Nearshore Americas

Pfizer’s “Open Campus” Symbolizes Why Aesthetics Are Truly a Big Deal

Beauty and comfort can go a long way in many contexts, including the hunt for qualified workers. Pfizer’s aware of this and has made it part of its workforce strategy to fill-up its newest Costa Rican facilities. 

The pharmaceutical giant recently opened new facilities in Costa Rica’s Escazu Village, from where it plans to strengthen its Central-American offering of outsourced business operations and exportable software services.

The new offices can house up to 700 employees, and Pfizer has been working over the past months to fill those seats with both technical and non-technical personnel. The task won’t be easy, though. 

Costa Rica is a hotspot for the outsourcing of business operations and software development. More and more companies land in the country, opening facilities and recruiting in the local job market. While the demand for outsourced talent is climbing in Latin America, Costa Rica’s fame as a nearshoring destination could make the hunt even more difficult for companies in search of workers.

When asked about how they will deal with the tightening Costa Rican labor market, Pfizer responded that it is betting on the appeal of its new facilities to draw talent into their offices.

“[Pfizer’s new CR facilities] are characterized for being the first in Latin America to apply our new vision in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as our new labor model, known as Human Workplace Experience”, stated Nathan Bland, Lead at Pfizer’s San José site and spokesperson for the company, in an email response. 

“This seeks to promote not only creativity and collaboration, but also to provide greater accessibility for the disabled, as well as a positive balance between work experience and higher quality of life for the company’s collaborators,” he added. 

The company described the new Escazu facilities as an “open campus”, ideal for sharing ideas, with “healthy, flexible and interactive collaborative spaces”. 

Among the features mentioned were innovation halls, neutral bathrooms, phone booths  and “adaptable furniture for the disabled”. All of these with the intention to provide its employees with “work-life balance in and out of the office” and to make them “feel valued for their knowledge and skills, with the aim of growing both at a personal and professional level.”

Nevermind the pretty sounding words. Pfizer’s response reflects a growing trend of companies synching up their workforce and facility/location strategies. In the tug-o-war between employers and employees over the return to office spaces, some firms are glowing-up their facilities with hopes of attracting workers and convincing them to stay

A recent survey by proptech firm Envoy shows that 61% of the companies surveyed are making changes to their physical workspaces (whether adding or subtracting to them) to better adapt their operations to a hybrid or even remote work environment.

Those which add to their facilities are opting for more spaces for collaboration, meetings and socializing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the vast majority of substracters are reducing the amount of desks, with some cutting down on overall real estate. 

Given the growing prevalence of hybrid and remote work models, experts recommend that companies plan out their location and recruitment strategies in tandem. That will take more time and effort, though. According to Everest Group VP Sakshi Garg, many companies are still unaware of how to synch-up both strategies. HR teams lack the proper data and knowledge, and decision makers are just beginning to understand the relationship of delivery model diversity and workforce.

“Delivery model is a new vector that has been introduced. It has still not gotten into every decision making framework of organizations”, said Sakshi Garg in a previous interview with NSAM. “We’re still at the tip of the iceberg of understanding how this will have an impact.”

Pharma’s Tech Race

Pfizer’s taking Big Pharma’s technological race quite seriously and hopes to leverage its Costa Rican operations to win as much ground as possible.

Pfizer expects to tap Costa Rica’s tech talent pool to achieve what the company described in a statement as its objective of “winning the digital race in the pharma industry”. 

“That’s why we’re using big data and digital technologies –like machine learning and Artificial Intelligence– to accelerate the process of discovery, therapy development and the improvement of both experiences and results for patients,” stated Nathan Bland.

Nathan Bland, Lead at Pfizer’s San José site

Costa Rica, though small, has managed to craft a reputation as a source of high-specialty tech talent. With companies of all sizes feeling the squeeze of a tight tech job market, it’s no surprise that more and more glances are being cast towards Costa Rican soil.

Pfizer has a laundry list of technologies that it expects to develop and support from its new delivery center at Escazu: web applications, automation, cloud storage and Artificial intelligence. The company will also leverage its technological muscle to improve processes for collaborators and matters of compliance, such as data protection and anti-corruption 

“From Costa Rica and our new installations in Escazú Village, we will continue utilizing all technologies that are centralized in Pfizer’s global data and cloud centers,” added Bland in his written response to NSAM

The company has spent the past several months hunting for workers to fill its new facilities. Its jobs page is advertising for a wide array of profiles: mobile developers, cloud optimizers, data scientists/analytics engineers, machine learning engineers, cybersecurity engineers, among others.

The hunt won’t be easy, though. Given the tight job market and the high –and rising– demand for software engineers and other sorts of technical talent in Costa Rica, Pfizer should expect to pay a pretty penny for those workers, even when, in theory, Nearshore hiring should be cheaper. 

Deeper Into European Compliance

Pfizer is slowly expanding the reach of its Costa Rican operations when it comes to easing compliance processes with its European clients.

Since 2018, Pfizer uses a framework known as My Anti-Corruption Policies and Procedures (MAPP) to navigate anti-corruption compliance norms within the territories in which it operates.

“The objective of the MAPP [My Anti-Corruption Policies and Procedures] initiative is to simplify the general policy and establish a simpler operating model which, through an internal tech platform, guarantees the management of interactions with health professionals and governments of the different countries with which we have a relationship,” explained the company in a written statement. 

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Its Costa Rican team consists of 50 collaborators, which provide support in anti-corruption compliance procedures for Pfizer’s operations in Latin America and –since 2020– France. As recently as early 2022, that list expanded to Spain and Portugal. 

Costa Rica has been a delivery center for Pfizer’s business processes since 2013. The offering provided includes financial services, risk management and project management. In 2018, the company began outsourcing its anti-corruption compliance processes from the Central American country. 

Cesar Cantu

Cesar is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. He's a journalist based in Mexico City, with experience covering foreign trade policy, agribusiness and the food industry in Mexico and Latin America.

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