Human resources heads for Bacardi, Visa talk changing trends in Latin America

Human resources executives at multinationals’ South Florida outposts say they’re planning to hire in 2012, but business isn’t quite yet back to normal and many are focused on what they can to do get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible and hold onto them as long as they can.

“While we’re striving for that retention I’m not expecting someone to stay 10 years anymore,” said Ken Finneran, chief people officer of the Americas for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics at WorldCity’s HR


Companies need to expect employees to spend less time in each job and should prepare accordingly, said Hellmann’s Ken Finneran.

Connections on Jan. 13. “I think if we get five we’re lucky.”

Talent management and retention ranked the highest of 10 HR-specific issues in a WorldCity survey sent to hundreds of HR directors. Though the results are only anecdotal, human resources executives pointed to succession planning and career path, and employee engagement as two other issues at the top of their minds for 2012.

Meanwhile some HR directors are hiring to accommodate additional demand, and others are staffing positions that may have been cut during the economic downturn.

“We doubled the organization this past year,” said Mariana Ortiz de Zarate, HR manager for Latin American and the Caribbean for power management and technology firm Eaton Corp . “We’re going to double it again this year.”

Similarly “Latin America is booming” noted liquor distributor Diageo ’s HR Director for Global Sales Laura Quevedo. Yet “some companies in order to be team players had to be part of a reduction,” said Diversified Search Managing Partner Lorena Keough. “I know many companies said ‘you have to reduce the number of people in São Paulo.’


Some industries naturally employ more men than women, said Barfield’s Raquel Bernardo.

“And you’re left without resources and you have to start playing catch up,” she added.

As HR directors look to begin adding to the ranks, they’re also working out how to deal with overqualified candidates who might leave the position within a short time and are adjusting to the trend of workers spending less time in each position.

“This was the first recession where it wasn’t just middle management who got squeezed, there were a lot of good senior management who were let go,” said Marjorie Kean, managing director for Diversified Search who advocated hiring overqualified applicants. “Companies lost history, knowledge and wisdom and by bringing in someone overqualified you bring in that wisdom.”

Finneran of Hellman Worldwide agreed, saying it “allows you get creative with making the role than what you initially created, but challenges you from the talent management retention side.”

The key with some employees is to keep an eye on their progress and offer them new opportunities before they begin looking elsewhere, and sometimes earlier than when they may have traditionally been considered ready for the next step.

For “high performing employees having a career path for people after three years” is key, said Ortiz de Zarate of Eaton Corp. “If the person is really great and they’ve been there for two years lets offer them the next step before they start feeling bored.”


Many companies’ Latin America offices had to shed staff during the recession to be ‘team players,’ said Diversified Search’s Lorena Keough

Finally the discussion turned to workplace diversity, where Francia Baez Guzman, senior vice president of human resources for Visa International in Latin America and the Caribbean said “diversity issues are going to fix themselves over time, what we’re doing now is fast tracking it a bit until we get to the point.”

And despite many companies’ best efforts to diversify their workforces sometimes they’re simply working against industry and cultural norms.

“In our business to find female technicians, engineers or to find female saleswomen it’s extremely difficult,” said Raquel Bernardo, VP of human resources forBarfield Inc. , “and when I do get the person I try to keep them as much as I can.”

At the same time “the only way you can balance the workforce is to balance the life at home,” said Susanna Sala Bosch, head of HR for Latin America for Bacardi-Martini. “Women in some cultures want to stay home when they have kids, the challenge is how to keep diversity in your workforce.”

HR Connections is one of seven event series organized by WorldCity to bring together executives on international business topics. The HR series is sponsored by the University of Miami School of Business Administration, Diversified Search, and the European Institute of Social Capital. The next meeting is set for March 9.