How to get the best out of your Filipino workforce
In the past years, the Philippines has consistently placed at the top of the list of outsourcing destinations. Outsourcing non-core processes to the country allows businesses to stay within their budget while having a hardworking, efficient, and English-fluent workforce at their disposal. In essence, the consistent top-quality services offered by the Philippine BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry saves businesses both time and money, which they can then use to improve their in-house processes and expand their client base.
The Philippines has a lot of cultural similarities with countries in the west. Despite this, employers from other countries and Filipino employees may still encounter challenges caused by cultural differences. This, in turn, prevents you from communicating properly with your Filipino team and making the most of their skills and talents and, of course, your investments. Here are some of the steps you can take to help you get past these challenges and to foster a conducive work environment for your Filipino employees:
Build a sense of family in the Philippine workplace
One of the most enduring qualities of Filipinos is their strong sense of family. It’s not uncommon for Filipinos to live with their parents past the age of 18 and well into their working years, contributing to the family fund with their salaries. Some even assume the role of the breadwinner of the family or work solely to put their younger siblings through school.
In the Philippines, the family unit is not just a support network in times of need or simply a group of relatives to meet up with during reunions; it is something that members need to cultivate, protect, and actively engage with. This strong familial bond does not constrain itself to just blood relatives. It extends to all individuals that a Filipino worker may come into contact with daily. For instance, friends and coworkers are often invited to family gatherings and significant life events. It’s also common for Filipinos to bring food from these family events to the office and share it with their coworkers.
As an employer, it’s in your best interest to take advantage of this sense of family by fostering the same kind of atmosphere in your dealings with Filipino employees. You don’t have to overextend in this regard; it can be as minor as simply asking them about their families before interviews or meetings, or taking a genuine interest in how their children or siblings are doing. You can also share some things about your family life as an opener if things prove to be a bit cold or awkward at first.
Should you wish to take things a step further, here are some suggestions to consider.
Be sensitive to the challenges they face every day
Sometimes, an employee may end up absent or late, which could affect deadlines or requirements. While it’s not suggested that you become lax in this regard, it’s a good practice to remember that employees are beset with many obstacles on their way to work, such as the daily traffic, inclement weather, and poor home conditions. They may take leaves of absence due to their own children or a member of the family that has fallen seriously ill. By being sympathetic to their plight rather than being critical, you not only foster a sense of camaraderie between you and your employees, you also ensure that they will be working twice as hard to pick up the slack.
Arrange bonding activities between you and your workforce
Filipinos are a warm and social people, and group activities are the norm even in the workplace. By joining these activities or hosting an activity that employees can join, you allow them to see you not just as an employer but as a part of their family at work. This fosters a deeper bond between you and your workforce, which then allows you to get your business expectations and directions across clearly while also inspiring them to work much more efficiently. If you have time, fly down to the country to visit and meet them personally. Hold an informal meeting about work over food or drinks, or even join them in their holiday celebrations. Even just holding a monthly video conference call can do wonders – just make sure that you’re actually visible in the call so that your workforce can connect your face to your voice.
As we’ve discussed, Filipinos thrive by creating family units out of their social circles, work included. This can unfortunately lead to the creation of cliques, which can then exclude some employees or alienate newer ones. While not necessarily a bad thing, as some employees do work better on their own, it’s in your best interest to help these loners feel more like they’re a part of their workforce. Ask team leaders about suspected loners or those that are being excluded by the rest of your workforce, and make sure they are included in activities and projects. You can also schedule one-on-one informal chats to check up on these loners and see if there are any external factors that are preventing them from uniting with the rest of the team. By doing so, you are showing the employee that you’re interested in them as an individual, not just as an employee, and that connection can help them communicate with you more honestly and openly.
Boost Filipino employee engagement and career growth
We mentioned that providing for their family unit is one of the Filipino worker’s main motivation for working. As such, you can expect them to do their job without fail or complaint, as it is in their best interests to work and earn a stable salary. However, it shouldn’t stop there. For the employees to reach their full potential, they need to do more than just passable work. They need to be motivated to improve their skills and talents, invest in their career, and expand their horizons. As their employer, you should foster a better sense of employee engagement as well as boost their career growth opportunities. Here are some of the ways you can do just that.
Offer job stability and security
Make your workforce feel that they can look forward to having a long and fruitful professional relationship with you and that they don’t have to worry about suddenly being given the pink slip due to downsizing or retrenchment. One way of doing so is by providing benefits on top of their salaries, such as healthcare benefits or bonuses based on performance reviews. You can also give your workforce big projects to handle, which will send the message that you view them as an indispensable part of your business and can be trusted with integral operations. Finally, present a future timeline where your company and the outsourced workforce are working hand in hand in the foreseeable future – they’ll see it as an incontrovertible proof that you plan on working with them for a long time.
Provide personal guidance and coaching
There’s a good chance that one or two of the outsourced employees may be lagging behind in terms of performance or work output. Don’t be too quick to discipline or criticize them in front of their colleagues, but rather take a personal hand in training or coaching them to do better. Doing so will not only help you get your points across easier, but it’ll also motivate them to perform better overall, because they know that you took time out of your own schedule in order to help them. Also, make sure that you’re always available to answer any clarifications and questions that they may have, and be sure that they know it. You’ll be able to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications in this way.
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Remove their fixed limiting beliefs
Filipinos are known to greatly respect office pecking order and seniority, devoting all their thoughts and energy to their own jobs and work roles. While you can expect them to deliver honest feedback when asked, they will rarely volunteer ideas or suggestions to coworkers in other teams or departments. This is something that you need to address, as you never know when a suggestion could dramatically improve a work process or make things easier for the rest of the team. Resolve this by making it clear to your workforce that you are always willing to hear suggestions, feedback or ideas from them, no matter what their position or team is. Your Filipino workforce managers should also be instructed to be more open to receiving such communication as well.
Create a work-friendly office environment
Since Filipinos treat their coworkers as a natural extension of their family unit, it’s only logical that they treat their office as a second home. This is both a negative and a positive for you, the employer. Employees may get comfortable with their office to the point that they don’t mind spending long hours working inside it, but at the same time, the lax attitude in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on deadlines and schedules. Solve this by taking the necessary steps to foster a more work-oriented office that still has room for some rest and relaxation.
Enforce strict rules about punctuality
Clearly define the exact time when employees should report to work, and what counts as ‘being late’ or ‘absent’. Filipinos are punctual when it comes to work, but they are known to be tardy when it comes to informal meetups. By being very strict when it comes to schedules, you are letting them arrange their schedules more accurately. This will make them more efficient with their time.
Ensure that business procedures, standards, and structures are clear
As much as possible, make everything about your company, particularly the tasks assigned to the outsourced staff, as clear as possible. You don’t need to be completely transparent if you don’t want to, but make sure that everything that they need to understand is laid out completely and in full detail. If they have a point of contact from your in-house workforce, then make sure that they know that POC’s name, contact details, and what times they’ll be available. If you want them to report to work in business casual, clearly say it. Formalize everything into manuals and paperwork for easy reference. Avoid vagueness at all costs.
Avoid public shaming
If a specific team or member of your Filipino workforce needs to be confronted with issues regarding their work performance, behavior, or anything else, be sure to do it constructively and behind closed doors. Publicly criticizing or shaming a specific member in front of their coworkers is a big taboo in Filipino society, and will cause an overt amount of distress and embarrassment to whoever is on the receiving end. After all, you’ve essentially made them lose face in front of their coworkers.
Celebrate Filipino holidays with them.
You don’t necessarily have to make a trip to the country to celebrate every holiday with the Filipino team; you only need to make it known that you acknowledge and respect these holidays—that’s enough to endear you to your employees. Hosting an office Christmas party may cost a bit at first, but it can really boost employee motivation and workforce morale.
Outsourcing to the Philippines is a cost-effective measure that can greatly enhance and streamline your business operations. The low labor cost in the country, its cultural compatibility with the US and other western countries, and the skills of the Filipino workforce make the Philippines a solid choice when it comes to outsourcing destinations. However, as we’ve outlined in this article, employers and business owners will have to take certain steps in order to foster a more work-friendly environment in the workplace. By doing the steps mentioned above, you not only ensure that you’re getting what you paid for and more, you’re also motivating your Filipino employees to go even further for you.