Learn about People First Culture
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled, “Adopting a People-Oriented Culture for a Multigenerational Workforce in the Academe.” In it, Dr. Noel Racho, the Human Resources Director of Miriam College, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in implementing customized programs to improve motivation.
Creating Initiatives to Improve Motivation
It’s a well-established thought that all jobs are difficult, but nothing could beat the stress of being an educator. Teachers not only impart their knowledge to students, but also act as second parents to children—it’s like having two jobs instead of one but one role is just as taxing as the other. More often than not, these jobs take a toll on teachers’ overall health and performance. Academic institutions are aware of this and so they create different initiatives to ease these tensions. One of the colleges in the Philippines that are proactive regarding the well-being of their employees is Miriam College.
The core of Miriam College’s organizational culture is to implement a people-oriented system that includes providing a work-life blending arrangement for its teaching staff as well their non-teaching employees. The institution’s Director for Human Resources, Dr. Noel Racho, shared that the work-life blending arrangement allowed Miriam employees to design their own benefits based on the situation of their personal life. For example, a faculty member can exchange their leave credits for some other benefits that would help them achieve certain goals in their lives, such as acquiring houses or personal devices, traveling, attending training sessions, and more.
Miriam’s HR is also quite flexible with its policies, giving employees professional leave opportunities that allow them to pursue their personal endeavors outside the college and attend to family matters since family is important in the Filipino culture.
The institution employed this kind of arrangement because they recognized that they have a diverse workforce in terms of age: they have what Dr. Racho called the traditionalists, the baby boomers, and millennials. He added that they created the flexible benefit program because 70% of their workforce were millennials and they mostly had a lot of unique needs.
“Each generation would have a different mindset of what wellness is all about. For the traditionalist and the baby boomers, I think wellness for them would still be attached to the kind of work they do, while the millennials tend to really shift their perspective in terms of doing their work,” Dr. Racho said.
Perhaps the stars of Miriam’s people-oriented culture are its wellness programs and the ILAW Center—an in-campus facility where employees can seek refuge for their spiritual, psychological, physical, social, and emotional needs. Both faculty and non-faculty members can book counseling sessions with a psychologist there or utilize the center’s gym amenities to do zumba, yoga, high intensity training or any other type of exercises that can help them relax or stimulate their minds. The center is also home to a cafe that serves healthy food.
The wellness programs, on the other hand, were customized according to the different generations of Miriam’s workforce. Dr. Racho explained that older people tend to achieve wellness by reaching out to other people and sharing things as simple as some of the learnings they read in a book. Whereas with millennials, they tend to gravitate towards more physical and social activities. Recognizing these degrees of wellness needs has allowed Miriam to more or less respond to them accordingly.
These wellness programs are in place because Miriam recognized and emphasized the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. Despite being based in a country that often sees mental health in general as taboo, the college makes sure that their employees prioritize their mental wellness above anything else.
“Fortunately for Miriam college, there is no stigma because even prior to the issue on mental health, we've already encouraged our employees to enter the ILAW Center any time during the day if they feel that they have certain things to discuss with our clinical psychologist,” Dr. Racho said, adding that employees with legitimate mental health issues are allowed to take a leave after seeking help to recharge.
Dr. Racho also discovered that as they tried to implement these intervention sessions, it was imperative for them to talk to the employees and get their sentiments. In fact, that kind of intervention was how the ILAW Center was conceptualized and established. Employees openly expressed their eagerness for a program that could help address the concerns of their being’s different domains.
The efficiency of the wellness programs was evident in the employees’ behavior. Only a few used their health insurance and leave credits for health or other purposes. The holistic approach to wellness also led to employees being more punctual as opposed to being late or absent. “In my practice as HR, that means employees are more motivated because to me, absences and tardiness are not discipline issues—they are motivation issues. No one would be late for the sake of being late,” Dr. Racho said.
Students have also seen this change of behavior in their teachers. They found that their teachers were more cordial and patient. After seeing the results of Miriam’s wellness programs, the students also wanted to get the same treatment for them. Some have even asked to visit the ILAW Center to seek help for their well-being as well.
Another element of Miriam’s people-oriented system is its culture building activities, which are organized to break down the disparities between the different employee groups in the institution: teaching vs. non-teaching staff, seasoned vs. new employees, male vs. female workers, and more.
For instance, regular foundation day celebrations are organized every September of the year to concretize everyone. Employees usually prepare for this celebration three months prior and it is in these preparations where bonds are formed. Miriam also has quarterly birthday celebrations and intercolored tournaments that include various sports activities such as basketball, volleyball, swimming, and bowling.
“When you talk about celebrations, you talk about R&R or rest and relaxation. These are not formal interventions and yet they address the goal of a shared culture,” Dr. Racho said.
Employees take these celebrations to heart to the point they are given large budgets to produce high value productions numbers. However, these activities were not seen as competitions but rather examples of what it means to have a shared culture. Dr. Racho can attest that the school has been successful in doing that because he saw that everyone gets along during the activities, even to the point where ranks are not acknowledged in the productions. He recalled that they once had a rank and file employee take charge of the production of their units and even assigned high ranking staff members such as the President of the institution to do certain tasks; the President would then listen and do as she's told, fulfilling camaraderie among the employees.
Dr. Racho believed that taking care of the well-being of the employees, especially the teaching staff, affects the performance of students as well, noting that it’s the HR’s responsibility to check the environment if one or a few students fail in their studies. As an educator himself, he believed that it’s a failure of the teacher when a student fails. Similarly, as an HR head now, he understood that there is a lack of supervision when an employee doesn’t perform well.
While HR doesn’t have a direct link with student affairs, Dr. Racho said that Miriam’s HR department still seeks insights from students regarding the school’s organizational culture for its employees.
“The interventions need to be within the context of investing in our students. There will be misses along the way, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not give them a brighter future,” he said.
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Dr. Noel Racho, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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