Companies in Mexico face an array of coming human capital challenges as they navigate a work environment that is rapidly changing, Mexico Talent Forum 2016 heard on Thursday in Mexico City.

The private sector must prepare for disruptive dynamics such as cultural and language barriers, maintaining family businesses and promoting inclusive working environments, while also accepting millennials into the workforce, panelists said during a discussion on “Disrupting Labor Market Dynamics” at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel.

15109620_967521270016590_8733970679060713590_nMayte Barba, Professor and Researcher at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Silvia Mendieta, Director of Human Resources Operations at Audi Mexico, Mario Rodríguez, CEO at Arbomex, Martín Esparza, General Secretary of SME and Jan Frowijn, Director of Business Collaboration Sector Mexico & Central America at Rosen, participated in the panel.

“We are in an era of change, where the only constant is change itself. Universities are changing their ways to provide us with the human talent companies need,” said Barba. Companies will face huge challenges, especially when handling work diversity. “As if communication and collaboration in Spanish was not difficult enough, adding into the mix different cultures, ages, capacities and abilities will demand companies accelerate their learning curve and push us to look for new solutions.”

For foreign companies entering the Mexican market, a key challenge will be adapting work dynamics and methods of attracting talent. “For Audi, attracting talent was not a difficult task. We received more than 200,000 candidates for jobs,” said Mendieta. “The problem was that we arrived in a small town that had less than 3,000 inhabitants and we had to hire 4,000, therefore we had to bring in talent from all over the country and even abroad.”

The company also had to send 720 Mexicans to Germany to train for operations here. “We had to integrate our employees into the culture, where they had to learn German. We also created a dual education program in which we train younger generations so they can later work for the company. Companies benefit greatly from these programs because they help meet future demand for human capital,” said Mendieta.

Arbomex’s Rodríguez agreed that language is a difficult hurdle. The Mexican company is a direct supplier of Japanese automaker Mazda. “Although we had translators, there was often noise in the communication channels,” Rodríguez said. From the time the two companies began their relationship to the time the first order was sent, four years passed. This was because they needed to adapt to each other’s work culture and processes of production to create the right synergy, said Rodríguez.

Emphasizing the point, Rosen’s Frowijn said that over the last few years his company has had a policy of only hiring English speakers to accommodate the international nature of its business.

A talent shortage is also posing difficulties, especially in technical industries like oil and gas. As more companies enter the sector the dynamics of the market and its talent requirements change. In an era of belt tightening, it is necessary to align with international standards, said Frowjin. These standards define competences such as knowledge, skills and experience. “Mexico’s true challenge is how to fast track experience,” Frowijn said.

This is also an era of generational change, with millennials now in the market in force. Their attitudes are different from previous generations and companies need to consider the needs of this group. “Companies should go out of their way to create positions for millennials,” said Frowijn.

But the key to retaining talent may be creating an inclusive environment. “There must be a set of strong core values and beliefs in any company that binds all employees,” he said.

A final consideration: family businesses versus “Blue Chips.”

Mexico has a large number of family businesses and the entrance of “Blue Chip” companies is forcing them to match offers. “The problem is that there is a high level of informality in these types of structures, where many employees do not have the benefits or opportunities they should,” said Frowijn. “The private sector must take a look at itself and ensure it provides its employees with the career paths they aspire to, or else the Blue Chip companies will up their offers.

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