Ignacio Cano Cervantes
Vice President of Human Capital

Addressing the Human Capital Gap

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:31

The cyclical nature of the oil and gas sector presents many challenges, and one of the main issues at the moment is producing the right people for the main sectors of activity, according to Ignacio Cano Cervantes, Vice President of Human Capital at ICA. “We are not a factory that continuously produces the same product. We are a company that offers solutions to different sectors, relying on various methodologies,” he claims. ICA’s main pillar lies in its human capital strategy, which requires understanding of organizational capabilities in order to discern those in need of development. Cano Cervantes believes that the use of relevant technologies has allowed ICA to contribute to one of the economy’s most important sectors: oil and gas. The culture of innovation that the company fosters is crucial to its ability to respond to all of the sector’s requirements. These innovations are consistently enshrined in different training programs so that they can be circulated throughout the company, increasing ICA’s overall efficiency, and even fostering new ideas.

As a company that offers services, ICA places human capital at the heart of its success, and at the core of the company. “We consider talent management one of our main organizational capabilities on the same level as project finance, contract management, and project management, because we need to build the right talent in order to maintain our market position,” Cano Cervantes adds. “Not only do we strive to retain the right people, but we also do our utmost to retain knowledge.” ICA’s knowledge management platform allows the company to archive the knowledge gained during each project, and to reapply it in the future when it is relevant. The ensuing analysis of this information provides an overview of the talent pool and the capabilities that can be improved when undertaking or continuing a specific project. The company’s main contributors, the Chairman of the company, the CEO, and Cano Cervantes himself, are then in charge of managing and developing this resource to keep up with the rapid pace of changes in the sector. “At ICA, we do not look for incremental changes, but rather, we move with the market and continually reinvent ourselves to reflect its needs,” claims Cano Cervantes.

One of the main challenges that ICA faces is the struggle of the Mexican education platform to create the number of skilled engineers and technicians required by the market, according to Cano Cervantes. The educational system is creating a lot of talent for other industries that are not growing as much as oil and gas. It takes many years to create a curriculum that conforms to market needs, and as such, he fears that the oil and gas market will not be provided with sufficient local talent in the near future.

“Given this difficult reality, we have taken it upon ourselves to form associations with other firms, through which we interact with different universities and institutions to create responses to the human talent challenge,” he shares. In addition to this, ICA has also established its own corporate university to train the market’s future employees, and has a strong continuous training platform for current employees. Both of these responses to the lack of human capital carry the same weight, and Cano Cervantes believes they will work to allow ICA to survive in these challenging times.

Cano Cervantes identifies further challenges in keeping up with the market, which has been undergoing many profound changes lately. In order to use all of the capital resources needed to develop infrastructure in this new era, the company was forced to increase its debt, but unfortunately, the complexity of collections processes, the depreciation of the peso, and other factors led the company into a liquidity problem. ICA now plans on using its assets to reduce this debt as part of a more holistic financial restructuring process.

Nonetheless, Cano Cervantes believes that the company’s survival will be highly dependent on its human capital and its ability to adapt to new circumstances. “Our main project managers are used to working in an environment with a single client, which is the government and has specific contractual arrangements,” Cano Cervantes points out. “Now, however, our employees are confronted with a new industry reality in which they have to work with different private companies at the same time, who may demand a change halfway through the job, contracts are becoming more complex, and they need to learn to manage new risks.” He believes that employees must understand the different stakes in a project. In the past, project management was the most important aspect of a project, but nowadays, Cano Cervantes attributes this significance to contract, financial, and client management.