“Talent and diversity” was the title of the first conference of the series “Spanish Executives around the World”. In the session, Luis de Torres, the CEO of Healthcare LATAM & Brazil at SODEXO, highlighted the great opportunities offered by Latin America, but also the challenges that are faced, particularly emphasizing poverty and social inequalities.
In a session held on Thursday 6th July, during the initial presentation, Enrique Sánchez de León, the General Director of APD, and Pilar Llácer Centero, Associate Professor of HR on the MBA and Alumni Executive Career Advisor at EAE Business School, highlighted the importance of gaining insight from the experiences of Spanish executives based in different parts of the globe, as well as advocating Spanish talent. “International experience is one of the essential adventures when developing our professional careers”, explained Pilar Llácer while introducing Luis de Torres.
In his presentation entitled “Talent and diversity”, the Spanish CEO, who is based in Santiago de Chile, underlined the endless opportunities to be found in Latin America. “For them, Spain is the doorway to the European market, while, for Spain, Latin America is a large and growing market”.
The guest speaker went on to discuss the relationship between the two markets, fundamentally strengthened by the fact that they share a language. However, Luis de Torres emphasized the differences, primarily at a cultural level and in terms of the national characters and, to a lesser extent from a democratic standpoint. He also stressed the need for adaptability to the society of each country in Latin America.
The political situation in each Latin American country was also a key point in the conference. Luis de Torres stated that, when investing in any foreign country, “political instability and the lack of regulation in certain aspects were two crucial factors to take into consideration if we want to build our presence in the country”. SODEXO does not operate in some parts of Latin America precisely for this region. In the Director’s opinion, “if there is no legal certainty, you should not invest”.
The macroeconomic data and growth across the South American continent are two factors that encourage investment in Latin America. “In 2017, the economy is expected to rally and, in 2018, forecasts predict growth of 3% and inflation of around 3.4%”, explained the guest speaker. “There are opportunities all over the place”, he added before highlighting the great challenges faced in Latin America: the high rate of poverty among the population, the differences among social groups, the high costs of living and low salaries.
Commitment to gender balance in the company
In this respect, Luis de Torres underlined a number of inequalities, including the situation of women in terms of reaching not only an executive position but rather, in general, “greater professional and personal autonomy. A strong advocate of achieving a gender balance in companies, Luis de Torres emphasized the fact that this balance also led to improvements in terms of financial and non-financial indicators.
“Gender balance gives you a mixture of opinions, a degree of diversity to tackle and resolve problems”, insisted the Director, As well as this variety of points of view, he explained other advantages of having a team comprised equally of men and women, such as reflecting the company’s values, improving the brand image and even enhancing customer retention. On this point, the guest speaker explained that, at SODEXO, which is strongly committed to gender balance in its teams, “our customer retention has increased by 40%”.
Another of the challenges highlighted by Luis de Torres in relation to inequality was people with disabilities, advocating greater social integration. The Director highlighted the great campaigns that Spanish companies have run in this respect. He reminded us that companies with 100 employees or more have an obligation for their workforce to include at least 1% of employees with disabilities. However, in the speaker’s opinion, “companies should not be forced to do certain things but rather that there should be greater recognition of the companies that do best in terms of the diversity of their teams”.
Another part of the presentation focused on talent. Luis de Torres highlighted the young people in Latin American countries, although he underlined the need to invest in education to overcome the inequalities of poverty and give young people the opportunities that they deserve. “Latin America is full of young people with a great deal of talent, but we have to overcome inequalities in order to extract this talent”.
He also emphasized the training provided by business schools such as EAE Business School and the enthusiasm of Latin American young people to gain international experience and exchange knowledge with Spain. “EAE Business School is very well-known in countries such as Chile, Peru and Colombia, young people want to come to your campuses to train, before returning to their countries with innovative ideas”.