Academic efforts to grow the employee pool
As the Business Services and Information Technology sectors are expanding very rapidly, companies already present in the market are extending their operations and new players are setting up business in Romania.
And finding talented individuals is becoming more and more challenging, because the output from the universities seems to be lower than the demand. But this situation is not specific to Romania, says Florin Grama, director, Microsoft Customer Service & Support Division and president of Managing Board, ABSL Romania. He leads Microsoft's largest Customer Service & Support (CSS) team in Europe, Middle East and Africa, which consists of over 600 support professionals and consultants based in Romania.
When did Microsoft come to Romania and how big was the local investment so far?
Microsoft has been operating in Romania since 1996. The service delivery centre opened in 2006 and has been growing significantly ever since becoming the biggest such centre in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Currently there are nearly 800 employees working for Microsoft across the country with the vast majority of them located in Bucharest and Timisoara. We are primarily delivering services, consulting and technical support for a widely spread portfolio of customers. We continue our growth plans in Romania and we are looking for IT specialists with strong language skills, customer orientation and deep technical understanding of Microsoft technologies and experience. We anticipate to perform investments of millions of dollars in retention and attraction of talent over the next few years. We are planning to attract hundred individuals to work for Microsoft within the current calendar year and a good few hundreds in the years to come. That is driven by the high adoption rate and use of Microsoft Cloud services and platforms – Azure and Office 365.
What geographies are you serving? What skills are predominant?
Microsoft delivers services and solutions, consulting and technical support of a high level of complexity to a large variety of customers – enterprises, public sector, partners, developers, consumers. Customers are mostly located in Europe, Middle East and Africa, however those located in other geographies are as well delivered services and support out of Romania.
Fluency in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and any other European language is key in order to make sure that our customers are receiving a global service customized to local needs. Apart from the deep technical skills related to Microsoft technologies, programming skills are of great advantage for a candidate along with a customer orientation mind-set, which are all key ingredients for a successful candidate.
Romania has a great mix of excellency in science, technology, engineering, mathematics on one hand and a priceless ability to speak foreign languages. This is a valuable mix. And its advantages span beyond the employability, which is the topic of our focus right now. In a digital world like ours such mix opens the doors to invaluable opportunities ahead of us.
Is there a threat of labour saturation in the market, especially in larger cities in Romania? Or it is still possible to expand?
If we look at the Digital Economy and Society Index figures, we understand that Europe as a whole is trying to find the best solutions for those challenges. If we are positive and have a plan, Romania can turn these into a great advantage. Microsoft and member companies of the Association of Business Services Leaders are working very closely with the academic environment to sustain the pool of talented individuals and output, mid and long term. Expansion of the sector will continue at a fast pace.
How well are employers in Romania ready to cut the attrition rate, as competition for human resources and talent intensifies?
Many factors determine attrition and vary quite a lot in the industry depending partly on the type of business, company and strategy. Microsoft has probably one of the lowest attrition rates in the sector, more specifically it is of one digit. Work and team environment, employee flexibility, great development opportunities, unique benefits and culture are amongst the determining factors that keep employees stay and grow. Companies do build their own strategies to retain their talent and more creative approaches are being determined.
What are the latest trends in employee motivation?
A flexible work environment, fair and appropriate rewards based on outcomes and impact, quick development opportunities and programs, an innovative and creative environment, choice and customizable benefits, involvement in decision making process towards the future of the company are amongst the motivating factors. The weight each of these factors have for different employees depends from one individual to another and it is of great importance that we offer such a varied mix.
Where should we to expand to?
Bucharest, Cluj and Timisoara dominate the Business Services and Information Technology labour markets as university graduates usually prefer to remain where they completed the studies. Iasi is developing very fast and many other cities such as Sibiu, Brasov, Galati are coming fast from behind, as companies look to diversify their operations in order to minimize dependency and risk of one single point of delivery and market.
What are the main KPIs that you have to accomplish?
Customer satisfaction and quality related ones are the top KPIs along with employee satisfaction at Microsoft. Revenue is usually not in scope in a pure delivery and services organization. As industry transforms at a rapid pace, different measurements might be considered in the future such as Time to Resolution to align closer with Customer expectations.
What was the biggest problem encountered so far in leading Romanian operations?
I would like to look at things from a different angle: we can see issues and problems or challenges and opportunities. One major challenge is by far attraction of talent in a labour market that has become more and more competitive. Closer relationships and joint programs with the academic environment and authorities are from our experience opportunities and winning approaches in order to overcome challenges.
What would you change about Romania?
It is nothing particular that I would change. We have a great deal and major opportunities to further expand and attract new business especially in high tech and information technology and authorities understand that well. We as a country, businesses and authorities, shall continue with public programs to attract investors, even intensify them, and invest more in education. I think it is critical for Romania to continue to build skills in this area to be able to further capitalize on a global need. We as a country are in a good position and should plan at macro level as to maintain this advantage mid and long term. A wish would be to secure predictability and continue to stimulate investment long term in infrastructure, education and technology.
What are the latest trends regarding automation, big data and internet of things (IoT) and how will they affect your company and the industry as a whole?
The four mega-trends, mobile, cloud, big data and social significantly influence the world and the IT/outsourcing industry and the speed of change is massive. Innovation and creativity are more important than ever and the speed to adapt to the new realities is key.
Customer expectations have changed significantly over the years and they continue to develop every day. The approach towards customer services require adaptations as well in such dynamic sector that we operate in.
In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, customers want services to run on any device, they want self-services and automation, they expect real time interaction and have their services up and running at all times, they require fast solutions to their issues. Global and standardized processes and tools, as well as similar quality standards, regardless of the point of service delivery are equally expected do drive a consistent customer experience that brings value.
Ensuring a "follow the sun" delivery models and approaches, integrated technology, platforms and automation are key ingredients to success. An example of new technology that could become standard in a few years is Skype translator which might be widely used in the future by many Customer service organizations. All these items as a matter of fact do generate more specialized jobs and Romania has a huge opportunity.