Top 5 Takeaways from the HR Leadership Conference

Last week, we attended the HR Leadership Conference by the Business Makers Academy. Over 200 HR professionals from different industries in the Philippines attended, and the talks covered a wide range of topics—from recruitment, employee engagement, diversity, ethics, and even HR Tech.

While we live tweeted the event, below are some excerpts from our five favorite talks at the HR Leadership Conference. Whether you’re in HR or not, you’ll pick up relevant insights on how to improve your organization. 


1. Developing leaders & talent for a stronger future – Cameron Nott, Managing Director, CPP Asia Pacific

Nott acknowledged two strong forces that are shaping HR and talent development today.

 First is Generational force, brought about by the rise of millennials in the workforce. This year, it is expected that 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials, and HR needs to recognise how this generation has a different expectation of work compared to Generation X and Y before them. Millennials put a higher value on experiences over compensation, and organisations need to invest more to make sure that their millennial employees are constantly learning and improving.


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A question was raised, on whether it is possible to shorten the 6-9 month on boarding process to lower organisational costs. To this, Nott recommended to have more targeted development programs. “The more we put into the employee in the first few months, the shorter the onboarding process. Give them the right assessment fit for their role and make them more self-aware. If you just show them where they sit and give them a manual, the longer it would take them.

 Nott also shared that:

  • Organizations that provide career development are 2.5x more likely to be productive
  •  75% of best in class organisations can directly attribute changes in revenue to their assessment strategies.

 On the role of assessments in developing talent, Nott emphasises that simply having an assessment exam is not enough. “These assessments are usually not applies if they are not integrated into their work. Employees won’t understand the purpose of these.

 He recommended that talent development need to go beyond assessment and should have all four elements below.

  • Assessment – for self-awareness
  •  Results – make sure they are interpreted by a professional 
  •  Challenge – discuss with the employee how he /she can apply the results to everyday work
  • Support – with group sessions, leadership programs, and coaching
2. Managing cultural diversity in the workplace – Marie Segura, ITAP International Group & Blanchard Group of Companies
Segura, who has worked in HR roles across Asia, South America, and the United States,  said that “culture” is viewed through four different windows:
  • Individual culture, which relates to family background and individual personalities
  • Environmental culture, which relates to economic and social factors
  • National culture
  • Organizational – pertains to corporate culture
Given these, Segura pointed out two distinct traits of the Filipino workforce:
1. Filipinos observe a Group disposition, rooted in our bayanihan or barkadahan culture.
Some manifestations:
  • Yield to close group opinion
  • Avoid saying no
  • Say what you would like to  hear
  • Try to act pleasant and say “there is nothing wrong”
  • Protect each other vs. the outsider
  • Smile to cover for negativity
2. Filipinos are Hierarchical, vs. Participative
The Philippines ranks #2 globally (second only to Malaysia) when it comes to the Power Distance Index (PDI) by Hofstede’s cultural dimension model. Having a high power distance score means that Filipinos generally accept a hierarchical organisation, where subordinates expect to be told what to do  without feeling any conflict.
Segura noted that these two traits are neither good nor bad, but employees need to recognise, respect, and reconcile these with the rest of the organisation, especially with the expected increase in talent mobility during the ASEAN Integration.
3. Managing productivity for virtual Teams –  Oscar Fudalan, Training Manager – Asia Pacific Region, ACE Insurance Group
Fudalan, who has vast training experience in the BPO Industry, shared some of the toughest challenges of working with virtual teams.
These results came from a global survey from RW3, with over 30,000 respondents.
Given these challenges, Fudalan names three things that organisation needs to focus on to motivate virtual teams:  Automomy, Mastery, and Purpose
Autonomy – Employees prefer having the freedom to explore other ways to work around a particular project. Management is good for compliance, but if you want more engaged employees, self-direction is better.  One way that organisations are doing this is by authorising employees to allot a percentage of their time to pursue other projects or solutions that could help the organisation’s broad goals. Manage by results, not by scrutiny.
Mastery – Help employees get better at their job. People are motivated when they are constantly training and learning. For people in the BPO industry,  it is not just about learning about the spiels and processes they should observe, but knowing the whole customer experience—what your values are and how you present your brand to customers.
Purpose – Employees should believe in what they are doing. They should have a sense of pride in the company that they are working for. Some ways that companies can build culture is by changing the work environment, hyping up the cultural alignment through recognition programs, and shifting the priority from stringent rules to the whole experience.
4. Employee engagement for the global workforce – by Angelito “Obet” Cruz, CEO of HR Avatar Philippines
 “Employee engagement is not employee happiness or employee satisfaction. It goed beyond enjoying the things happening in the office.”
So what makes an employee engaged? According to Obet Cruz, it is usually these these things:
  • Engagement with the organisation, or being proud of your brand
  • Engagement with your manager, which includes strategic alignment
  • Employees going beyond their capability, at the same time, enhancing their own sense of well-being.
To fulfill these, Obet offers us his 5 NEW rules of employee engagement:
1. Don’t sweat anonymous reviews, like ones you see on social media
2. Discover your company’s purpose (and don’t get stuck in administrative tasks)
3. Survey, but always follow that up
4. There is only so much you can do—you can’t please everyone, so don’t sweat the small stuff
5. Actually, don’t worry about engagement —just focus on what you need to deliver to your employees, and engagement will come naturally.
HR needs to deliver on the key drivers of engagement, which are: Career opportunities, management importance, organisation reputation, pay, and communication. He puts emphasis on the last one—communication—especially during times when employees demand certain things that the company cannot deliver. “If employees want something ridiculous, be transparent with the reasons. Cite the cost, if possible, and explain why the company would not be able to handle that. Communication is key for them to be engaged,”
One of Obet’s recommendations for employee engagement is to create an Employee Value Proposition (EVP), which succinctly captures the company’s identity and essence as an employer. The EVP expresses how employees should experience the brand, and it should not only be stated but experienced in different touch points.
5. Cultivating work ethics in modern business – by David Bonifacio, Managing Director of New Leaf Ventures
“Hr is the single most critical department in the organisation today. We are only as good as our people” – David Bonifacio
David began with the idea of cultivating—how some things have to stay planted first for them to grow.
For HR, it is easy to fall into the trap of complexity because of the many tasks and processes they need to adhere to. But the more we busy ourselves with these tasks without getting the basics right, the more we would not get anything done. We need to cultivate the essentials first, and for David, it is about ETHICS.
For David, there are four ways to cultivate ethics in your workplace:
1. Discover your values: Values are the things that your organisation holds to be important. What will you want to lose money for? What are you willing to suffer for?
2. Clearly state and explain your values to everyone in the company: Everyone has to be aligned, otherwise, it would not work. Always constantly clarify what your values are and show how it applies to your work
3. Exemplify your stated values:
“If you do but don’t say, you risk misalignment.
If you say but don’t do, you lose credibility.
If you say don’t do anything at all, you’re a loser.”
4. Enforce your stated values: Hire, reward, reprimand, and fire based on your values. Include values check in your performance appraisals.
If you don’t deliberately set the values in your company, there will be no clear ethical guidelines governing your employees’ decision-making. And as David’s slides say:
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Trish Elamparo

Trish is marketing manager for New Leaf Ventures, a company that helps businesses adapt to new technology and innovations. Prior to that, she worked for Mobext where she put up the country's first news blog for mobile marketing. She's been writing for a living since graduating in 2009, having worked for Adobo Magazine and Hinge Inquirer Publications. Check out the other things she writes about:

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