Q&A: Applying Empathic Coaching & Proactive Recruitment to the Tech Talent Shortage

Two recruitment professionals from IT services company CI&T reveal the secret to their success during the tech talent shortage – an innovative combination of empathy, proactive recruitment, and new technology platforms.

ci&t featured recruitment

While the shortage of technical talent isn’t going away, many Nearshore IT services companies have found success though their aptitude for innovation, which has allowed some recruitment professionals to tackle the talent crisis in new ways.

Giacomo Cesareo, People Operations Manager for North America and Europe, and Marília Honório, Senior Employer Brand Manager, tackle these challenges on a daily basis at CI&T, a Nearshore IT and software engineering company that has been expanding steadily in the United States.

In a recent interview, the two human resources experts revealed their unique approach to the problem and the secret of their success – an innovative combination of empathy, proactive recruitment, and new technology platforms.

Nearshore Americas: Giacomo, in your role as People Operations Manager, what are the main differences between that and a regular HR or recruitment officer?

Giacomo Cesareo CI&T recruitment
Giacomo Cesareo, People Operations Manager for North America and Europe at CI&T

Giacomo Cesareo: The role of People Operations Manager is that of a facilitator. We help set the standards in certain practices, such as personnel and compensation, organizational development, hiring and attraction.

As a facilitator, we can help groups of people emerge as teams and accomplish some really cool things, such as applying lean principles and A3 thinking, as well as discovering the root cause of a specific problem and determining who in that team should own the problem. Also, the POM can act as a steward, outlining the need and the urgency for a specific task and creating a follow up plan so that people can begin to act.

There are certain forms of communication that are involved with this, such as non-violent communication, that allow you to develop empathy in the company, and for people to feel safe and secure in the workplace. This helps give them confidence and a feeling of autonomy that enables them to act.

Nearshore Americas: Empathy comes up a lot when we talk with HR and training professionals, but how does one teach empathy and why is it relevant in the tech industry?

Giacomo Cesareo: A part of teaching empathy is having a robust approach to coaching. We are of a strong belief that coaching can be done in as little as 10 minutes in certain situations, meaning that, in today’s environment where speed and intention are key, you can quickly take action and have the emotional conviction to identify what is on the person’s mind. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an hour-long conversation to get to the root of what that person may be feeling or experiencing in their day-to-day.

From a coaching perspective, asking questions is the real skill that is needed to create the right level of empathy. You literally need to ask, “What’s on your mind today?” From that, you would ask, “What problems do you want to solve?” It’s about developing a series of questions that, while not necessarily prescriptive in nature, help to understand what a person sees that you may not see.

In our industry, the same questions apply with clients. If, for instance, a client needs to deliver X amount of services today, or needs a certain change to the structure on their e-commerce site, or even if their morning commute was a nightmare that day, then empathy comes in as a way to really understand what is happening with that person, which better helps to direct our way of working with them on any given day.

Nearshore Americas: If this is a daily practice, surely you would have to shift your approach to training or customer service every day. How do you address that challenge?

Giacomo Cesareo: With the right coaching, people will already have the skills to be able to act. They know the environment, they know the behavior, but they may sometimes need extra advice on a particular approach, which ultimately leads back to more coaching.

The balance is really in the dynamic of how the relationship is being formed, and recognizing that people are continuing to build these relationships day to day.

Nearshore Americas: How are evolving technologies and communication platforms changing the company’s approach to talent development, especially in a market where talent is difficult to attract?

Marília Honório CI&T recruitment
Marília Honório, Senior Employer Brand Manager at CI&T

Marília Honório: We’ve started to focus on using LinkedIn as an alternative to receiving resumes. Tech workers generally have a more updated resume on LinkedIn, where we can connect with the right people for our company instantly instead of waiting for them to come to us.

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We don’t use the “post and pray” method of posting a job opening and waiting for people to come to us; we proactively go after the people we want to hire. Even if the person is not necessarily looking for a job, we will approach them if they are right for us, starting up a conversation and offering opportunities that may be a good fit.

Giacomo Cesareo: That cultural fit equates to a willingness to learn and to get their work into the world as quickly as possible, as well as looking to get feedback on that work.

In today’s environment, you have to go to the people, present your case, and present the value you can offer for career development. We need to go to the market and communicate in a way that will capture people’s attention, stressing the opportunity for them to take action and get their work out to the world. Through that, we can make a compelling case that their influence and contributions will set them up for the careers and direction that they want.

Career longevity is a challenge, so we have to differentiate between those who want to stay on for a career lifetime and those who want to move forward in another direction. Either way, companies need to present their cases for how that person can progress in their career, whether it be for one year or fifteen years. Once on board, they need to continue to see that a company can help them progress, and that is critical for organizations to overcome this particular challenge.

We recently rolled out CI&T University to the whole company, which was initially introduced as a pilot in 2017. This initiative provides micro-learning for internal staff, delivering education in a way that people can pick it up when they need to. It works across multiple devices, making it accessible to everyone at work or at home.

Marília Honório: We wanted to be more assertive in how we reach our employees, regardless of the channel they use to receive information. This platform combines training, hiring, and employer branded actions that are connected to multiple different channels, so we can be sure we are reaching both employees and new hires about our opportunities, coaching, and open positions.

The University platform includes specific content for employees, including video lessons and quizzes, which is not just for processes and procedures, but also related to our company offerings and internal things we want to share. At the end, participants get a badge and certification for certain courses, which isn’t directly connected to promotions, per se, but it does improve performance, leading to opportunities for advancement.

We also ran a program in Brazil called You Global. With that, we hire people for a week or a month just to provide them with the right training for working on specific projects. The point is to hire the right people based on behaviors and culture, because the technical skills and knowledge can be taught – it’s the way people think that is the most important thing.

We are ultimately talking about people, all the time, so creating a great environment for them will result in a successful business, as will humanizing the relationship in a corporate environment, with empathy and knowledge of what people want out of their lives and their careers.

Nearshore Americas: Brazil used to be a Nearshore IT services powerhouse, but has become very enclosed and focused on its domestic market in recent years. What is your perspective on this trend? Is the country getting to a place when it can return to Nearshore greatness?

Marília Honório: The Brazilian market is special to us and the brand is strong there, but we want our offering to match the US market too. We’re dividing our focus to have our people in Brazil available for the US market too. Our center of excellence and export will be the focus for international clients, and we’re focusing our investments on technical and English training to increase language fluency. We want to reinforce how important the US market is for us. Our goal is that by 2020 the majority of our revenue will come from North American contracts.

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