Virgilio Ruíz Isassi
Director General
Grupo Hegemonía
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View from the Top

Internationalizing the Mexican Workforce

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 15:26

Q: Historically, Hegemonía was only involved in payroll management, but now you oer many other services. What have been the biggest changes for you over the last decade?

A: 10 years ago, businesses handled payrolls very dierently. Now, it is extremely easy to manage them, given the tools that we have. My philosophy has always been to think ahead. By doing this, you can be steps ahead of your customer, ready to oer them solutions before they even know they need them. However, the fact that the industry moves so quickly means that there are always new problems that need to be solved, and this is why as a company we try to improve our performance continuously.

Q: What is Grupo Hegemonía’s strategy to find opportunities for Mexican personnel in other countries?

A: Some Europeans, Americans and Asians question whether Mexicans are good workers. In reality, we are very good. We are fast learners and we have an instinct to do what needs to be done even before anyone asks us. But in Mexico, some companies are not asking their personnel to work hard, and that has led to this perception. We have a lot of foreign people working here in the Mexican oil business, so why wouldn’t Mexicans be able to work in other countries?

In the next five years, I want Grupo Hegemonía to have almost the same amount of personnel working in other countries as are currently working in Mexico. Right now, the company has around 800 people working in the oil business in Mexico, and about 700 people working in other industries. I also want to increase the amount of people working in the oil business here in Mexico to 1,200 to 1,300 people by the end of next year

Part of our strategy is to train our own personnel and the personnel of other companies. Right now, we are in the process of establishing a partnership with the Education Ministry to give our employees a certification linked to the educational area. However, it is not easy, as all certifications now need to be international.

Q: If you were to enter the Colombian market, what would the proportion of Mexican and Colombian workers look like? And how cost-competitive are Mexican personnel in an international context?

A: If I go to Colombia or any other place in the world, maybe 50% of the personnel would be expats from Mexico and the other 50% would be nationals of that country. Here in Mexico, Mexicans in the oil industry are earning about 30%-40% less than the expats in the country doing the same job. If I tell very good Mexican workers to go to Colombia to work oshore for 28 days for US$3,000 instead of paying them US$1,500 to work in Mexico, it’s a very good deal for them.

Right now, Hegemonía is in negotiations with an international company from Bahrain that is coming to Mexico to work oshore. When I made the proposal for them with only Mexican workers, they asked me whether the salary for Mexican workers was correct. I knew why they were asking me: if you send an expat to work in Mexico, they are going to earn about 30%-40% more than the local workers. That’s why I’m thinking about exporting Mexican personnel; even with a significant salary increase they can still be more cost-eective than expats.

When we are doing something new, we first have to take the easiest step before trying more dicult ones. That’s why we would first go to a country like Colombia, which has a similar culture and the same language instead of sending our people to Africa, for example.

Q: Which countries are the first targets in your internationalization strategy?

A: We will probably send workers to Venezuela, Colombia or Brazil first. Even the United States wouldn’t be too dicult, but maybe that would be the second or third step. The United States and Canada wouldn’t be too hard to get into because of NAFTA. Maybe we could get a contract to send some personnel to work just within the terms of that trade agreement.

Q: Will drilling companies serve as your main bridge into these countries?

A: Yes. The same companies that we work with here are also in Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia. Most of them are American companies. So, if they work in the Gulf of Mexico for the US, I can send them my personnel who they already know from working with us here in Mexico. But I need to go step by step.