, there are many apps and online services to acquire products. In Mexico, we are moving that way, but we are not yet in that position, which is why we first implemented the tools in Brazil, and are now moving them to Mexico.
When it comes to the impact on employees, they need to spend more hours on education. I tell all the new employees every Friday to remember to keep updated. They spend hours chatting on WhatsApp and Facebook, for example, and if they changed one or two hours of this chatting to training, it would make a huge difference. TCS has created a platform called Fresco, which gives employees updates on internal education courses on their phones, and everyone has access to it. We also have Fresco Play, which allows people to ask the company’s 390,000 resources for advice on certain technologies. As a company, we more and more need to respond immediately, so we are changing a lot.