Innovation and Collaboration for the New Generation
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Paulo Abadillo, this chapter is titled, “Innovation and Collaboration for the New Generation.” In it, Karren Gomas, Head of Human Resources of Avaloq Philippines, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in future proofing their operations.
As a global company Avaloq hires especially developers that create software and solutions for digital banking. The company attached great importance to cooperation in the workplace and used modern measures to ensure effective collaboration. In addition to collaboration, an open communication culture is also very important to Avaloq, both internally with employees and externally with customers and partners.
The position as Head of Human Resources at Avaloq Philippines seemed a perfect fit for Karren Gomas: "I really love increasing our employee engagement, planning team building events or company outings," she explained, adding: "I think it also works because of my personality - I'm a bit perky.”
Gomas described still enjoying her work after 15 years in HR. She believed that it is the duty of any HR leader to promote collaboration and positive engagement within a company. It is also the responsibility of HR to care for the well-being of a company’s employees and to help maintain a good spirit. In order to achieve this, Gomas emphasized that it is essential for an HR department to be innovative so that employee wishes are understood, and personal development can be supported.
For Gomas, this meant that an HR manager must keep pace with market trends in order to support not only the individual employee but the entire company in its further development. The demography of Avaloq Philippines is quite young, with an average age of 30, and for Gomas it is a must to understand this "millennial generation" of workers: “I have to know the needs of our employees and keep up with the latest trends in the industry, the internet community, and the digital transformation. This is the only way we can offer suitable challenges as an employer and integrate all employees into the company in the best possible way.”
Understanding the aims and needs of the employees is essential for Avaloq and is impressively demonstrated by Avaloq’s HR practices in the Philippines. Gomas and her team were always working on new ideas and have already promoted and introduced a wide range of activities tailored to millennials: in addition to the recurring team-building activities, a sportsfest was launched to promote well-being and off the clock activities such as "film evenings", "acoustic evenings" or "game evenings" were organized. Gomas said that sometimes during team or town hall meetings games are organized with prizes for the winners, and each time it turns out that a simple reward like a gift certificate can be very appealing.
Experience has shown Gomas that millennials especially appreciate acknowledgement for their efforts: “This is why our HR department has begun awarding little achievements giving certificates of accomplishment to our employees”. She noticed that just the idea of receiving a small token of appreciation and the fact of recognizing efforts and hard work, motivates employees to give their best: “A little reward and acknowledgement could mean more than you think.” Gomas pointed out that each generation of employees that comes and goes in a company is different, and it is up to HR to get to know them, to understand the proper approach in meeting them halfway. “Our HR team has always to figure out new ways to retain employees, motivate them and secure their safety and well-being,” emphasized Gomas.
While the HR expert studies continuously how to adapt better to the company’s employees, she learned that moving to remote work is beneficial to all. Prior to COVID-19, Avaloq had already been using digital meetings to collaborate with their employees who live far from their head office in Switzerland, as well as their global clients and counterparts: “In HR, we have global all hands meetings where we share and interpret our updates and what’s happening in each country. The same goes for other departments: all leads share updates on what's happening at their locations in the various regions,” she said.
Digitalization has been helpful for the global company, especially considering time and location differences. That there was already a system in place before the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated the transition to remote working back in March 2020.
While they missed their personal interactions, Gomas and her team try to do their best to simulate the feeling of a normal workday. They organized virtual teambuilding sessions to keep the connections alive, and within the smaller teams, Gomas motivated the leads to take virtual coffee breaks: “Team leads and their members ideally meet up regularly for just fifteen minutes to check on each other. We all know that we still have to keep intact and collaborate even if social interaction is currently missing”.
Gomas talked about another innovation that impressed Avaloq’s employees in the Philippines - the creation of an internal podcast. In line with Gomas' focus on digitizing the work experience to address the millennials, the podcast is distributed on Yammer, Avaloq's internal social networking site. Avaloq's Philippines Managing Director, Minco Domingo, hosts the podcast, inviting speakers of the company, both from the local office and counterparts abroad. Gomas revealed that the main reason for organizing a podcast was to tear down the wall between the HR department and the employees. In many Philippines companies, HR is viewed as the “scary” department, feared by the employees. Gomas wanted to change this stigma and wanted to show an unconventional modern HR: “HR is not an enemy - HR is a friend! It is important to put down the wall between HR and employees before a properly and effectively community engagement can be promoted and implemented in the workplace.”
Regarding Avaloq’s customers, Gomas explained that collaboration is, despite the COVID-19 situation, remained very active. Avaloq not only took care of its employees but also accompanied its customers and support them in the maintenance and use of a wide range of products. At Avaloq, exchange and cooperation never ended, Gomas highlighted once more: “The good thing about Avaloq as an employer is that we have a strong collaboration - outside and inside, locally and globally. Sharing our best practices with each other is very important to us and always on the table.”
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Karren Gomas, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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