GFT Brazil Shows How Open Management Results in More Productive Workers

More evidence is appearing that there is a definite link between employee productivity and overall company performance – at least if you look at the track record of …

More evidence is appearing that there is a definite link between employee productivity and overall company performance – at least if you look at the track record of GFT Brasil, a global IT financial services company. In the first three quarters of this year, the company more than doubled its export IT services to countries such as the United States, Germany and Mexico, and prospects for next year are equally bright.

This achievement is linked to the company being able to increase its IT service productivity, which, according to Country Managing Director Marco Santos, was possible because of the way management runs the company. At GFT Brasil, he says, the employees are the real assets.

Value Your Staff

“We have this huge differentiator, our philosophy is to be geared toward our employees. And this is something that’s starting to make a good impression in the market. Our leadership is working as precisely as a Swiss watch,” Santos explains.

Santos says he’s seeing a positive difference in the performance of all personnel because employees at GFT Brasil aren’t treated as commodities. Instead, he strives to understand what really makes employees happy and satisfied with their jobs.

“The more traditional IT companies and the global players try to ‘commoditize’ something that’s not a commodity,” he says. “When you treat knowledgeable workers in a way that respects their professional and personal expectations, then you can truly succeed.”

Working from Home

A good example of this is allowing employees to work remotely, particularly in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where most people spend up to four hours a day in traffic jams. Allowing employees to work remotely provides them with a more balanced life, which in turn makes them more a lot more productive, according to Santos.

The success of Santos’ management style is reaping concrete benefits. In the first nine months of the year, the company increased its revenue 30% to reach almost 118 million euros, compared with the same period in 2012. Profits increased a whopping 62%, totaling 12.8 million euros.

“If we increase the productivity of each employee by 5% to 10%, then you have a much bigger return than if you were to simply reduce costs. If you truly understands what the employee needs, then he or she can be 20% more productive,” Santos explains. “Our main asset is our human resources.”

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There aren’t any official numbers on employment attrition in the Brazilian IT sector, according to Brazil’s IT industry agency, Brasscom; but Sergio Sgobbi, the agency’s director of HR, agrees that implementing more flexible HR regulations would be beneficial across the entire IT sector. Allowing employees to work from home for example, is still a huge challenge in Brazil because of federal labor laws.

“But we’re [already] able to deliver more quality, productivity and better results by being less restricted,” Sgobbi said. “We would have many benefits: traffic reduction in the larger cities, cost reduction due to real estate space, transportation and infrastructures that are required to keep an employee at work, and an improved quality of life and job satisfaction for the employees.”

For now, Santos relies on a multi-front effort, which includes meticulous communication among peers, a mentorship program and an open polity to bring in new ideas to the table. “A new trainee can start working with us and suggest something new that will be a good opportunity for us,” Santos says.

The ‘Eureka’ moment

Santos says the problem most companies face is not being able to align their operations with their core goals. “But when I started at GFT, the company had only 140-150 employees, so I thought that if I could make all these people become articulate enough to truly understand the core objectives of the company, then I’d have a body of workers that would be much more valuable,” Santos says. “It’s like the synchronized swim of schooling fish.” Today, the company employs 250 people.

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