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It´s Sunday afternoon, December 4 and our last day in Brazil. I’ve not had a chance to Journal or Blog since Wednesday.The time flew by. Sleep…not so much. Great conversations- individually and in groups as the delegation members bonded and shared impressions with each other. I´ll be absorbing and reflecting for weeks…months and beyond.Here are a few thoughts at just one of the stops, Hewlett Packard, in Sao Paulo, Brazil´s business capital to illustrate the way some of these ‘conversations’ begin and…never end.Wednesday morning HP’s [country] President & General Manager, Oskar Clarke, welcomed us with open arms, a booming voice and an ever expanding smile. He immediately introduced himself, said he could explain Brazil, then walked over to each delegate [23] offering an enthusiastic handshake, kisses on both cheeks, a personal question, comment and, a promise that he will always respond to our emails within 48 hours. (I’m about to test this last claim)Oskar is more than animated. Our delegation all agrees (after a further day or two of reflection), that his leadership style is prototypical Brazil. He is confident, optimistic to a fault, engaging to the extreme.We tend use the word `passionate´ liberally in the US but too often the people who say it don’t display it. In Brazil, you really don’t have to say the word (although they do) as the behavior is unmistakable.Describing his challenges as a business leader with 9,000 employees in-country, Oskar, who has been onboard for less than a year, noted that running a company like HP is complex.In his own way he is making the case that business at its core is the same everywhere.”We have 7 business units and each of them is measured by their own P&L metrics…but customers want a single way to deal with HP w/o silos. Breaking the silos and linking the businesses as a team is the only way to grow. The [disconnected] metrics are against us in the short time but by using ‘cheek-to-cheek’ [face-to-face] to build one team we will succeed.” “After all, Oskar points out, “The most sensitive part of the human being is the pocket.” (Gotta love it)While HP has 9000 employees in Brazil, there are 330,000 globally operating 170 countries. The average worker (IT professional) is 34. 600 open reqs are currently on the desks of 20 recruiters. There are about 30 more employees in HR for a total of 50. Up until recently, 80% of the external hires were 3rd party sourced. That is already down to 20%. About 60% are now from referrals….and not necessarily just ‘employee’ referrals. Attrition is 14.3% down from 21% as better staffing and HR practices have been ramped up.But responding to the growth hasn’t come without pain. 41% of employees have less than 2 years at HP. The company made 1000 counteroffers between 2009 & 2010 (no comment here).Oskar, and later on Antonio, HP’s HR leader, were both open about recent events in the US that catapulted HP into the news but quickly returned to the theme of transformation in Brazil and the evolving role of HR.At HP, HR is revisiting its roots and rewriting/updating the company’s ‘HP Way’ values.The real interest here are the many specific and non-trivial, local issues to address.Sao Paulo, for example, has a traffic problem. And, when you consider that more than 20 million people are in the city’s I can certainly relate living just 35 miles south of NYC myself. So, when Antonio said it can take as long as an hour to drive to work, I’m thinking “reasonable”.Not so. He lives only two miles away from his office (and can walk to work in less than half an hour). Mass transit does exist but, the number of miles of subway/bus lines here is a fraction of what is available for a city this size in other parts of the world.We’re not done with this issue however. The Sao Paulo government, in its wisdom, decided they could reduce emissions as well as congestion of the ‘Paulistas’ (who drive 7 million cars) by decree. Paulistas with license plates ending in a ‘1’ or a ‘2’ can’t drive their cars on Monday. By Friday, theoretically, every worker has taken their car off the streets at least once. Or have they?It seems that instead of fewer cars, the locals (who might not have been within easy walking distance…there are hills here after all) are now acquiring second cars (with license plate whose numbers are not in conflict)- adding significantly to all the congestion.We’re not done. Only about 2% of HPs professional workers in Sao Paulo are currently “teleworkers” working from home every day. Mobile workers who come to work and share a table represent about 20% of the workforce and about 35% have flexible arrangements a major value prop for HP Brazil but this is not easy to find elsewhere.One reason, we were told, is that many of the men and women who graduate from college do not leave their parent’s homes until much later than in the US- usually not until they are married. Imagine trying to work at home with mom at the age of 30?Once married, modern families tend to have both spouses working…and, in Latin/ SA countries this means both are putting in longer hours at the office than we are used to (relationship discussions are a necessary part of work, lunches are longer, etc., etc.).Long hours, higher pay, mean that the couple is more likely to have live-in help that is affordable and evident at a level well below the C-level. This also makes working from home… awkward.Still, HP is bucking the trend on working from home and making small inroads.There is one more challenge related to the initial problem of traffic congestion. One that comes up…over and over…and it is the ‘duty’ charged on imports. A $20,000 car in the US might cost a Brazilian $40,000 with nearly 80% the difference attributed to import duties.Cars are just the tip of it. Electronics, watches, Smart phones, clothes- everything not made here costs twice as much here as anywhere else. For cars this likely translates to cheaper cars less well maintained…more emissions.It also means that total compensation of professionals is much more likely (depending on level, scarcity of skills, etc.) to include some car related perks that may not be evident in the salary.So, as the unintended consequences of Sao Paulo´s congestion unfolds we get into wide ranging conversations about work hours, telecommuting obstacles, class conscious societies, compensation and more.Annually, Brazil is graduating 35,000 engineers but there is already an estimated increase of 55,000 openings for these new grads.At the experienced level, firms are already having to outsource work to Argentina, Mexico and other countries.This gets us into discussions around contingent work, co-employment…not just here but in related countries looking to protect their workers from abuse.Scarcity isn’t the only issue driving Brazilian firms to move some of their operations beyond their borders.The cost of employees in Brazil because of taxes and government mandated (8%) comp increases (plus 1.5-3% voluntary performance increases) is beginning to impact multi-natioinal profit margins. Sound familiar?The comment that “We [Brazil] have nothing in common with BRIC other than that we are growing” is certainly something firms interested in expanding to the country need to consider. Cheap labor this isn´t. Some salaries here are higher than in the US even if the purchasing power is not.Branding is an issue. The reason why people want to work for HP Brazil today we were told [from their in depth surveys]is because “we are a huge brand, highly respected (tied with Google as most desired), a fast-paced technology company, work flexibility, and global.”However, with Brazil’s rise, the dream job is to work for a Brazilian firm. More on that soon.
Original source article: CareerXroads