Preparing Our Workforce for the Tech of Tomorrow: A Conversation with Marco Stefanini

September 17, 2020

This is part of our Dialogue on Digital Transformation series, in advance of the upcoming 2020 Network Readiness Index. 

Marco Stefanini, founder and CEO of Stefanini Group, has been named the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the Chamber of Commerce in Brazil and Spain. Stefanini is the founder of the Brazilian Association of Software and Services for Export, and directs Seprosp and Softex, an association that supports digital transformation in Brazil for over two decades. With decades of experience, Stefanini is a global thought leader in digital transformation.

Has Stefanini Group’s digital transformation strategy changed due to COVID-19? What is the impact of the pandemic on the need for digital transformation?

The Stefanini Culture believes the entrepreneurial mindset makes things happen; it sees the glass as half full. This mindset has been supporting us by helping us identify opportunities and grow in the middle of several crises that have happened throughout the last 32 years. Our Digital Transformation Strategy is fully supported by this entrepreneurial culture and as result, Stefanini acquired four new companies around the world during the pandemic, strengthening our digital portfolio even more and adding value to our clients. Additionally, during the pandemic, we invested in innovation and product development, and launched several new products, all of them tailored to address the new major pain points our clients are now facing.

We have been able to thrive during this crisis due to several factors. The first core element to highlight is our people and culture, which is represented in more than 25,000 talents spread out in 41 countries. They bring together diversity and combine in-depth industry expertise and in-depth knowledge with the latest technologies in the market, enabling us to deliver value to our clients’ businesses.

After analyzing the changes in customer behavior and expectations during the last ten years, and now even more since COVID-19, we have realized that creating new digital business models are imperative to stay competitive. We know that getting more intelligence from data and monetizing its assets is mandatory to survive. Through our work with more than 800 clients globally, we have noticed that even the most conservative companies are now open to speeding up their digital initiatives.  When it comes to digital transformation, the biggest barrier most companies face is a culture that favors what worked in the past over what will work in the future. The new reality has been showing that change is needed – especially in the post-COVID-19 world.

Surviving the first wave of COVID-19, we have learned how efficient and productive the virtual working environment can be. In just a few days, we shifted and enabled 25,000 employees to work remotely, without any disruption in our client services and operations. In fact, our operation KPIs show that employee productivity increased by ten percent. 

Further, this new virtual working environment democratizes access to job opportunities. It makes it even more possible to engage talents from everywhere, even in new locations that we previously would not consider.  Similarly, we have learned that employees can work in cities and locations that are far from big metropolises, which allows us to interact with the best talent from all over the world.

How can digital transformation be leveraged to build more inclusive, diverse and equitable societies?

Given that COVID-19 drove us to the world’s largest work-from-home-experiment ever, it has given us the opportunity through technology to expand our workforce in a more inclusive and diverse way, thereby accelerating our digital transformation efforts.  The boundaries of location of the workforce become less relevant and the ability to utilize talent, regardless of where they are, opens up the world to companies. This transcends any other boundaries.

Regardless of the demographic, the disability, or anything else, we can extend many of our jobs to anyone who is interested. Not only does this guide our organization to be more diverse and inclusive, but it also helps fight the battle against unemployment.  Those who did not, in the past, have access to certain jobs because they could not get there for whatever reason are no longer saddled by that constraint and the opportunities are endless.

But it does not stop there – digital transformation prepares our company for the future and allows us to think and behave with more agility.  We are preparing our workforce to use the technology of today and of tomorrow.  We are preparing them for the roles of tomorrow.  Everyone, regardless of where they are or who they are, has this opportunity. Supporting a culture of inclusion and diversity allows everyone to act more freely, be themselves, act with more creativity, be innovative, and offer their perspective without fear. Through this transformation, everyone has the opportunity to learn from the same platforms and engage with the same technologies, all without bias.

And what kind of leadership and culture is needed to bridge the digital divide and make sure digital transformation doesn’t leave anyone behind?

None of this is possible, though, without support from the leadership that is necessary to make it all happen. Leaders must balance the war-speed need for transformation without leaving employees and clients behind. They must invest in the education of the workforce and the necessary technologies to support the cultural transformation, and include everyone who wants to get on the fast-moving train without leaving them at the station.  Only through the support of these programs and through the investment in the initiatives will this be a success.  In some cases, those investments seem simple, but actually are complicated, such as basic infrastructure requirements where there may not be any way to include those who were left out in the past; implementing technologies for broader engagement in support of transformation; and utilizing AI and data analytics to make better business decisions, thereby accelerating the transformation.  It all goes hand-in-hand – digital transformation can support inclusion and diversity while making an impact on current unemployment trends, with the support of leadership and the necessary investments to make it happen!

How does a crisis like COVID-19 impact the need for reskilling, and how has it changed the way firms engage with talent?

Digital technology has transformed the way we source, recruit, retain, and qualify talent at a rapid pace. Expectations about how we deliver talent to both our internal and external business partners have no longer made digital technology a luxury, but a necessity to thrive in a global economy.  We have merged Recruiting and Staffing in our organizations, now called Total Talent and Digital Services.

Some of our technology enablers used today in Total Talent and Digital Services include Digital Assessment Tools with power stack AI technology, Online Talent Ecosystems, (Stefanini Digital Talent Mall), robust dashboards and analytics, client-specific Talent Portals & Dashboards, along with process automation that promotes speed and quality of talent to market.

Technology has allowed us to integrate with our sourcing channels.  Technology has reinvented the term “pipelining” in the talent industry.  The expectations of speed and quality of talent have increased; without the technology enablers, we would not be able to keep up with the pace.

The way we engage with talent is also evolving.  Some of the top talent available in the market no longer view full-time employee status as a value-added, long-term goal.  Some talent will only work on projects assignment(s) as an independent contractor.  We have transformed our process and enabled our technology to support these new engagement models – from individuals to complex groups.  Using technology, we have mitigated the risk when working with independents.  Technology has allowed us to integrate compliance checks and balances into the process, along with objectively measuring their skills.  Compared to the past, some organizations would not even consider engaging with an independent contractor to support their business or client business. Now, technology made it possible and accountable.

Acknowledging a mainstream concern of having a shortage of certain skilled talent has been one catalyst of our transformation, in the way we seek out and manage our talent pools.  Technology has allowed us to objectively measure (through our assessment tools) and manage a larger ecosystem of talent.  Our Talent Mall platform allows our current employees, consultants, and staffers (future, current, and past) to update their profiles and skills, and mutually communicate with our Talent Acquisition teams.

How can we leverage technology to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

When it comes to achieving SDGs, Stefanini Group is fully committed to diversity, sustainability, and open innovation. The Stefanini University offers thousands of training sessions globally, enabling our employees and communities to improve their professional journey. The Stefanini Institute, created in 2001, has contributed to more than 100,000 people worldwide, providing technology courses and workshops, as well as using the necessary technological language to prepare young adults and adults for the job market. When it comes to diversity, we are proud to say that our women workforce represents fifty percent of our global talents; further, fifty percent of our Executive Leadership Team are women.

Our organization adheres to the United Nations Global Compact and we are certified in several areas, including ISO 14.000 (Environment), ISO 56.002 (Innovation), OHSAS 18.001 (Occupational Health and Safety),  and DSC 10.000 (Compliance). We also have public goals related to reducing water and electricity consumption, as well as CO2 emissions.

Finally: what best practices for becoming a network-ready company can you share?

When it comes to being network-ready, there are several best practices to consider – lessons that we certainly have learned amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Firstly, companies need to ensure that remote workers have access to office networks by supplying more network bandwidth and expanded hardware and software security to encrypt those connections. Then, companies should determine if their wireless infrastructure is designed to handle the activity of all employees simultaneously throughout the organization and adjust accordingly. Of course, this support then calls into question cybersecurity concerns, so companies also need to carefully structure and vet the security measures they have in place.

By adhering to these practices throughout COVID-19, we have been able to support remote workers via our infrastructure and ensure they have the tools necessary to do their jobs well. This practice, in turn, has helped us to keep running throughout the crisis, keep our workers employed, and continue to innovate while providing the best service to our clients.

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