The Making of Malasakit
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Ezra Ferraz, this chapter is titled, “The Making of Malasakit.” In it, Jun Abo, the Vice President for Talent Acquisition of Transcom Philippines, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in integrating Kaizen into their company.
Although only some multinationals have operations in Japan, the Japanese concept of Kaizen (continuous improvement) is practiced across thousands of organizations all over the world. The Philippines, in contrast, has had comparatively little impact on the global business community. There are over 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)―many of them white-collar workers―but we have yet to export a uniquely Filipino value in the mold of Kaizen. Transcom Philippines may soon change this situation―one of the organization’s core values is the Tagalog word malasakit. On a basic level, malasakit refers to care, but it connotes a much higher level of care that comes from a sense of ownership.
The origin story of malasakit at Transcom Philippines is almost biblical: It began in a flood. In the wake of Tropical Storm Ondoy in September 2012, CEO Mark Lyndsell observed many of his team members wading through flood waters just to get to work. They arrived soaking wet, but still ready to work. The agents knew that they needed to provide business continuity to their clients abroad, even in the wake of the local disaster. Such resilience was a shining example of malasakit, and it gave the company inspiration to officially adopt it as a value in order to further encourage its practice.
In many ways malasakit has since become the organization’s defining core value, and one of its largest champions is Jun Abo, its Vice President for Talent Acquisition. Although Abo has come into the position fairly recently, he has already been part of Transcom Philippines for over a decade now, starting as an Human Resources Manager in the early 2000s with the company’s previous iteration, Newcom, before eventually making his way up the HR ranks.
Abo did not have it easy. Evangelizing the need for malasakit at an organization the size of Transcom Philippines was difficult, to say the least. Transcom Philippines employs tens of thousands of team members, spread across multi-floor sites in Manila, Bacolod, and Iloilo.
It would be more natural for employees to show aloofness at such a large company than show malasakit. But Abo has successfully operationalized malasakit, beginning before even team members officially join the company. In the past, Transcom Philippines had what Abo called a “very traditional” talent acquisition process. After sourcing from its various talent channels―employee referrals, applicant referrals, walk-ins, job fairs, headhunters, and so on―the recruiter would call and bombard the candidate with a laundry list of company-centric questions.
“Are you old enough to work? Do you possess a high school degree? Are you shift flexible? Are you willing to work at our location?” Abo said, cradling an imaginary phone to his ear in imitation of an overzealous recruiter.
Abo explained that Transcom Philippines has since shifted from this company-centric approach to a more candidate-centric one, comparing the application process to shopping online.
“We wanted to make it easy for candidates to apply. So they can click on our Messenger and start chatting with us. The chatbot asks qualifying questions and then schedules an interview if they pass. That’s it. They’ve applied without having to fill up any form or answer to a recruiter,” Abo said.
From there, it takes Transcom Philippines a grand total of three and half hours to further assess and hire an individual candidate. In roughly the same amount of time it would take to run an errand at the mall and come back, the organization can extend a job offer it feels confident in. This kind of candidate experience demonstrates malasakit toward the upwardly mobile Filipinos who form the core of the talent pool for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. The organization cares about their time, their talent, and their dignity. The level of malasakit that Transcom Philippines extends to candidates is not a ruse to just get them in the door. Under Abo’s leadership, the organization has initiated many policies and programs to operationalize malasakit for all its team members.
Transcom Philippines was one of the first BPOs to provide HIV education and testing, and extend health maintenance organization coverage to overage parents and same sex and common law partners. Parents are even welcomed on site and given tours of the office, cafe, gym, daycare, and other amenities, so they can find peace of mind in knowing what kind of environment their son or daughter is working in.
An outsider might banner these initiatives under the principle of inclusion, but they are
firmly rooted in malasakit―the organization cares enough about each person to understand what they might need in order to have a great work life. Apart from these top-down initiatives, Abo also encouraged individual team members to show malasakit through an annual awards show of the same name. The three categories honor acts of malasakit to fellow colleagues, the organization as a whole, and even to the broader community.
To be fair, Transcom Philippines is not the only company that defines and measures itself through malasakit. Many organizations in the country across every major vertical uphold malasakit in their mission, vision, or values. Malasakit, in fact, may be the single most referenced local value, appearing beside the usual slate of English terms like integrity and accountability.
What separates Transcom Philippines is how the organization has made malasakit not just an ideal written on a wall, but a value that plays out on a day-to-day basis in all their interactions with one another, the company, and clients. Through its clients―Transcom
Philippines primarily serves their customers based in North America―the organization may in fact get the best chance of influencing the global business community. We may soon witness the day when an American CEO implores his workforce in a town hall not to care about their customers, but to show them malasakit.
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Jun Abo, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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