Leading by Example and Influence: Living out Human Nature’s Advocacies
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Ros Manawis, this chapter is titled, “Leading by Example and Influence: Living out Human Nature’s Advocacies.” In it, Sheryl Ann Aspacio, the Head of HR of Human Nature, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in the creating a positive influence through leadership.
In recent years, social enterprises have begun to gain popularity both for investors and consumers. As people continue to grow more conscious of the social impact of companies they support, social enterprises began to gain more popularity in turn. At its heart, social enterprises exist mainly to solve or improve a certain social or environmental issue.
In the case of Human Nature, Sheryl Ann Aspacio, head of Human Resources for Human Nature, described the company to be as “pro-poor, pro-Philippines, and pro-environment.” Their social enterprise mainly produces daily lifestyle and beauty products aimed at the modern Filipino. Their main goal is to eradicate poverty through sustainable business practices based on responsible stewardship. With that in mind, they locally source most of their raw materials from poor farming communities, and their products itself have a low impact on the environment.
Not only do their values show in their production, but the workers themselves live them out as well. Aspacio shares that from their hiring process to their practices as a company, their culture emulates their core visions and missions from within.
“Terms like sustainability and giving back have actually become a trend. Even social enterprises have become a trend,” Aspacio shared. In light of this, she explains it has become more important to screen their applicants and see if their values align with the company. “One challenge we have is ensuring that the leaders live out who we say we are,” she explains. She admitted that she can be picky when accepting applicants, especially for HR and leadership positions. It’s important that everyone should share the same passion for service. “Work should not just be work for them,” she said. “They’re not here to just earn money.”
She also cited that more than half of their employees are direct hires from various poor communities rather than from agencies. Most of them hail from communities assisted by Gawad Kalinga, a hugely successful social enterprise in the country that Human Nature has partnered with, while some are from other urban poor communities around the country. Many of these employees started out with entry-level positions and rank-and-file roles and are regularized and promoted later on based on their performances.
When it comes to hiring and promoting their workers, Human Nature does not look at one’s level of educational attainment or financial background. “We do our best to see if there are people who are really willing to work hard and willing to commit themselves to grow, and then we provide that opportunity for them.”
Aside from their hiring process, Aspacio also shared how else the company lives out its values and beliefs. “We believe strongly in faith and action,” she explained. “We recognize that all these - the company, it's vision, and the people He has brought to Human Nature - is really from the Lord, and it is a God-given gift which we are to steward.”
Her team also organized different training lessons for what she calls “life skills.” Since many of Human Nature’s employees come from urban poor communities, many of them lack proper education. Some of the things they teach their workers include English, computer skills, and financial literacy. They also provided counseling for them, helping them through their daily problems and lending them an ear.
Aspacio believes that as HR, it is their duty to oversee and promote individual growth in the company, regardless of socioeconomic status. “The work really goes beyond providing them the skills,” Aspacio explained. “We try to help them develop as a whole person, not just as a person who is working for us.”
One of Human Nature’s main values is love for one’s neighbor, and it is best shown in how they treat their workers. Aspacio explained that they provide what they call a “living wage” to their employees, rather than the standard minimum wage. “We don’t talk so much about what the minimum wage is per se, but it’s really how much we can give so that people can really provide well for their family,” she explained. A “living wage”, for Aspacio, is the kind of wage that is ideally able to support a family with a couple and two children.
Human Nature also has a No-Firing Policy. Regardless of what they have done, regular employees do not get fired. Rather than firing their employees, the company addresses their performance and discipline accordingly instead.
HR is also lenient with work hours. They allow their employees to leave early during non-peak seasons, which is anytime outside of Christmas time. Even if they leave earlier than the required eight hours, Aspacio explains that they still give them a full day’s worth of salary.
All year-round, regardless of peak season or not, Aspacio points out that they also limit overtime hours to three hours at most. “We think it’s not really healthy for people to be working very long hours,” she explained. Human Nature finds it to be counterproductive for people to work long hours, and they also want their workers to still have time to spend with their families.
Pastoral and educational support are also offered to all employees, regardless of role and position. Pastoral benefits include wedding assistance and support for newborn babies. On the other hand, educational support may be availed by workers to help send their children to a school of their choice.
Aspacio, along with her HR team, also constantly arranged opportunities for their employees to engage in social welfare acts. She talks of Human Nature’s “advocacy nights”: on some nights, after work hours, they invite speakers to educate their employees on issues relating to their advocacies, which is mostly on helping the poor and the environment. These nights also serve as bonding experiences for the different departments within the company and their leaders, enjoying games and other fun activities through the night.
HR also provides the team heads volunteering opportunities outside of Human Nature for them to partake in. Aspacio shared that there is one full day a month wherein employees can volunteer outside of work with their respective groups and file it as “official business.” In Human Nature, even outside the office, team heads take the reins and lead their respective groups in service. “They don’t mind doing the dirty work,” she said. “They lead by example.”
All this, Aspacio explained, is to “raise people from within.” As a social enterprise involved in helping poor communities, they have also taken it upon themselves to provide them opportunities to grow and develop as people. “We believe providing opportunities for the poor to be developed is a good way to really help them,” she expressed. “Our work is not just about providing a good salary, but it’s really providing those opportunities.”
For Aspacio, the role of HR holds a lot of influence over any organization, especially in a social enterprise like Human Nature. It is their job as HR to make sure that everyone lives out the company’s core values, and if they do their jobs well, their influence can spread far and wide. It’s why she found it so important that they, as a social enterprise, live up to their beliefs even beyond the workplace.
“Look at the role we have now, and how much influence we have to be able to make this a better Philippines for everyone,” she said. “We are in a position of influence to really help business owners, business leaders, and also think about how they can make this a nation that we can all be proud of, and to really think about those who usually get left behind.”
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Sheryl Ann Aspacio, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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