Thursday, September 7, 2017

International experience

Plaza España in Sevilla
I have been living in eight cities in seven years so someone might draw a conclusion that I am not able to make a long term commitment and stay put in one place. The truth is that even though I have been living in many different cities I have been able to finish my long term goals during that time. I finished bachelor and master of science in economics and B. A. in five years and I was loyal to my two-year contract in Poland. Now I have been one and half years in Barcelona.

International experience is seen as an asset in current business world. What does one gain by working abroad and what does it actually mean if someone has international experience? I am going to share here my thoughts.
  • You communicate in English and other languages
  • You adapt to a new culture and habits
  • You have international network
  • You can work with people from different backgrounds. For example you learn how to deal with "mañana" attitude
  • You tolerate with change and unknown. For example you might not understand the language people speak around you in open office that might make you feel being left out

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Referendum

The referendum on independence of Catalonia is approaching. The voting is taking place 1st of October and the campaigning has started on the streets. People passing flyers on the streets and campaigning tents on certain places. Besides the Catalan flags decorating balconies you can also see flags supporting voting in favor of independence of Catalonia. I expect the campaigning to increase.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Renting a flat in Barcelona

Finding a flat can be challenging in Barcelona. Especially finding a studio is difficult and you have to act fast. I went to see one studio apartment of 35 square meters in Central location beside good public transportation connections. The landlord was asking for a rent of 500 EUR including the electricity. Various people were ready to pay the rent so landlord was able to pick the person to who he wanted to rent the flat. Second potential flat was available for 580 EUR and as nobody had not yet decided to rent, I decided to make the decision right away and pay the reservation fee.

The rental agencies tend to charge 10 % yearly rent + VAT (21 %) from the tenants. Then you also need to pay 1 - 2 month rent as a deposit and the rent of the first month. Therefore you better be prepared with few thousand euros if you want to rent a flat. In Finland the landlords are paying the fee for the agencies to assist with flat rental. Normal rent contract is for 3 years which you can terminate after 6 months with one month notice period.

Since living here for over a year I have received almost every day a flyer to my mailbox from different housing agencies that they are ready to evaluate the price of my flat or help me to rent it out. If you want to rent a flat from certain neighborhood I suggest to a walk around and see the offered flats in the housing agencies of the neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Vandalism


Vandalism
During the past year I have noticed vandalism towards the banks three times in the same street. All the other shops or businesses on the same street were untouched. One bank had writings how the banks are stealing from the people. On other days there have been posters against capitalism or just small writings. There seems to be going on a movement against the banks/capitalism which I have not witnessed before. Occupied flats and homeless people are also signs that not everything is going well in the Spanish society.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Feria de Abril in Seville

Feria de Abril
Feria de Abril is a festival celebrated in Sevilla one or two weeks after semana santa. This year I had a chance to attend for one day. The festival takes place for one week. As the festival has grown so big the area is like a neighborhood with streets names and numbers. The area is full of tents called "casetas" which belong to different kind of organisations. If you want to have an access to them you need to know someone to get invited. There are also several public tents which you can enter without invitation. you can enjoy the festival without invitation but knowing people from tents gives you definitely better chance to enjoy more.

The festival has its own atmosphere as most of the women are dressed up in a traditional dress of gypsies and men are wearing suits. Then there are the numerous horse carriages which people are using for transportation. The odor of horse shit is very noticeable and you also better watch your step. I have seen festivals having high prices but I was happily surprised that one small beer in a public tent cost only one euro. You can see people of all ages and you can see on the dance floor the same time teenagers and elder people.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Long work days caused by siesta

Palms in the plaza
Siesta is still part of Spanish way of living which you do not see in the touristic areas of Barcelona. However siesta is very visible in the areas outside of the city center. This means that shops are closed during the hottest time of the day for two to three hours from 14 to 17 o'clock. The long brake in the middle of the day means that the work day ends late around 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. The long siesta/lunch brake is not a problem if your work place is nearby home but if you do not live close to the work place, a long siesta brake can be a burden. Siesta in between makes the work day seem longer as your free time in the evening gets shorter. I can imagine that lifestyle with siesta is nice in a small town where commute is short, but in a big city where long commuting is needed siesta does not fit equally nicely in the day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What makes people work abroad for the long term?


Anella olimpica
This is the third post about BPO/SSC and I will focus how it is to move abroad for work. The earlier posts are here and here. In the BPO/SSC foreigners are often needed to cover for language dependent processes. Moving abroad for work can be challenging and may mean starting a totally new life in a new city. In this post I will write about the importance of social life to make foreigners stay abroad and not to return back to their home countries.

The company can facilitate the arrival of employee and make the beginning easier for employee in many ways. A good welcome starts with flight to the destination, arranged transportation to the first accommodation from the airport and providing help to arrive easily to the workplace on the first day. Usually foreigners need to deal with the local officials to get local id number, social security number ETC. Dealing with the officials can be difficult if you do not speak the local language therefore providing tutor who can help with bureaucracy is a big help.

Warm welcome does not make employees stay for the long term. If the company wants the people hired from abroad to stay it is essential to facilitate their adaptation to the new country. I have considered the factors that make employees stay working abroad long term. The company can offer accommodation as a part of the work contract. Especially sharing a flat with or living in close proximity with other new comers makes forming social circles easier. Also organizing activities during the work day and after work day facilitates socializing. Learning the local language facilitates the adaptation and therefore offering language lessons for the employees is a good idea. I think that companies should hope their single employees to find a partner to make them stay for the long term.

After all the big reason why many people keep working is to pay their mortgage. Paying mortgage ties the employee to work life for many years. The barrier to take mortgage abroad is higher than in your home country therefore the mortgage is not tying foreign employees similar way as many of the local employees. It is hard to imagine foreigners taking a mortgage abroad unless they have decided to form a family.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Calçotada

Calçotada served
Today we went to enjoy calçotada which is a Catalan gastronomic feast. It is a rural feast to enjoy long shaped onions called calçots which are prepared in barbecue until they turn black. You peel of the burned layer, then dip it to the romescu sauce and enjoy. The menu is typically eaten by hand and it is messy. Therefore you are given an aprin and plastic glowes. We took calçotada menu for 31 euros which included calçots and alcahofas with romescu sauce, bread with tomatoes and garlic, barbecued meat, beans, potato, wine, a dessert and nuts. At the end we were given a special bottle of very sweet kind of wine called moscatel which you pour straight to your mouth from the bottle. With this menu everyone will get full.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The background of people working in outsourcing

Last month I wrote about the high turnover of personnel in BPO/SSC.  EU has given chance for many people to go work abroad. On the other hand EU has made it possible for corporations to centralize activities in service centers in one country and moving activities from many different countries under one roof in one country. This has created demand of people speaking different languages. I will shed some light to the backgrounds of people who work in language dependent outsourcing activities.

The workforce in BPO/SSC is female dominant. Even 70 % of the personnel are females. Outsourcing of language dependent activities have given a chance for language students to enter corporate jobs. Therefore you can find many locals with the background in studies of humanities. As the language skills is the most important criteria there are the native speakers with different kind of backgrounds who move from their home countries to work abroad with their native language. Some people do not have any degree after high school studies, some have changed from other field to corporate work and others have just started their career.

Finding people who speak big European languages like Spanish, French and German is easier than finding speakers of small European languages like Finnish, Swedish and Dutch. Hiring person from another EU country is easier for paperwork wise than hiring someone outside of Europe but as finding someone inside Europe can be challenging some companies are ready to hire also from outside of Europe. One friend of mine who works in HR of BPO/SSC said that "We would hire a monkey if it spoke the required language"

Sunday, January 15, 2017

High turnover of personnel in BPO/Shared Service Centers

I have been working for three years in BPO/Shared Service Center environment. I have paid attention that the turnover of the personnel is fast. My desk has been in an open office space with around 50 other employees. My feeling was that almost every week there was a farewell gathering around someones desk who had decided to quit. High turnover is considered a challenge in BPO/Shared service centers (Ruppel et al. 2013). I started to wonder the reasons why people were leaving the company. I do not have any collected data about the turnover of personnel in BPO/Shared Service Centers but I found a research made by Juho-Erik Kolehmainen regarding the turnover in one HR Shared Service Center in Philipines which provides service for companies in USA.

The decisions to leave a company were classified to internal and external reasons in the research of Kolehmainen. I have observed the same reasons contributing to the high turnover of personnel in Poland as well in Spain. The top external reasons for leaving a company was career development (38 %), salary & benefits (28 %) and personal reasons (28 %) like starting studies or moving elsewhere. The top internal reasons for leaving a company were work environment (25 %), management (19 %), job tasks (19 %), career development (16 %) and salary & benefits (16 %).

The most of the service in Poland is provided to other European countries and therefore the work environment with night shifts caused by time difference between continents is not an issue like in Philippines where the service is provided mainly to the companies in USA. Though there is also service provided to outside of Europe in Poland. In Poland as in Philippines there is competition between the companies for the qualified work force. Many of my friends changed their job as another company could offer them better salary & benefits.

There are  many foreigners working in the BPO/Shared Service Centers to perform language dependent activities with their native language in Poland. I have seen many foreigners coming to work in Poland with the attitude to stay one year working abroad and then moving back to home country. Career development might not be as attractive to foreigners as you might lose your language bonus if you get a promotion. You might end up having the same salary despite the promotion. Also your team leader might be against your promotion or moving to another department as it can be difficult to find a replacement with your language skills.

I have observed also issues in the job tasks which leads people quitting. It might be that before the "go-live" you are barely having any work and some people quit before as they get too bored before the actual work even starts. The cultural differences affect a lot how activities are performed in different countries and that makes estimating the needed work time challenging. I have seen that within the same department some people have too much workload as some have work just for few hours each day Even though job tasks are simple some people struggle to perform the tasks and get laid off while others get bored and quit the job.

This was opening article to my observations in BPO/Shared Service Center environment. I am planning to write some more in the coming months.

  • Kolehmainen Juho-Erik (2015) Employee turnover and reasons for the turnover. CGI Global HR Shared Services, the Philippines, Master thesis
  • Ruppel, C., Sims, R. & Zeidler, P. (2013). Emotional labour and its outcomes: A study of a Philippine call centre. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Vol. 5, Issue 3, 246-261