Opening New Doors in Marketing

The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Ros Manawis, this chapter is titled, “Opening New Doors in Marketing.” In it, Annika Yao-Lao, the Chief Financial Officer and Head of Human Resources Affairs of Arvin International Marketing, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in recruitment. 

In the midst of a job search, it’s likely that a potential candidate might not have heard of Arvin International Marketing before. For Annika Yao-Lao, the company’s Chief Financial Officer and head of Human Resources Affairs, she’s not really surprised by it.  

“For a family-run company, we’ve actually been very lowkey,” she said. “We've been here for quite a while, but since we're not so known, I think if new graduates hear a more reputable name, they'll be more inclined to apply to those companies.” 

Their quietness in the hiring field doesn’t paint the whole picture, however. Arvin International Marketing is part of the top 600 companies in the Philippines today. Founded in 1984 as a local salt trading company, they've also branched out to creating and selling salt-based chemical products and other lines of natural and agricultural food materials. 

If interested applicants could take the time to read about their company(www.arvinintl.com), Lao believes they would find themselves in an environment where they can learn and grow as a person and as a professional. 

Aside from recruiting online, Lao shared that they’re also a frequent visitor in university job fairs. Although unlike some bigger companies today, Arvin International Marketing prioritizes schools in the provinces. “Our founder is from the Bicol region, and we’d like to give back to such communities as much as we can,” she said. “We don’t discriminate and we hire from everywhere. We keep our teams diverse, (we want to say we are a diverse company but we want to give opportunities to those from the province as well) but we especially feel that we can give more opportunities to applicants from the province.”

Their desire to provide more opportunities to those in farther areas is part of their company culture of having “open doors.” Within the workplace, everyone is welcome to freely interact with one another; Lao believes in doing away with red tape and promoting open communication with one another, whatever their ranks may be. Management is also very hands-on and closely monitors their employees development, wanting to give them tasks that suit their specific skills well. 

Having an open-door policy also translates to being open to providing more opportunities; in Arvin International Marketing, everyone is encouraged to try new things regardless of their initial job descriptions. “Instead of limiting you to a certain facet of work, we try to encourage multitasking and help individuals reach their full potential,” she said. They also encourage employees to change roles within the company after a certain degree of experience in their different fields. “A lot of our old employees have gone around different positions within the company, or have been promoted within their department or across the department, depending on their suitability.”

While many are in favor of this culture, Lao shared that they’ve had their fair share of employees who leave to hop from one job to another. She doesn’t take that against them, however. She understood that some companies may have better offers than theirs. To combat this, they try to assert themselves in their industry by offering competitive salary packages and promoting their hands-on approach for employees so they will be enticed to stay. 

As HR, although they prioritize and aim to keep employee retention high, Lao said she doesn’t sacrifice the company’s standards. “It is the company’s vision to stay number 1 in our field and to be able to do that we have to keep a very dynamic and growth-oriented culture. That's why we aim to continuously improve our system regardless of the people working.”

Lao also shared they’re trying to invest more in managers and enhancing their systems; they believe that investing in more managers can help the business become even more professional and the employees more developed in their respective fields. “Our founder would always say that we train people here to run their own businesses when they retire, so that's the kind of training we want to give our people,” Lao said. The company also continues to invest and strengthen training activities and performance evaluations matrices to better teach people how to be leaders others can rely on.”

To further their growth for the benefit of the people and the company, Lao shared they occasionally hire external HR consultants to help out. “We get employees who have a lot of diverse experience from different fields of HR so that they can bring that expertise to our organization,” she said. “That's how we've evolved also throughout the years, through learning from our own research and the expertise of the people we’ve hired along the way.”

With Arvin International Marketing, employees will not only find a place where they can grow as professionals, but also a second home. As a family-run business, Lao hoped to share that feeling of belongingness with the other employees, especially during trying times. “We want to keep growing and be number one in our industry, and we hope to do that while uplifting the lives of those who work for us at the same time.”

Ensuring operation and business continuity was no easy feat, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help employees struggling to commute to and from work, the company provided temporary housing for the whole duration of the pandemic to those who needed it. In the temporary housing, employees are given free WiFi and Netflix, as well as provisions for other indoor activities such as sporting goods and games.

The pandemic has also challenged the company’s engagement activities as a company. From sports fests, team building events, and outreaches, Lao and her team are currently working on finding new activities to host over Zoom instead. Now more than ever, engagement activities are important to sustaining work-life balance for the company’s employees. 

As a whole, Arvin International Marketing plans to keep moving forward despite the challenges presented by the current pandemic. Lao was thankful that despite the cost-cutting measures they’re currently doing to adapt to the times, they have been spared from having to retrench anyone. She concludes, “In Arvin we value people,  and we will stay strong until things get better.” 

 

To get more insights from other HR leaders like Annika Yao-Lao, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


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