Jorge Perez shares how he’s spent the past decade turning Manpower into one of the most high-profile workforce solutions companies in the world
Jorge Perez went into a very different business from his father. Growing up in Mexico City, his father had been an extraordinarily successful accountant who oversaw the finances of everyone from the president of Mexico and major banks, to private citizens. While Perez isn’t the number cruncher his father was, he remembers his dad’s remarkable ability to connect with people.
“My dad gave me the benefit of having perspective in life,” recalls Perez, who now runs the North American branch of Manpower. “One day, we could be going to a beautiful house, where they had a lot of money, and the next day visiting people we were just trying to help.”
The ability to connect with workers and clients up and down the executive chain, across industries, is perhaps one of Perez’s greatest assets as an executive. It’s what has allowed him to evaluate the needs of corporations from an executive standpoint and from the perspective of employees in the field, figuring out not only a company’s goals, but the most practical way to implement workforce solutions.
Manpower is a division of ManpowerGroup, which was founded as a commercial staffing company in Milwaukee in 1948. Manpower, Perez’s division, still focuses on the commercial staffing line of business, most often placing talent in manufacturing, clerical, light industrial, and contact center roles. ManpowerGroup also includes ManpowerGroup Solutions, an HR solutions company that provides recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) and manage service provider (MSP) services, Experis, a brand that focuses on IT, accounting, and finance professionals and solutions; and Right Management, the Group’s HR consulting branch that provides outplacement and career-development services.
Today, with its focus on providing workforce solutions, ManpowerGroup has a presence in more than 82 different countries, and revenues of $20 billion. ManpowerGroup’s clients include nearly all of the Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller clients. The organization interacts with a wide variety of industries that vary depending on a country’s economic profile.
“We have a great brand,” Perez says. “One of the strongest in the industry. As you can imagine, with our different lines of business and different solutions, we have a very comprehensive approach. When we work with a company, we might uncover needs for talent or leadership development. We’re able to understand, and to help. That’s how we partner with organizations and grow our business.”
As a young boy, Perez absorbed a lot at home with his parents and five siblings. His dad, the accountant, was an involved worker, and Perez credits him with “helping me understand what I could do as a person. He gave me a lot of insights and was very hands-on.” He also remembers watching his brother, who is eight years older, working on his engineering homework while in college. Perez also studied engineering in college, and while he ultimately went down a different path, Perez says the analytical and critical-thinking skills applied in engineering mirror those applied in business.
“At the end of the day, business complexity demands a lot of analysis in terms of how things are being built, how you’re looking at the market, and the internal processes going on,” Perez says. “My background has helped me have that capacity. I can chop a problem into pieces and address each one with the right solutions.”
In the early 1990s, Perez worked as a mechanical engineer for Domecq, a wine and spirits company. In 1994, Manpower (which only had a small presence in Mexico at the time) asked Perez to help build their local business. He joined the company, and soon, Mexico City was a stronghold for Manpower. By 2000, he’d been put in charge of the Mexico and Central American market.
Tasked with growing this branch of the company, Perez took a number of steps. He made some changes to his leadership team; he brought in new technologies to revamp company operations, fundamentally changing their business model. He made significant investments in marketing and PR campaigns to increase Manpower’s profile in the market. In addition, he added more services to the portfolio, and enhanced sales capacity. “We made our processes better, more efficient, and increased Manpower’s visibility,” Perez recalls.
The tactics were effective. Within three years, Perez grew the business from 11,000 employees to 50,000. More significantly, Manpower soon had a majority of the market share in the region.
In 2007, he was offered the opportunity to join the United States and Canadian Manpower team, globally the second largest after France, as a senior vice president. Perez and his family (his wife and two children, then nine and 12) moved to Milwaukee in 2007, where, he says, he was met with a new slate of challenges, most notably the economy. While the volatile economy brought difficulties, Perez says he and his team focused on client and associate needs, continuing to hold fast to the organization’s mission and grow the business. Today, Perez oversees 1,800 full-time employees, 15,000 clients, and more than 400 North American branches.
Perez has seen a lot of changes over the past 20 years, but while his environment and day-to-day work at Manpower have changed, he still finds deep gratification in the same place he has since first starting with the company. “We ask people to trust their lives and time with us,” he says. “We’re giving them a safe and good job where they can be treated with respect and dignity. That truly means something to me. In this company, we’re really proud of what we do: we put people to work.”
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