Why did Sykes Enterprises, a global leader in business process outsourcing, recently choose Cyprus ahead of 20 other countries as the location for a new base to augment its growing operations across northern and central Europe?
Christian Schaffer, the US company’s senior vice president for that region, does not pause for a second when the question is put to him. “It has the right work-life balance,” he says.
We are sipping iced coffees on the pleasant seafront in Larnaca, not far from offices that Sykes opened in July. A press release refers to the company’s presence in the coastal city as a “beachhead” – signalling Sykes’s intention to expand in Cyprus rapidly.
Sykes, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, already has 55,000-plus employees across six continents, providing services to Global 2000 clients around the world.
As well as offering an attractive work-life balance, Cyprus ticked all the other boxes on Sykes’s list of requirements. These included Cyprus’ “optimal” geographical location, “competitive operating model” and what Schaffer calls its “diverse, multi-lingual talent pool”.
It was because Sykes saw growth opportunities for its business in “certain key language segments of the EMEA market” (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) that it wanted a new base to augment its operations in those regions. The new Cyprus operation will focus on Sykes’s clients in markets across northern and central Europe.
Many Cypriots studied in Russia and the former eastern bloc and speak the languages of those countries. And Schaffer is confident that the island’s enviable work-life balance will attract people from central and northern Europe to work in Sykes’ Cyprus operation. They will feel welcome, and not just by locals. There is a vibrant Russian community in Cyprus as well as smaller ones from other central and north European countries.
During his 21 years at Sykes, Schaffer has opened offices in many countries in the EMEA region – so he knows what works for the company.
Finding a location where employees will be able to perform well at work because they are happy with life was a priority for Sykes because of the nature of its business.
Sykes’s job is to engage with its clients’ customers and this is best done by employees who are genuinely enthusiastic, friendly and helpful – and not just going through the motions.
“As a customer services company, we have to make an effort to find attractive infrastructure for our employees because only if everything in the work environment is right can we deliver world-class services to our clients and their end-users,” Schaffer told Investment Watch.
Many of those clients are leading brands in the telecommunications, financial services, healthcare, technology, transportation, leisure, retail and digital economy sectors. As well as providing comprehensive inbound customer engagement services and solutions, Sykes supplies outsourcing services in digital marketing and is a technical support provider.
“We looked at about 20 locations in southern Europe before shortlisting Cyprus after a very thorough investigation and due diligence,” Schaffer said. “We chose Cyprus finally because our reports showed it would be a very attractive place to complement our customer service offer in northern and central Europe.
So what makes Cyprus’ work-life balance so appealing? First, the major cities are smaller than many in Europe. This means a Sykes employee here will not spend much time commuting.
Then there is the sunny weather, which is likely to appeal to employees and their families coming from cooler climes in central and northern Europe. And Larnaca is a popular seaside tourist resort with a bustling nightlife.
“Cyprus is also a very, very safe place,” says Schaffer. “Me and my team saw and felt this when we were visiting Cyprus during our investigations into finding another location for operations. All the time we felt very safe and that’s really important.”
He was also impressed by the “proactive support” Sykes received from the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA). “Our experience of agencies like this in other countries has been good but CIPA was outstanding in the support it gave and its professionalism. They were dedicated to really making it work for us.”