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Multinational Companies Aim for Automation and Higher Value-Added Tasks in Costa Rica

AUGUST 24th 2020

•Measures implemented as part of readjustments due to the pandemic and greater virtual work-from-home modalities.

August 2020. 3M, McKinsey & Company, and Accenture may work in different industries, but they have one thing in common: They all have operations in Costa Rica and adjusted their work in accordance with changes due to COVID-19. Specifically, these companies have fine-tuned their operations so that employees can work towards greater value-added tasks, as the pandemic has promoted a stronger reliance on technology and virtual work-from-home modalities.

These changes were confirmed by representatives from each of the companies when participating in the second installment of CINDE's “Smart Talks” webinar series, moderated by Judith García-Galiana, vice president of 3M's Global Service Centers, on August 2020.

According to Robert Tesoriero, Leader of Global Function & Client Capabilities of McKinsey & Company, the pandemic generated three important changes in operations in Costa Rica – one of them: encouraging automation in certain fields. 

“Taking away some of that transactional work, particularly with the millennial folks, has actually unleashed them and created a lot of excitement. We’ve invested in reskilling and upskilling. The department of finance and accounting is a great example of where a lot of folks were processing accounts payable, accounts receivable, and monthly reporting but now all of that has been automated. Now, they are upskilling – investing in analytics, finances, and accounting reporting, for example,” said Tesoriero.

He added that the Global Business Services Center has become more strategic and aligned with McKinsey’s vision, goals, and mission of serving its clients. Also, Costa Rican operations have seen more mobility between functions focused on creating career journeys, related to employee competencies. 

Fabricio Soto, General Manager of Accenture Costa Rica, explained that since the beginning of the COIVD-19 outbreak, they moved 100% of their employees to a virtual environment, working remotely from home. 

“We are accelerating our team’s learning skills; we’ve seen a positive impact in terms of productivity, there is less absenteeism, and we are making sure that we can increase and accelerate their learning journey, so we can emerge from this even stronger,” affirms Soto. 

Accenture Costa Rica has hired over 200 people during the pandemic and the vast majority has not so much as stepped foot in the office. They were recruited virtually and signed their employment contracts via digital signature.

More flexibility. Francisco Maroto, HR Manager of 3M Global Service Center CR, agrees: Costa Rican operations have continued the upskilling process virtually and have searched out ways to work more agilely within their teams. 

He believes that the pandemic will allow for the creation of a more flexible model, where employees can visit the office only when they need, as opposed to a more rigid schedule. 

In a CINDE interview with Project Director of JLL Costa Rica, Carla Brenes, she agreed with this type of employer flexibility, as reflected by a survey by JLL Global. Conducted last June, the survey found that, “Employers show a marked interest in strengthening aspects of their employee experience, such as the Collaboration (58%) and Flexibility and Agility (48%) – elements compatible with a complementary relationship between the office and working from home.”

Additionally, the study revealed that, even though employees rate working from home favorably, they would prefer that most of their working hours be in the office.

“Some aspects of office work are not easily replicable through communication technologies: these include social interactions, collaborative face-to-face work, mentoring, networking, and the monitoring of goals and objectives,” explains Brenes.

Francisco Maroto, from 3M, agrees: “Mental health also needs human interactions beyond the scope of virtual offices. It is important for us to transmit confidence and safety to our people – that they can visit the office whenever they want.”

JLL Costa Rica's Project Director concludes: “The office provides a space for people to come together and collaborate, innovate, and generally determine the boundaries to provide a new impetus for business growth. And lest we forget – for some, the office is a place of concentration, keeping work life firmly separated from family life, while providing a clear delineation between the two.”