The Future of Latin America Has Robots, Cloud and DataBy Courtney McColgan | Mon, 01/11/2021 - 13:15
Over the last few months, I have read report, after report, after report sharing the 1,001 ways COVID has impacted the workplace. But not one of those reports focused on Latin America. As the CEO of a Latin American company, I wanted to know: How have Latin American companies been weathering the storm?
We decided to get the answer. We spoke with 375 HR executives across Latin America to better understand how COVID has affected their today and tomorrow. Were companies actually working remotely? Did they intend to do so in the future? How were they thinking about technology to solve their challenges? What did all this mean for the future Latin American worker? We talked to companies big (5,000-plus employees) and small (under 5 employees), international with offices in Mexico (Facebook) and local with offices only in Mexico (Kavak), from the technology industry (Nubank) and from industries on the other end of the spectrum like agriculture (Fagro).
What we learned was astounding.
Less than 5 percent of companies plan to go back to the office completely. That means that over 95 percent of companies plan to develop a fully remote work scheme or a mixed-office work scheme. Therefore, we can assume that remote work, and everything that comes with it, is here to stay in Latin America. Remote worker benefits are not a COVID band-aid, but now an integral part of the core benefit policy of a Latin American company. More than 59 percent of companies interviewed are offering remote worker benefits. Fifty-one percent are contributing to electricity or internet bills, 38 percent are sharing the costs of a home office setup and 31 percent are donating to employee healthcare expenses.
“We decided to provide additional benefits to recognize the effort that employees had to make to facilitate home office and, at the same time, home school," said Juan Carlos Zuazua, Executive Director of VivaAerobus.
The cloud is now synonymous with business in Latin America. Since the onset of the pandemic, all companies have adopted a new cloud-based technology, with the favorite tools being video calls (Zoom), online chat (Slack) or project tracking (Trello). Prior to COVID, cloud adoption was a mere 15 percent in Latin America, compared with 83 percent in the US.
“Companies that are usually avant-garde know that if they do not get on the technology train today, the moment they do so will be too late,” said Camila Checa, Manager at Zendesk.
Robots and AI are also being aggressively adopted by Latin American companies. Forty-five percent of companies confirmed they are implementing or plan to implement robotization in the next 12 months. AI has seen a similar uptake, with more than 35 percent of respondents confirming the implementation today or during the next year. Why these technologies? Why now? An economic recession has forced Latin American companies to take a good, hard look at their cost structure. Technology holds the promise of high efficiency and lower operational costs over the long run. In the short term, it also helps them resolve a current pain point of low human interaction in a time when low touch is preferred.
The Latin American worker of tomorrow is data-informed and data-driven. Survey respondents voted data analysis as one of the most important skills for 2021 and beyond. In a world that is remote and technology-enabled, that answer comes as no surprise.
“The need to know how to analyze data will be more important in times of remote work,” said Levi Barbosa Orozco, Talent Operations and HR Executive of Didi. “People will have to demonstrate their results in a way that everyone can understand.”
Tomorrow’s workers in Latin America will also need to know how to communicate and be resilient. As companies transition from a complete presential work environment to a remote or mixed remote work scheme, the way employees communicate will change. Writing down processes and showing results through data will all become common practices for Latin American workers.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Latin America companies are widely embracing team wellness. While historically Latin American companies have trailed behind Western companies in voluntary benefits like health and wellness, those times have largely changed.
“The context is generating anxiety and stress beyond the control of the organization, investing resources in well-being, and in how to help build resilience, has consequences on the productivity of the organization, but also on the social system by having resilient people and families,” said Miguel Angel Castuera, Coach and HR Executive of Uber.
Without the ability to see their employees on a daily basis, companies are more concerned than ever about their employees' well-being. Over 54 percent of companies confirmed the adoption of a technology to monitor employees since the pandemic started.
“We are monitoring our employees through a pulse survey where we ask questions regarding remote work and burnout. On the results, we execute specific actions either by area or at the group level,” said Ingrid Mandujano, Employee Experience Lead of Yalochat.
To solve the problem, companies are taking on internal training themselves or hiring external service providers. Popular wellness benefits offered include stress reduction activities (67 percent), physical activities (43 percent), nutrition workshops (37 percent) and financial wellness planning (35 percent).
2021 AND BEYOND
While COVID has been disastrous for many businesses in Latin America, there has also been a silver lining. COVID has catapulted how we work more than 10-plus years into the future. Before the pandemic, most companies in Latin America could not have dreamed of working from home. Today, that is the norm and, for most, will forever remain a part of how they work. By moving remote, we have had to change how we work. Technology is a requirement. New communication tools like video and chat are no longer an option. Data is an integral part of how we operate. Worker wellness is something companies have to care about.
Thanks to COVID, I would say the future of work looks bright for Latin America.
Download the report, The Future of Work in Latin America here: https://runahr.com/thefutureofwork/