The HR Leader as an Integrator of Culture-Fit Across Multiple Locations
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Patricia Yap, this chapter is titled, “The HR Leader as an Integrator of Culture-Fit Across Multiple Locations.” In it, Jacklyn Anne Mantolino, the Director of Human Resources of FEU Institute of Technology, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in ensuring all campuses are on the same page.
For almost 95 years, Far Eastern University, better known as FEU, has produced some of the country’s most recognized business tycoons, Supreme Court justices, finance wizards, technocrats, nurses, educators, and more. What started out as an educational institution focused on business and accountancy quickly expanded into a myriad of courses, programs, and even colleges.
Now, FEU stands as more than just a singular university, but an entire group consisting of 7 reputable and well-respected schools - namely FEU Manila, FEU Institute of Technology (FEU Tech), FEU Diliman, FEU Cavite, FEU Alabang, Inc., FEU Roosevelt, and FEU High School. Being home to so many outstanding alumni, each of the FEU schools, of course, has its brilliant faculty and staff to thank.
And though Jacklyn Anne C. Mantolino, FEU Tech’s present Director of Human Resources, did not spend most of her formative years in FEU, she has been paramount in its recruitment and development for teaching and non-teaching employees since 2005. Owing to the institution’s many successful graduates to these employees, Mantolino ensures the institution only receives the crème de la crème of faculty and staff by emphasizing the importance of their continuous personal and professional growth. Because for Mantolino, nothing is more important than fostering an environment of learning and development.
After graduating from Miriam College in 2001, Mantolino first set foot into the world of human resources at a training consultancy firm. Here she spent a year assisting training in the firm before eventually moving to a new venture as an HR Specialist for a telecommunications company in Makati. Fast forward to 2005 and the present, Mantolino sprinted from an HR Specialist at FEU Tech to her position now as its HR Director - eventually adding FEU Diliman and FEU Alabang, Inc. campuses to the list of campuses she oversees.
But before diving deeper into Diliman and Alabang, it’s worth focusing on FEU Tech, and the unique challenge it poses for recruitment, especially with regards to its position within thee University Belt (U-Belt).
From Quiapo to Sampaloc, Manila, U-Belt consists of 27 educational institutions - many of which are historical, centuries-old, and pre-eminent in the Philippine educational system. This includes the likes of The University of Sto. Tomas, San Beda College, National University, Centro Escolar University, La Consolacion College, and many more. Yet it is also home to younger institutions such as FEU Tech. And so the challenge for HR leaders like Mantolino in the field of education and in this area, in particular, is competition—all 27 of them.
And according to Mantolino, competitive job packages aren’t enough. Though they offer a pretty competitive one, what’s critical and significant is workplace culture and growth, she noted.
“Because you’re in a field that’s so broad yet paradoxically narrow at the same time, it’s really really difficult to remain on top. So how you foster the environment is the most important aspect of recruiting,” she said.
Anyone can offer and compete through compensation and benefits until it becomes unsustainable. Creating a great culture, in contrast, won’t cost as much, and it is always second to none. “I would often get validation or messages from employees saying they feel appreciated and cared for by the institution. At the end of the day, it’s not just salaries and benefits nor the pesos and centavos for these employees,” she added.
Apart from having a meaningful workplace culture and environment, professional development platforms such as education opportunities, scholarships, certificate subsidies, attendance at international conferences, and paper presentations are also offered to their faculty. “I’d like to believe that the school is very supportive when it comes to the development of our faculty members. We send off our people wherever possible because we want to lead them in a direction that’ll benefit them and the institution in the future. The institution hands a great deal of top-down support—it’s another aspect of working here that our employees enjoy,” she said.
The provision of employer-provided education benefits to employees not only contributes to the employee’s welfare but the organization itself. Employees that receive such a privilege say they feel more fulfilled. Their work performance there improves and loyalty to the organization that enabled them the privilege is strengthened.
According to Gallup, a global analytics and consultancy firm for industry leaders, at least 51% of managers or heads are disengaged from their subordinates. This results in what they call a “cascade effect”, wherein employee perception towards the head and the organization is decreased, leading to a crash in performance. Conferences are just some of the ways to prevent this. (Not to mention it gives implicit recognition and exposure for the organization the employee is from).
Citing the values of Nicanor Reyes, FEU’s founder, Mantolino credited the university’s excellent branding to his promise of academic legacy. “Ever since, he had a dream to improve the educational setup of the Philippines. In fulfillment of his dream, us current administrators want to extend this further to the people forefronting the educational lives of our students. It was only natural,” she said.
Fittingly so, Mantolino wanted to outstretch this promise to FEU Diliman and FEU Alabang, Inc. For now however, culture, branding, and environment are what they’ve been able to broaden.
Starting with FEU Diliman, Mantolino said its situation was a bit more challenging in establishing and integrating a culture. Unbeknownst to some, the FEU Group’s Diliman campus has been under their belt for over 25 years now. However, it has only been acquired by FEU Tech in 2018. Mantolino described it as “a very promising school that was so ready to be awakened”.
FEU Tech management worked on doing shared services for some veteran employees and heads to help foster the same environment they have at FEU Tech. “For the longest time now, I’ve seen these people grow in fortitude, excellence, and uprightness. They’ve been tried and tested many times, yet succeed all the same. And so I’m confident that they’re the right ambassadors to help build the culture in our newer campuses,” she added.
As for FEU Alabang, Inc., Mantolino said this was FEU Group’s baby. They established it from the ground up to have a similar structure as FEU Tech, except this time with senior high school level included. She believes the team at FEU Tech must have done something right to be entrusted with the affairs of building a new school with the same operations and culture in mind. Mantolino remains optimistic that it’ll be much easier to have a semblance of culture as most of the employees will be coming from FEU Tech and new hires have been immersed with the daily operations of FEU Tech when it was started.
When asked on the other hand how she’ll determine if someone’s a good culture-fit into all three campuses as new recruits, she said with confidence, “Having been with FEU Tech for 15 years, and possibly more, I treat our building every day as I see it going there, as our medal. All these years, each one of us has been trained to work as if we ourselves own the school, and so my team and I just know,” she added. “But of course, we can’t really tell at a first glance. Who can?” she laughed. As such, no one level of the recruitment process goes amiss for Mantolino. The interviews, the screening, the monitorings, even the casual chats—everything—goes through her.
“My commitment to all of the employees—teaching or non-teaching—is to have a workplace culture with no hesitations despite positions. Taking up this role of HR, I encourage my team and I to be people others can easily approach anytime. I want people to know that they are, and will be, taken care of by us through each of their concerns,” she said.
But certainly, handling three different campuses with such geographical distances isn’t easy, right? Mantolino admits it isn’t. And so she knows she needs to keep communication lines open and streamlined. She makes the directors of each school wear the “HR hat” when it comes to handling people as she knows it’s impossible to do everything alone. They also regularly collaborate through chat groups and HR huddles. According to her, FEU Tech, Diliman, and Alabang periodically have institutional activities where they gather.
“The mandate has always been no school left behind. That’s why we use the tag-line ‘One FEU.’ It’s not just for marketing or branding’s sake, but a core belief in ensuring our operations for all seven of our schools,” she said.
Building an entire institution’s HR machinery is no easy task, and many others would have buckled under the pressure.
“There were toughest of times when I really wanted to give it up. For some reason, however, I can’t. My mind sometimes says to leave and try something else, but the heart - it’s stubborn you know. For the past 15 years, it’s become more than a job already for me. It’s more about me taking care of the people, making a difference, and touching lives,” she said.
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Jacklyn Anne Mantolino, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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