The Business Year

Michelle Ferrari

MEXICO - Economy

Has assessed over 10 million employees in more than 10,000 firms

Director General, Great Place To Work Mexico


Michelle Ferrari is Director General of Great Place To Work in Mexico. With more than 20 years of professional experience, she began her career as an entrepreneur with her own firm. She joined Great Place To Work in 2002. In 2012 she took leadership of the second most important operation for the company, that of its Mexico branch.

"We have assessed over 10 million employees in more than 10,000 companies in 52 countries."

What is the background of Great Place To Work and its place in the international market?

Great Place To Work is an American company based out of San Francisco. It was founded in 1969, and it began by investigating and examining role and perception of the employee and what actually was what an employee needed or expected to perceive their company as a Great Place to Work. This investigation was done with thousands of interviews of many different profiles of persons on the labor force. The core of our assessment is employee trust and over the years we have developed a huge dataset in terms of what makes a company great and which techniques are the best. We have assessed over 10 million employees in more than 10,000 companies in 52 countries. This has given us an excellent sense of how a company develops and sustains and excellent relationship with its employees. Our lists and certifications are well known as a way to let the world know which companies are the best to work for and which ones are making a difference, which aligns to our mission of helping companies transform their culture to enable them to create a Great Place to Work for All.

How important is the Mexican market for Great Place to Work?

Currently, we are the second-largest market in terms of revenue generation; however, we are not just important because of our revenue. We have a large mix of important clients and our client retention is very good. Additionally, Mexico is a strategically important place on a global scale. We are a key component of the North American community as well, and that has important implications for our business. Mexico is a big part of the evolution of our mission, and it is a key piece of our global strategy. We are also different in terms of how we approach the business and how we develop strategy. We are dedicated to changing work environments in both the public and private sector regardless of how difficult that task may be. Though there are certain limitations in the government on how changes may be achieved, it is a key piece of our mission being the largest employer in Mexico.

What evolutions have you seen in the way companies approach your services and how has your client base changed?

In the beginning, it was difficult to influence companies. For Mexican companies, their relationship with their employees was transactional. This made it difficult for us to make inroads because companies viewed their relationship with their employees in limited ways. In fact, only a third of our clients actually make it onto our lists or receive our certifications, demonstrating how much room there is for improvement. The critical component is getting companies to understand the standards against which they should compare themselves. This can be a real eye-opener, and this can be the true catalyst in a company’s development. This is a long process and the way it does it is related to the way it sustains it. Perks and benefits are not the keystones of this system; rather, the true foundation is real and tangible changes in management. Leaders must treat their employees well in the most holistic sense of the word. This can be challenging because many leaders were not taught how to direct or manage people. Creating a great place to work is the sum of many small decisions and strategies. Additionally, middle management is a key component in this. A key but complicated piece in creating a great place to work is teaching leaders and managers how to do it. This often flies in the face of managers’ established techniques or conventional wisdom, making the process somewhat difficult.

Are most of your clients Mexican or international?

Our first list, which we published in 2003, included many international firms. The publication of this list, though, prompted many Mexican companies to aspire to this list. Because of increased standards, these lists become harder and harder to get on, making companies work harder and harder. Of the more than 500 client companies in Mexico, only a third that make it to our list are certified. Of those third, the balance between Mexican companies and multinationals is pretty equal. Multinationals play a large role mainly because of how advanced their operations are. However, in the last three years we have had large Mexican companies making it into our top 10 lists. This represents many thousands of Mexican employees who are being directly touched by this methodology. Mexican companies represent the majority of our revenue growth, largely due to the relative level of their maturity. Their path is a little longer than certain other multinationals; multinationals will still need to make improvements.

What is your opinion on growing levels of competition within your space and new and more advanced standards?

In terms of competition, our social mission and its holistic nature are the key differentiators between us and our competitors. Additionally, we are a firm with an expertise in cultural transformation aligned to business results, focused specifically on this matter, having the advantage of being highly specialized in what we do. No firm commits as many resources or has as an extensive methodology as we do. Furthermore, no other company emphasizes organizational trust as much as we do. In terms of our potential obsolescence, there is so much work to be done to meet our standards, but I am confident we will have work for many years to come. Technology has the potential to be a real game changer, giving us the opportunity to work with more companies than ever before. We will be able to scale our techniques and standards so we can reach every corner of the economy. Technology will also make it easier for companies to work with us. Firms that are not familiar with our operations and practices might think that we are a difficult and expensive firm to work with, but that is not necessarily the case. We are dedicated to helping any company including small entrepreneurs establish a culture that is conducive to our mission.

What are your goals for the next years?

One of our core goals is to reach thousands of companies through the deployment of many new technologies. With new technology our offering is the best in terms of cost vs benefit allowing companies to access information of their culture allowing them to begin the journey of creating great work places, providing them with services that makes it easier for many different companies to work with us. The easier it is for them to work with us, the faster we can change the workplace culture of Mexico and the world. The key challenge is rapidly developing technology and educating the market to adapt to new ways of doing things.. The other goal is to create a community awareness which in turn pressures companies to change on many different fronts. This requires connecting with people as well as companies and we want to leverage our relationship with Mexican communities to change the way business gets done.



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