Sea of Sameness Episode 5: Latin America Part II

In this series about the Sea of Sameness in Corporate and Employer Branding, we explore how this plays out in Latin America.

Welcome our Special Guest, Gabriela Torres.

Listen to the podcast here.

Connect with Gabriella via LinkedIn here.

HEATHER: Welcome to HeatherP Solutions POV podcast series. This is the fifth episode where we will discuss our recommendations to address the sea of sameness in BOTH corporate and employer Branding in Latin America and how it relates to American companies, based on our previous episode. This episode is based on research done with big companies in Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil. We call this episode “How can companies in Latin America get out of the Sea of Sameness that they find themselves into?”.

I’m HeatherP, and I’m here with my guest, Gabriela Torres, who joined me in the last episode of the podcast s well.

Welcome, Gabriela & Thanks for joining me again!

GABRIELA: Hi Heather, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to keep discussing this topic with you.

In our last episode, we covered the implications of the sea of sameness in Latin America and how it relates to American companies. We discovered companies in the region have a long way to go in terms of employer branding and overall talent attraction. While there are issues that require structural changes, many others can be fixed with just simple steps that don’t require a lot of budget. Among those, we find COVID-related communications, UX, and language on websites.

This time we’ll be talking about addressing the issues, especially if you’re a company in LATAM or a US-based company with operations in the region.

As a refresher, in LATAM, similar to the US, we see a Sea of Sameness by industry and even by all the companies. The same key themes are being called out, with similar or the same language, and even corporate brands don’t differentiate from each other.

So, why do you think employer branding and even corporate branding is where it is at its lifecycle in LATAM?

I think there are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that most countries in the region are developing countries. This reflects in how companies and talent behave in the market. Most people still work out of pure necessity to make money, without considering their careers, preferences, values, or personal purpose at the moment when they pick a job. Unemployment rates are high across the region, and after COVID, they’re even Higher, so people are looking for a way to survive rather than a job that is aligned with their beliefs, etc.

So based on this, most companies usually have no significant issues attracting candidates. Many of them use headhunters for executive or harder-to-find roles, and sometimes even regular roles, and don’t have career websites where people can learn more from them as an employer. Instead of focusing on building a strong employer brand, they do what seems to be the “easier” thing and pay others to bring people in. As an Example that shows us how a recruiting process is handled here in Ecuador, most recruitment companies don’t tell candidates the name of the company they’re representing until candidates advance further in the process. So they don’t know what company it is they’re interviewing for at the beginning. This says a lot about the power that companies still hold with jobs over people, instead of being a win-win situation right at the start.

Gabriela - I can totally get it might be easier. And the process you just described is pretty company-centric vs. people centric. I wonder, though, if it ends up being more expensive in the long run between paying a third party, people who drop out of the process once they know the company, and turnover after they join, given people are sort of going in blind. Super interesting! What about more specialized roles?

I’m sure it ends up being more expensive, but I think the logic behind it for most companies is that if they do it that way, they don’t have to put themselves out there as employers and be vulnerable, often as candidates are. This is me assuming based on what I’ve seen and experienced btw, but I have to say this for me would be a red flag in any company I’d want to work for to be honest.

As for more specialized or technical roles, as a region just a few years ago, we started to need these kinds of talent on a scale. This is why we’re starting to focus on talent attraction, and we see new initiatives emerge. Of course, not all countries are the same, and some are more advanced than others, but in general, we’ve still have a long way to go not only in knowing how to attract the right talent but also in developing it. Most companies look elsewhere for talent instead of focusing on genuinely developing people.

Finally, the overall lack of automatization in many recruitment processes makes it harder for HR to identify where the quality applicants come from and how to improve the process, so they don’t have time to focus on building an employer brand or much less see the value it could provide, because they’re caught up on their day to day activities.

I can completely understand that. With so many companies tightening their belts to deal with COVID, I think a lot of leaders are short-handed...too much work to do in too little time. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day vs thinking strategically about how to position yourselves for the best talent. What about corporate branding?

For corporate branding, although it’s more “developed” (quote on quote) than employer branding, it’s still usually a “nice to have” in many companies. Most organizations typically have teams of one that have to juggle internal and external comms, PR, corporate social responsibility, and events, all at the same time. So that doesn’t help to develop the industry either.

So this context allows us to see that there are no dedicated resources to employer branding in most companies, actually in the vast majority. Employer branding or employer branding related activities are usually managed by HR or communications and not by marketing teams that specialize in talent.

In my time leading a global employer branding & talent marketing team, we found that HR doesn’t have the communications expertise, Communication teams frequently forget the WIIFM for employees and marketing is focussed on driving top-line revenue. We found the most success was taking marketers who understand customer segmentation and the full suite of engagement tactics and apply their skills towards the target market of talent.

Specific to LATAM, Gabriela, we also know there are very few agencies that specialize in employer branding in the region, maybe a handful? Companies don’t have the support they need even to start to think about employer branding—this not even considering that it requires a budget that many many companies don’t have.

Which brings us to the next topic we’ll discuss today. What are some quick-wins or “easy” opportunities the companies in the region can focus on that don’t require a large investment of money, time, or resources? We can talk about the most essential things such as career websites, which could improve based on what we discussed in the last episode.