Q&A: Unisys on Recruiting and Retaining Regional Talent

When collaborating on projects of vital importance, Unisys makes the most of the human resources it has spread over its ten subsidiaries in Latin America; selecting those with …

"Latin America offers a range of human resources, from the most basic to the most advanced level," says Unisys HR officer Ximena Cardenas.

When collaborating on projects of vital importance, Unisys makes the most of the human resources it has spread over its ten subsidiaries in Latin America; selecting those with special skills and experience and sending them where they are needed.  This formula has proven successful for this company, who specialize in providing security services, transformation of data centers, outsourcing and support services and app updating services.

Finding adequately qualified personnel is a full-time job for Ximena Cardenas, IT Human Resources Acquisition Expert at Unisys Mexico & LACSA (Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America). Cardenas is in charge of finding sufficiently qualified personnel from Spanish speaking countries who can participate in these projects; adding value to the company and boosting its development.

With 4,000 employees in Latin America (half of whom are found in Brazil), Cardenas is well aware of the differences in personnel found in the different countries.  She also recognizes the importance of maintaining excellent working conditions and offering attractive training programs; both of which encourage staff loyalty. Nearshore Americas recently took the opportunity to chat with this Cardenas. Here’s how it went:

Nearshore Americas: Unisys is constantly searching Latin America for qualified IT professionals. Are there enough out there?

Ximena Cardenas:  We work within a variety of markets. There are human resources specializing in a variety of technological areas, with a variety of functions; so really, it’s impossible to generalize. We have the greatest concentration of workers in Colombia, Mexico and Argentina. These countries themselves have diverse, constantly changing markets and they offer a range of human resources, from the most basic to the most advanced level.

The services on offer are never going to be exactly what a company is looking for. You have to supplement their training and knowledge. We provide these professionals with eLearning tools imparting technical knowledge, administrative skills and management skills. When taken advantage of these tools help the professionals to improve their overall performance, and build a successful career within the company. This online training is provided internally and is free of charge.

NSAM: What are the basic requirements for university graduates looking to work for Unisys?

XC:  That depends a lot on what role the graduate wishes to take up within the organization.  To get into a company such as ours, the graduate should take an interest in two key areas:  infrastructure support and software development. There are very few individuals who are equally competent in both areas. Technological professionals usually opt for one of these two areas, according to their personal skill set and interests.

In terms of technology, it’s really more about the individual’s desire to build a career in one of these two areas; as opposed to meeting basic requirements. The individual should be able to focus on the client’s needs. This is the culture Unisys is looking to promote – providing the client with a high-quality service. They should also be eager to learn and willing to adapt according to market trends and the individual needs of the organization or project they are assigned to. As we use the latest technology and products available they need to be able to work well with both.

They should to be able to work well in a team as we often have people from different countries and cultures working together – something that is becoming more and more common in this global market. This is one of Unisys’ keys to success, as we are able to accumulate knowledge and expertise from a variety of countries.

NSAM: How do you keep hold of these professionals once they have joined your organization rather than losing them to the competition?

XC:I once read a quote by Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group), which said:  “You need to give people the tools they need to go; but treat them well so they don’t go.” Respect is crucial when it comes to holding on to talent.  Good working conditions and talent management initiatives also help. We should make use of the tools available to train up personnel with potential so that they can become accomplished leaders.  It has been said that people leave leaders not companies; which is why we strive always to ensure that our work teams have leaders they can respect. Of course, there have to be compensation schemes accompanying these initiatives, offering opportunities for growth, generating real value and helping you to advance your career with a company that you are proud to represent.

NSAM: Have you worked with any universities; helping them to update their study programs to include courses that prepare the students for their entry into the work force?

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XC:  We have University Practice Programs. We also work with the graduates, looking for feedback on their own University experience. We use this information to modify, add to or improve the academic programs on offer so that the next generation of graduates can be better prepared for the demands of the workplace. We recruit from universities, both public and private, letting them know exactly what we are looking for, what we like about their academic programs and where we feel they could improve.

There is still much to be done; there are many institutions that would benefit from this kind of feedback. We are getting there gradually but it’s impossible to work with all the universities out there. We get involved with work fairs, such as those organized by Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute; Bogota’s Chamber of Commerce and other universities in Bogota, Colombia.  We report back to them, letting them know if we have been able to find what we were looking for and the areas they need to work on. This helps us to build symbiotic working relationships: they need us and we need them.

NSAM: What is the biggest challenge for someone like you who is looking to recruit talent from Latin America that can integrate well into a business, helping it to provide a high quality, profitable and innovative service?

XC:  Universities are finally starting to address the issue of graduate employability. It a concept that takes into account the skills and vision that the students will need in order to get on in the workplace.  These are key components that the Millennial Generation (or Generation Y) is lacking. Academic institutions should try to help these young professionals to develop a more realistic work perspective. This, in turn, will help them to connect with the companies, generating value and becoming more desirable to the work force.

NSAM: Latin America is playing a pivotal role in offering services both to local markets and to the United States. How much potential does the region have when it come to providing the qualified personnel that these businesses are looking for?

XC:  I believe that nearly all Latin American countries have gone a long way towards developing this potential over the last few years; and they will continue to do so.  Here at Unisys, we can see real progress – our employees are moving to other countries to develop their talent and collaborate with projects and operations where their particular skills are required. This is one of the biggest global trends that we are seeing in this region.

Globalization, without a doubt, has played a part in this. Employees are able to move about more easily, working on short and long term projects and finding jobs in countries that are looking for their particular skills and expertise.

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