1 Brazilian Human Resource at a Polarized Latin America Abstract This article provides an outlook on Human Resource strategies of Brazilian companies in a polarized Latin American Region. There were two main purposes: first, to point out Brazilian managers concerns regarding the forthcoming years and to identify the current strategic approach of outstanding companies in the Brazilian market, taking such concerns into account. And second, to identify possible strategic plans of internationalization, particularly in the Latin American context, also exploring profile projections of these companies. We utilized results of two surveys: one of them prospecting HR Management trends for 2015, and the other consisting of a sample of 541 companies participating in a nationwide survey, in which Human Resource Managers were submitted to a questionnaire. Among the results, we highlight that the main subjects of concern of Brazilian managers in the years to come are: talent management, evaluation of results, and Human Resource strategic management. We found the highest number of companies strategically driven by these challenges in the industry sectors of computer technology; siderurgy and metallurgy; and health services. 49 out of the total 541 companies intend to become internationalized, 17 heading to Latin American countries. In the profile projections of these companies, it was possible to split them into two groups: those focused on local needs of Latin American people and those seeking to attend to the expansion needs of Brazil or the company headquarters. Such results imply subsidies to companies currently endeavoring to operate in the Latin American territory. Latin America; Human Resource Management; Internationalization 1- Introduction The polarization of the economic structures in Latin America affects the business scenario of the countries in the region. In countries like Brazil, this polarization affects Human Resource (HR) Management. Since the economic reforms in the 90 s, Brazil evolved from an economy closed to international trade and foreign capital, with a strong government presence to an open economy with reduced commercial barriers and free capital flows (Camargo, Néri, Cortez & Reis, 2000, p. 255), implying significant changes in the labor market. This macroeconomic trajectory deviation accelerated a concentration of qualified labor in some centers, a typical phenomenon in Latin America (Werthein & Cunha, 2004). The new industrial plants of major powerful exporting countries in the region disrupted this status quo and redesigned the employment map in different Latin American countries,
2 especially Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru, which have showed positive economic growth rates in the last years (Paulino, 2010). The Brazilian stance has its own characteristics, even because of the significant aid from international financial agencies (Moreno, 2007). In this study we address Brazilian companies, presenting an analysis of HR Management strategies of firms operating in Brazil. We also consider the possibility of internationalization of these companies, which is an emerging theme in Brazil, as well as in the rest of Latin America. Thus, this work had two main purposes: first, to point out the concerns of Brazilian HR managers for the forthcoming years and to subsequently identify the current strategic approach of outstanding companies in the Brazilian market, regarding such concerns. Second, to identify a possible business internationalization strategic plan, particularly in the Latin American context, also exploring profile projections of these companies. To study the concerns of these managers, we utilized results from a survey focused on the prospection of HR Management trends for 2015, accomplished with 120 managers and specialists. To identify the performance and strategic plans and to carry out projection profiles, we utilized a sample of 541 companies participating in a survey carried out with companies that seek to be distinguished in terms of organizational climate and HR Management practices, herein denominated outstanding companies. After the introduction, we first addressed Latin America s polarization, discussing its impacts on Brazilian HR Management. Then we analyzed various constraints against talent management, both contextual and organizational, going through the obstacles to Brazilian business growth. Third, we considered the concerns of Brazilian HR managers about the upcoming years. Fourth, we emphasized the strategic approach of outstanding companies in the Brazilian market regarding the aforementioned concerns. Lastly, we analyzed the evolution of Brazilian companies internationalization towards Latin America, prioritizing a
3 view on strategy and innovation. At this point we discussed the strategic approach of these companies and the implications of the achieved results, especially those driven by internationalization to America, projecting strategic profiles of outstanding companies. 2. Economic Polarization of Latin America and its impact on Brazil s Human Resource In the 1990 s, the end of the communist bloc paved the way for an expansion of these economies which happened in a frantic and disorderly way. In Asia, the Japanese economy remained strong, but stagnated, while its neighbor, the South Korean economy took off. However, the most important transformation occurred in the China. In this region, State controls, exports and domestic market growth brought in to the economic game all the overwhelming strength of a market equivalent to one fourth of the planet population. (Arrighi, 2008). In Latin America, a slow transformation also took place. Overall, the post-war development effort resulted in a public and external indebtedness crisis, with high inflation rates and unemployment in the beginning of the 1990 s. Nearly all countries of the region were submitted to tight financial controls. Under orientation of the international financing agencies, the countries adjusted their national public accounts, and from this point in time, they reduced the size of their States (CEPAL, 2010). During the 1990 s, with rare exceptions, the economic portrait in the continent was characterized by crises and hardship. In the beginning of the 2000 s, the economic scenario opened unexpected opportunities for the region. While developed economies moved at low growth rates, Latin American countries entered an expansion phase. Factors such as the return of capital availability and recovery of commodity prices contributed to this evolution. In this context, the macroeconomic policy of some countries like Brazil adopted an anti-cyclic character as they took advantage of investment opportunities in productive activities and in infrastructure in proportions never ever seen in Europe (Ocampo, 2010).
4 The economic debate on the region, in the beginning of the 1950, developed around the center and periphery relation and the necessary conditions for overcoming problems generated by this polarization (Furtado, 1968). More recently, in another historical context, once more, the reality of Latin American economies brings up the polarization issue. It should be noted that the countries in the region also maintain a great heterogeneity among themselves. This heterogeneity is composed both of a diversity of dimensions and characteristics of their territories and populations, and of their economies and economic policies, creating huge differences of productivity among these countries (CEPAL, 2010). When dealing with polarization in Latin America, authors such as Izquierdo and Talvi (2011) and Robles (2012), indicate two groups of countries. The first one, denominated Mexico group, has more open economies and a greater economic dependence from the USA. Almost all Central American and also Caribbean economies fit in this configuration. The economic dynamics of this group is strongly pegged to the rhythm of the North American economy, and thus, it has recently showed more modest growth rates. The Brazil group is characterized by more diversified economic relations regarding commercial partners and finances. Besides, even with a greater commercial opening, it maintains a strong economic policy base focused on domestic markets. This group is typically formed by South American economies. As for the business performance in Latin America, there is a great diversity of situations, such as the incidence of legislation controls in domestic markets; performance of multinationals; movement of companies between the countries of the region, and others. Despite the heterogeneities, there is at least one point in common among all Latin American countries: poor quality of the education system, and, consequently, insufficient local labor qualification (Robles, 2012). Such fact has its impacts on company talent management.
5 4- Talent Management Constraints The Manpower survey revealed that 57% of Brazilian employers have difficulties in filling job positions. This percentage is the highest among countries in the Americas and it ranks third in the world. In the Americas, the difficulties in filling in job positions were due to candidates lack of qualification. To overcome this challenge, in the Americas, as well as globally, the main solution pursued by companies was to provide training and complementary development opportunities to the existing staff (Manpower, 2011). According to Queiroz and Leite (2010), companies are facing the need to retain talented individuals by offering them career prospects of being able to achieve strategic positions in the organizational hierarchy. Colling and Mellahi (2009) stated that the talent management strategy has to include activities and processes, seeking a systematic identification of strategic positions, which can contribute to the company s competitive advantage. They affirmed that the academics who propose this approach suggest a first look at the company, its processes and strategic positions, and, then, the allocation in these positions of professionals who are valuable to the company. In this way, a differentiated architecture will be created for the area of HR Management (Collings & Mellahi, 2009; Hill, 2009). 4.1 Obstacles to the growth of Brazilian Companies The development acceleration process, in the Brazilian case, faces a few specific obstacles. The first one is the integration among productive factors, and there are the serious delays imposed to the delivery process of this production by infrastructure constraints, both in terms of transportation and goods storage. The World Economic Forum data reports losses of competitiveness in recent years compared to other countries justified by Brazil s deficient infrastructure (World Economic Forum, 2011). Another relevant data on Brazilian companies performance refers to the outline of their insertion into international trade. Given the appreciation of Brazilian currency, it has been increasingly hard to maintain a diversification
6 of exported products. The lower number of exporters and the concentration on commodities and reduction in manufactured products in Brazilian export basket are a clear evidence of this observation (MDIC, 2011; Chiara, 2011). Expansion of commodity exports and difficulties faced by manufacturers in the external market, added to a greater penetration of industrialized imports, exert a strong impact on Brazilian labor market, particularly regarding more qualified job profiles, which, in Brazil, are very concentrated on the industrial sector. The IBGE survey, Pesquisa Mensal de Empregos PME, which follows the labor market in six Brazilian main metropolitan regions, showed that the unemployment rate remained at very low levels during Nevertheless, we also observe that the generation of formal employment lost its dynamism. The labor market in Brazil makes a distinction between formal and informal employment, the latter being characterized by hiring workers without an employment contract governed by the labor legislation (IBGE, 2011). A strong trend of worker s migration between different sectors of Brazilian economy is also worthy of note. Upon the loss of exports of manufactured products in 2010 and 2011, and increasing imports of durable and semi-durable goods, the number of vacancies has declined in the industrial sector. The trend has been of better qualified jobs in the industrial sector being substituted by employment offers in commerce and in the private sector, a fact that has imposed a sharp reduction on Brazilians average wages (Amorim, 2012). In this scenario, the reduced number of work posts in the industrial sector does not lead to a trend of higher labor qualification in Brazil. Brazilian manpower shows an evolution cycle consistently linked with a higher number of years of schooling. According to the Pesquisa Mensal de Empregos - PME (Monthly Employment Survey), by the IBGE, in 2003, 39.1% of workers holding formal jobs had 11 years or more of schooling. In Brazil, 11 years of schooling are equivalent to a complete secondary school education level preceding college.
7 In 2011, the same PME showed the proportion of students with this profile of 11 years or more of schooling reaching 50.8% of formal labor market (IBGE, 2012). On the other hand, the increase in schooling years of the work force may have improved the hiring conditions of informal employment. Between 2003 and 2011, average wages of informal workers in real terms increased by 39.2%, as also ascertained by the PME. The explanation for this great leap in wages in the informal sector is likely to be related to the rise in activities of the services sector, as well as the increase in years of schooling of informal workers (Machado, 2012). This contradiction offers the background for the analyses that follow on concerns of HR managers. 5. Concerns of Human Resource managers for the next years: method and results Probing trends in HR Management is a relevant practice both for researchers and professionals of the HR realm. In the USA, traditional surveys as those accomplished by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM 2005, 2007 and 2008) and Europa (EUROFOUND, 2009), offer some elements for managers and academicians reflection on challenges to be overcome by companies handling their manpower. In Brazil, the main reference on this subject is the DELPHI survey carried out by the Programa de Estudos em Gestão de Pessoas PROGEP (People Management Study Program) of Fundação Instituto de Administração FIA (Foundation Institute of Administration). This survey seeks the identification of trends under a Brazilian organizational scenario consisting of a series of rounds of opinion collection through questionnaires submitted to respondents. This survey was accomplished in three editions (2000, 2003 and 2010). In its most recent edition (PROGEP, 2011) the Delphi survey achieved responses from nearly 120 people (about 70% of managers working for the main business groups operating in Brazil, besides consultants) considering the year The sample of this survey edition was composed of 569 professionals, 122 of which answered the questionnaire. Most of the respondents
8 (67.21%) were HR executives. Academicians and consultants were also included in the sample. Overall, respondents were typically mature professionals, given their advanced educational level and the senior management positions they held at the Brazilian large corporate organizations 28.8% of the participating organizations were considered the largest in their sector of activity in 2010 (PORTAL EXAME, 2010). Barreto et al (2010) assessed the results of the Delphi survey carried out in According to these authors, 87.5% of the respondents reported that talents management will be a very relevant challenge for the area of HR Management in Brazilian companies until The authors also observed that, in former editions of the survey, five challenges were considered a priority for HR during the first 2000 decade: Aligning Human Resource Management to business strategies; aligning people/performance/human competences to the business strategies; management development and qualification; retaining talents/high potentials; seeking commitment with Human Resource Management from Senior Management. Comparing to the findings of the survey accomplished in 2010, it can be noticed that the three first challenges had already been reported as a concern in 2003, whilst the two last ones (talent retention and commitment from senior management of the company) were not so highly regarded as a priority. It is also remarkable that among the emerging themes identified in the survey, one of the three most frequently indicated was Talent Management ranking first in the respondents opinion, followed by Evaluation of Results and HR Strategic Management. Such themes are considered the main concerns of HR managers for the purpose of the forthcoming analyses. Such results demonstrate that talent management is assuming more and more its strategic role due to greater labor mobility, international competition for talents and high demand for qualified workers. (Barreto et al., 2010, p.13).
9 6- Strategic performance of outstanding companies in the Brazilian market: method and results Data presented as follows refer to results of a survey accomplished in 2010 with a sample of 541 companies, firms which seek to distinguish themselves by their organizational climate and HR Management practices. It is a non-probability convenience sample, so its results cannot be generalized. These companies enrolled voluntarily to participate in a nationwide survey, in which their employees are submitted to a questionnaire on their work environment. Concurrently, through its HR managers, these companies filled out a multiple choice questionnaire on their strategies and HR Management practices. The initial participation requirement was for companies to have at least 100 employees. This database contains information on major companies operating in Brazil, and it may be considered a reference in HR Management. The data assessment started from the three main concerns of HR managers identified by means of a Delphi 2015 survey (talents management, HR Management strategy and evaluation of HR Management results). We list the HR Management key strategic guidelines of these companies including each of these concerns. It is noticed that in the technology and computing, siderurgy and metallurgy, and health service sectors, where there is probably more demand for workers technical qualification, we found the highest number of companies that mentioned the three concerns in their HR Management strategic guidelines. Subsequently, the three main phases (definition, dissemination and evaluation) of HR Management strategic planning, as proposed by Albuquerque (2002), were related to the managers concerns. Additionally, at each strategic planning phase, they were associated to the most frequent practices chosen by the companies in the proposed questionnaire.
10 More than half of the companies which have HR guidelines regarding the three main concerns have a formal and structured process of strategic planning. Therefore, it can be assumed that these three concerns demand more strategic planning in HR Management compared to the others Strategic performance of Brazilian companies: results and discussion Reflections undertaken herein considered 541 outstanding companies. In the strategy definition phase, 68% of companies focused on HR Strategy Management, 89% of the companies focused on Evaluation of Results and 87% of the companies focused on Talent Management stated that they offered space for suggestions and implementation of innovations and enhancement of company products, services and processes. Therefore, recommendations made by Parolin and Albuquerque (2009), regarding the importance of involving employees in the formulation and definition of innovations to the organizational strategy, are appreciated by the set of companies being analyzed. As for the phase of strategy dissemination, 86% of the companies focused on HR Strategy Management, 94% of companies focused on Evaluation of Results, and 90% of companies with a focus on Talent Management informed that they communicate their strategy through their leaders. We noticed that it is important for these companies to rely on leaders who understand the strategy formulation and implementation as two processes which cannot be split neither be conducted by different groups and people, or informal communication means. In its turn, in the phase of strategy evaluation, 66% of the companies aiming at HR Strategic Management, 67% aiming at Evaluation of Results and 75% at Talent Management considered the company objectives in the assessment of results of the investment in employees education.
11 This people management outlook becomes more complex when we consider the possible internationalization of Brazilian companies towards other countries and transfer of their HR Management practices (Colling, Scullion & Dowling, 2009; Brewster, Sparrow & Harris, 2005). 7- Internationalization and Human Resource Management in Brazilian Companies: a view on strategy and innovation Since internationalization is not a regular action among Latin American companies, we considered, as a theoretical basis for the reflections that follow, the relation between HR strategy and innovation, in line with the need highlighted by Parolin and Albuquerque (2009, p.136). In general, reflections on internationalization, indicate the need for multinationals expansion throughout the world to have teams with high performance standards. International HR Management has been adapting to face the challenges of managing globally integrated teams (Meyskens et al, 2009). According to Colling, Scullion and Dowling (2009), there is an increasing acknowledgment of the importance of talent management for companies success in the global business environment, but only few of them have the capability of identifying, developing and managing Human Resource in any place in the world in an efficient manner. Additionally, local workers are often the main source of knowledge available to leverage the business. Thus, the capability of developing and retaining local key-employees becomes a necessary condition for a sustainable competitiveness in these markets in the long term (Reiche, 2007). Along these lines, Brewster, Sparrow and Harris (2005) highlight the need to adopt a more strategic approach to manage international transfers of headquarters resource to branches and subsidiaries, concerning the globalization of HR processes. The discussion of which organization needs to be global, regional or national definitely becomes a subject of
12 interest. In this scenario, the HR professional is positioned as the guardian of the organizational culture and values, in accordance with local needs, as well as a partner in the elaboration of the HR strategy (Albuquerque, 2002) Nonetheless, when Pudelko and Harzing (2007) study the influence on HR practices of multinationals domiciled in the United States, Japan and Germany over their cross-border units, revealed that, there is a general dominance effect of headquarters regarding its HR Management practices. As for Latin America, Osland and Osland (2005) provided a feasible explanation of the headquarters dominance over its overseas units abroad. The authors show that HR Management practices of some companies in Latin America, particularly in Central America, only rely on their own resources to carry out nothing more than the regular functions of HR Management. Many companies do not have the resources to innovate in this area, thus, they tend to adopt the practices that are developed in other countries. A study promoted by Banco Interamericano de Desenvolvimento (2010) corroborates this affirmation, as it reveals the low investments in research and development in the countries of the region. Besides, they place Brazil as a leader in technology innovation in Latin America, being responsible for 60% of all investments in research and development made in the region. This dominant approach can also be evidenced observing HR Management practices at Brazilian companies in relation to their Latin American subsidiaries. Aguzzoli, Antunes and Lengler (2007) observed strong control being exerted by Brazilian headquarters over their subsidiaries, attempting to impose their own organizational culture on the host country. This cultural transposition aims at a better control and reflects headquarters determination to rule about the practices and strategy adopted by the subsidiary.
13 7.2 Implications: The possibility of internationalization for Latin America and the strategic profiles of outstanding companies. In this section, we present evidences of company views on Latin America, and a projection of what the practices will be like (introduced in the previous section), if HR Management concerns are upheld in Latin American subsidiaries of Brazilian companies. From the 541 companies surveyed, when commenting on their view and mission, 49 mentioned the internationalization intent, and, amongst them, 17 placed Latin America as a priority. The 17 companies which prioritized Latin America could be categorized into two profiles. Such profiles were built by means of the analysis of HR Management best practices described in this study. It is believed that companies having the first profile tend to be more receptive to suggestions and innovations proposed by native employees. Their leaders will probably seek to disseminate the headquarters strategy, through negotiation and conciliation of interests between the headquarters and the subsidiary. Investments in education will be evaluated considering shareholder return and professional qualification of native collaborators. As for attraction, retention and development of talents, the focus will be on the local labor market and the subsidiary headcount. Conversely, the companies to which the second profile is attributed are likely to be less receptive to suggestions made by local employees, paying more attention to employees and expatriates from headquarters or the foreign subsidiary. Their leaders will probably disseminate and impose only the headquarters or subsidiary s strategy. Investments in education will be analyzed taking into account only shareholder return and headquarters interests. And, finally, regarding attraction, retention and development of talents, only the labor market and headquarters headcount will be considered. 7.3 Conclusions We trust Brazilian companies will adopt two approaches regarding the internationalization of HR Management practices. For some Latin American countries, which
14 take part in the stagnated economies bloc, a dominant approach would be dedicated, whereas in Latin American emerging countries, companies would be expected to adopt a strategy aiming at partnerships and adaptation to local realities considering the best practices addressed by this study. In contrast with the discussions on the internationalization among countries in Latin America and The Caribbean region, countries as China and others in expansion in Asia, present comparatively bigger challenges to HR Management of Brazilian companies, both in cultural and economic terms, requiring greater flexibility to adapt to local characteristics. Brazilian companies have already invested in logistics and manufacturing of goods in China and other Asian countries; some of these enterprises have succeeded, others not. Much of this due to pressure from the strategy review required for the adjustment to the external environment and the domestic market (Robles, 2012). In the light of these experiences, the success or failure of these enterprises is supposedly justified by the way the companies interiorize their HR Management practices in the internationalization process. References Albuquerque, L. G. (2002), Gestão Estratégica de Pessoas, in Fleury, M.T.L.(Ed.), As pessoas na organização. 1 ed, Editora Gente, São Paulo, SP, pp Aguzzoli, R. L., Antunes, E. D. and Lengler, J. F. B.(2007), Gestão de Pessoas: como Multinacionais Brasileiras Gerenciam seus Trabalhadores no Exterior? in Anais do XXXI Enanpad, Brasil, 2007, Rio de Janeiro. Amorim, D. (2012), Salário médio cai com avanço dos serviços, O Estado de São Paulo, January 2, p. B3, available at: (Accessed 28 January 2012). Arrighi, G. (1996), O longo século XX, Editora UNESP, São Paulo, SP. Arrighi, G. (2008), Adam Smith em Pequim: os fundamentos do século XXI, Editora UNESP, Brasil, 2008, São Paulo. Banco Interamericano de Desenvolvimento- BID. (2010), Inovar é a chave para um desenvolvimento sustentável da América Latina e o Caribe, available at: (Accessed 20 February 2012).
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