HR Heartbeat – Our Blog

50th PMAP Anniversary Plenary Speech

Throwback blog from 09/29/2013 by Atty. Hector V Hernandez:

Philippines HRM Inc: Filipino Human Capital As a Driver of Growth

Speech delivered to the plenary session of the 50th Annual Conference of the People Management Association of the Phils (PMAP) by Atty Hector V Hernandez, FPM last 28 September 2013



50 years of solid people management representing the gold standard for the Filipino human capital is what we are celebrating in this conference and what a fitting recognition for the premier association of talented HR practitioners all over the country attending this conference.

When I was told of the topic assigned to me this morning, I found the topic rather serious as our objective says here:  to find out how can the HR community (that’s us)  become more relevant and strategic in sustaining the country’s current economic growth….7.5% according to the last estimate or was I looking at another number?

What to expect
What I would like to do is to focus first on the standards of global competitiveness, see where the Filipino Talent is placed compared with the rest of the world, find the strengths of the Filipino Talent, consider the barriers in developing the Filipino Talent and then dwell on how we can enhance the Filipino Talent.

Considering our limited time in this presentation, I will first consider the latest figures gathered from the 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Index study issued only this month of September and so the data are very fresh. I will also bring forward some ideas learned in the land of the 1.2 Billion people (and still counting) where I lived and worked there for more than 4 years in South Asia as an HR and OD practitioner.

The Global Competitiveness Index is a document prepared by the World Economic Forum whose objective is committed to improving the state of the world.

They define “Competitiveness is defined as a set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.”

Let me show you the 12 Pillars of the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 released last Sept 4, 2013.

From among 148 countries in this study, Philippines has gone down from number 85 in 2010 to 75 in 2011 to 65 in 2012 and now 59 in the latest report.  Wow, this is amazing… this is good news for the Philippines…..don’t you think so!


Let me show you the ranking of the Philippines in the top 60 countries according to their respective GCI.


Wow, we are ranked 59 out of 148 countries BUT see where our neighbors are located.  (Singapore, HK, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia)

Lets first talk of the good news. What does this report tell us in terms of the strengths of the Filipino Talent

1.      Degree of customer orientation (20)
2.      Willingness to delegate (26)
3.      Extent of staff training (27)
4.      Reliance on professional management (32)
5.      Cooperation in labor employee relations (34)
6.      Quality of management schools (39)
7.      Quality of educational system (40)
8.      Pay and productivity (44)
9.      Availability of latest technology (47)
10.    Capacity for innovation (48)

In summary we have the following competencies that is quite a list for the Filipino Talent if you will:
1.      Customer orientation
2.      Developing others and self
3.      Collaboration
4.      Motivation
5.      Innovation
6.      Professionalism or genuine love for work

Areas for improvement

What about the need to improve areas?
1.      Primary education enrollment (108)
2.      Quality of scientific research and institutions (91)
3.      Availability of scientists and engineers (87)
4.      Continuing capability to attract talents (86)
5.      Quality of primary education (76)
6.      Continuing capability to retain talents (71)
7.      University/industry collaboration in R&D (69)

I am sure the Hon. Secretary of Education has been briefed on this report and he is already working on how to improve our primary education system.  Easier said than done but it has to be his priority if we want to be globally competitive.

In the areas of scientific research and education of scientists and engineers, this has to be addressed by the Commission on Higher Education and the universities to strengthen academe-industry collaboration in R&D.

Continuing capability to attract and retain talents is a big challenge not only to the government but to the private sector as well.


I therefore reiterate the following to make the Filipino Human Capital more competitive:

a.    Focus on improving the primary education system and enrollment
b.   Enhance quality of scientific research and institutions to produce more scientists and engineers
c.    Increase collaboration between academe and industry esp in R&D
d.   Review and implement new attraction and retention strategies

South Asian experience

About 2 months ago, I came back from India where I was posted for more than 4 years as Global Head of HR & Operations of an international research organization based in Hyderabad City, capital of Andhra Pradesh.

I was tasked of ensuring that the institute continues to become a high performing organization with best talents — scientists and managers from all over the world to benefit the smallholder farmers of South Asia and the sub-Saharan Africa estimated to be about 770 million poorest of the poor in that part of the world.

As a foreigner living and working in the city, I observed some practices that perhaps we can learn from this vast country of 1.25 Billion people where half are living below poverty line but you have to reckon with the other half who can afford to live the good life and you are talking about 610 Million people in one place. That is almost six times the entire population of the Philippines.

By the way, there should be about 500 Pinoys in the state of Andhra Pradesh  (pop. of 100 Million) and they work as engineers, scientists and managers. In all of India, my guess is that there should not be more than 2,000 working and living  there.

Passion for education

One thing that you will notice or observe as you look around or when you converse with ordinary Indian employees or staff — is the Indian passion for education.  We Filipinos always think that we love education yes I agree but Indians are passionate about education.  I had a chance to visit many an Indian city and when you visit any Indian city, you will notice a proliferation of schools everywhere – public schools, private schools, business schools, international schools, customized schools e.g. for engineers, nurses, doctors, teachers….etc

You see, in my almost 25 years as HR Head in the Philippines, I could not remember an instance when a Filipino staff asked for leave request to review his or her children for the forthcoming exam.  But in India, for the last 4 years I was there, this is a regular request…. whether male or female employee, scientist or admin staff – reason for leave is that he or she will review the kids no less.  So that is one of the secrets why we see so many Indians becoming CEOs in the biggest companies in the Philippines, in the AP region and in the world. Their passion for education is embedded in the basic unit of family support and they don’t just say it, they do it.

Thrifty Character

Do you know that in India, as soon as a new family member comes into this world, the family begins to save especially if the new comer is a son? Typical Indians are very savings conscious and will ensure every Rupee they earn goes to the bank or in their gold deposits. Yes, you heard it…they invest in gold even the lowest ranking staff…those that sweep the floor will have gold investments….well…they are the highest investors of gold per capita in the world.

Do you also know that in India, there are several business schools abounding?  And their business schools are considered in the top best schools in the world! (Ex. Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta (IIM-C))

Government and Private Sector Support for education

India as country is not corruption free but you will be amazed with the kind of funding their central and state governments provide to the education sector and the way some of the big names of Indian businesses like Tata and Reliance are helping the academe in their transformation to compete in the world of business around the world.  Tata alone just recently gave a donation of USD50 million to Cornell University and another USD50 million to Harvard University. Tata Group has almost 400k employees globally and a capitalization of USD80B.

Silicon Valley experience

In one speech of Dr Francisco Nemenzo last June 25, 2012 (former UP president) he once said and I quote

Some countries owe their development to their overseas nationals.  India is one example:

In the boom days of Silicon Valley many Indian scientists and engineers immigrated to the US.  It turned out that they contributed to India’s fantastic leap from a backward nation to a super power in the IT Industry. When they left India for lack of opportunities at home, they brought with them a strong sense of nationalism, a strong commitment to lift their native land out of backwardness. Over the years, they passed on to the Indian Institutes of Technology the most advanced knowledge and skills they learned in America.  And when the Silicon  bubble burst, they persuaded  Microsoft, Oracle, Accenture, Google, Facebook, Polaris, TATA, Wipro, Verizon, GE, HP, Novartis, etc to relocate their research facilities to Hyderabad , Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Mysore, etc where there is now an abundance of world class scientific and technological manpower.”  Truly unbelievable.

In closing, am very hopeful that when we meet next year in our 51st anniversary, the GCI report will again give us the new good news of coming down to another milestone number in terms of global competitiveness….perhaps @ 45….or 40 …..Who knows…  the saying goes, “ hope springs eternal.”

Thank you for you listening.


Workplace Learning and Performance

Throwback blog from 09/12/2013 by Atty. Hector V Hernandez:


Whenever I discuss with my line managers regarding their concerns on running an important skills building program or intervention for new or veteran managers or senior staff members, the issues with them are not the following: the topic or topics agreed upon as the most effective intervention required for the incumbents to become better managers or staff members nor the quality of subject matter experts who will be running the program nor the interest level of the participants nor the budget. 

Main bone of contention of learners

The main bone of contention is always their availability. In this time and age where managers travel a lot in many places to conduct meetings, interview candidates for top positions, meet with important clients, make an ocular inspection of ongoing projects, even the minutest concern of scheduling the most acceptable timetable for participants in a face-to-face workshop becomes extra challenging. This results to postponement of the desired training intervention and finally not running that important workshop necessary to equip the target groupto become better people managers. And this is a lost opportunity for the Workplace Learning & Development Practitioner (WLP)!

Feedback from learners

One of the feedbacks that I normally get from workshop learners is that the workshop time schedule may be reduced to a bare minimum e.g. not more than 2 hoursbut still is learner focused with lots of substance and with some links to what she or he does back in the workplace and where his or her supervisor can observe any change behavior as a result of that workshop.  What a challenge! I thought about this and seriously considered the possibility of a Webinar based design.  Webinars are now available either on demand or recorded version.  Typically, the webinar is mostly delivered in an hour’s time with subject matter experts discussing and facilitating the relevant topic.  So if you need a subject on Building Collaboration or Developing Systematic Thinking or Enhancing Innovation, there is a lot you can choose from the Web.  I use the Center for Creative Leadership as my main provider of Webinars.  I also find the fees very reasonable and affordable.


What is a webinar?

Webinar istypically one hour recorded or “live” discussion of a subject matter led or facilitated by a main speaker who is usually an acknowledged academician, an author of a new book or a noted practitioner in his or her field of expertise.  There is a program manager who introduces the main speaker and walks through other administrative details. Webinars are usually interactive if you attend a “live” version where participating learners are allowed to ask questions online and learners can see the overall trending of responses from all learners.  I like this format because I can compare my answer vis-a-vis responses of other learners around the globe.

Downside for this version is the time zone difference as webinars are linked online.  I prefer the recorded version because I control the timing schedules of at least 1.5 hours per session anywhere and everytime. I can also stop the recorded Webinar for an on-the-job or local application when I “co-facilitate”with the main speaker.  To ensure engagement of webinar learners, I e-mail a copy of the Powerpoint Presentation of the webinar about a week in advance so that my learners can review and prepare for questions during the 1.5 hours of learning session with me. The webinar is just one hour and the remaining 30 minutes I use for my customization of learning with my in-house participants. In this way, I am able to maximize the engagement of the learners and based on experience, they typically will ask for another session at the end of the 1.5-hour learning workshop.


Application On-The-Job of learnings

Any WLP person worth a grain of salt is always looking for measuring how effective his her intervention is in the organization – in this case using a webinar-based design.  As webinar designed courses can be theme based e.g. corporate values or mission/vision  focused, an action plan can be mandated from the learners on how they can use the new learned skills on the job with clear support from their supervisors. By getting the support of the supervisors, they ultimately become the mentor of the learners without formalizing their new found role.


Feedback from learners

I never miss my one-page feedback from my Learners where I asked 3 basic questions:

1. what did you learn the most in this webinar;
2. what did you not like in this workshop;  and
3. what can we do differently in the next run.

I collate the answers and endeavor to provide copies to the bosses within the day of the workshop.  In this way, there is an immediate feedback to the superiors of the learners. I also make sure that these inputs are placed in the HR website so that the learner participants and the rest of the organization can view the learners’ overall comments and suggestions.  The summary of feedback is an important repository of new ideas that can be adopted in the next runs of the webinars or other intervention designs.  This is innovation in action.


HR Perspectives

Throwback blog from 09/02/2013 by Atty. Hector V Hernandez:

Every day of every week as the HR Manager goes to work, he needs to adapt to the changing everyday challenges in his work. Today he is a Problem Solver; tomorrow he is a Mentor and a Coach; the next day he is an Innovator or a Trainer; and during a Management meeting, he gets the blame for the lack of quality recruits required by the line managers to deliver the required results of the business.

The HR function has completely evolved over the last 30 years as we now see the Head of HR becoming more of the main Catalyst for Change in organizations, whether for profit or non-profit; whether that change is to move forward to a competency-based model of HR Management or simply transforming that paper-based Performance Appraisal Form to an online system or maybe influence the mindset of old staff members to embrace new and tested processes for them to work more efficiently and effectively.


To understand the catalyst role of HR is for HR to accurately read the culture of the organization mostly gleaned from the way the staff members or people are behaving.  And perhaps this is why some modern thinking organizations, both in the West and the East, have replaced the nomenclature Head of HR to Head of People or HP. As a Catalyst of Change in typical organizations, the CEO now demands from the HP a clear and accurate reading of staff members’ needs and wants so that the organization can adapt its people strategies and align the same with its business goals.

At the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), one area of concern is work-life effectiveness in the workplace.  After reading the results of the latest engagement survey among scientists and managers in the research facility, where “work life balance” or WLB received only 23% agreement, Management consulted HR on how to improve this impression or perception from the staff.  An Open Space Technology (OST) approach was conducted where about 50% of the target population showed up in the Academic Court premises to discuss what scientists and managers really mean when they gave WLB a low score. The scientists and managers provided inputs in an hour workshop; and their creative ideas were collated and discussed with a WLB consultant for action planning and execution.

Another area of concern in most organizations is how to harvest the collective ideas of a diverse group.  In one management meeting in the research center, it was pointed out that more women scientists and managers should be included in committees and task forces for them to deliberate ideas with men scientists and managers in an assertive manner. This is a way to cultivate a culture of diverse thinking in the organization.  After consulting with our Gender and Diversity Associates (GDAs), a framework for success was devised to ensure an increasing number of women scientists and managers participating in committees and task forces.


Nothing beats an engaged staff member.  Dennis Kinlaw’s work on commitment is instructional for us HR Managers. He states that “for an organization to stand the test of time there must be high levels of employee engagement.”  He has simplified the complex for us and consolidated the array of much studied motivators into four (4) factors which he calls the Pillars of Commitment. There is no one action that will ensure employee commitment or engagement.  Research has indicated that an environment of engagement needs to be nurtured by both Management and staff members.

Kinlaw identified four (4) key areas that reinforce a culture of engagement as: Clarity, Competence, Influence, and Appreciation.

Engagement is enhanced when there is clarity about the organization’s mission, goals, objectives and expectations. Clarity ensures focus and staff member knows that his own work-plan or targets are aligned with the bigger goals of the organization. This may sound easy as you may have your own performance management process, which includes goal setting and setting KPIs.  The key to success here is to have continuing feedback.  Writing the targets is just one part; but for both staff member and supervisor, to monitor actual performance over a period of time and act on the results, is oftentimes more challenging. But indeed, it is the beginning for an engaged staff member. (Please check this out if properly punctuated. I may have revised thought flow.)

But how can we be expected to deliver on our expectations if we are not geared up to deliver results?  To be and feel competent, one must have the right tools, appropriate resources, right knowledge, skills, and practical support.

After all these surveys, staff members expect that something will work out for the better in the organization;  that Management will act on what “we indicated in the verbatim part of the survey.” Staff members may want to communicate with and give feedback to Management through various devices, venues or mechanisms – e.g. speak up program, skip level meetings, focused group discussion, survey, etc.  For the staff members to be engaged, they need to be able to have a measure of influence.  Unfortunately, by conducting a survey and then failing to communicate the results, the staff members become even more disengaged.

One of the basic courtesies we learned when we were children was to say “thank you.”  It is such a basic lesson in social grace and yet it amazes us adults when we see our colleagues not showing genuine appreciation for a job well done or simply downplaying a good job by saying:  “He or she is paid for that anyway.” At ICRISAT, I devised a very simple Thank You Card for line managers and made this more accessible to them off-line. In this online environment, the staff member feels much more appreciated if he or she receives a note of appreciation specifically written by the boss.  This is truly a very simple but powerful tool to make staff members more engaged.

There are a thousand words which could describe the roles of HR in diversity and global competitiveness. Maybe read and learned from informative sources but quite daunting to put in actual practice. But it can be done if one is truly engaged!


Informal Recognition

Throwback blog from 08/18/2013 by Atty. Hector V Hernandez:

Informal Employee Rewards: An integral part of the total rewards program for staff members


Supervisor, not sure if she will informally recognize

Nearly every supervisor knows that employees want to be valued and appreciated especially when they do a good job e.g. completing a difficult task ahead of deadline with enthusiasm, working beyond the call of duty  cheerfully when everyone has gone home.  This we know from Behavioral Scientists’ research we have read over the years. But does the Supervisor really tell her that?  If she wants to do exactly that….recognize her staff member for a job well done, is the Supervisor ready for that simple act of saying “thank you.”

What is informal recognition?

Informal recognition can best be described as the use of positive reinforcement without material rewards.  It is manifested by way of saying thank you or a sending simple note using a Thank You card or through e-mail.  One thing about informal recognition, is that it can be provided at any time by the employee’s supervisor or manager or even a co-employee.


Continuing communication is very important throughout the process even before the implementation date.  This will allow you to let the employees know how they will get involved.  The rationale and the “how” of the new program should be clearly enunciated in the communication strategy.

After the roll-out, continue to communicate the responsiveness of the employees by  posting in the website some data already available. This will entice those who have not used the program to try it.  This latest data can also be posted in your Communication Boards found in strategic places of the company premises or even be printed in your weekly or monthly newsletter.  A photo of the employee being recognized is a bonus in the Asian context.

Employee behaviors to recognize

Employee behavior deserving informal recognition may include among others, exemplary teamwork or collaboration recently manifested by the team members or by the whole team itself,  completion of a challenging special project way ahead of deadline; submission of a quality written report,  presentation of a new or innovative work procedure that can be implemented immediately or a special effort made under unique or difficult circumstances that otherwise would have not have produced the desired results.

Other forms of informal recognition

Informal recognition may be given in non-monetary ways to commensurate with the achievement being recognized. Examples are:  ready-made Thank You Notes or Cards, Certificates  signed by CEO in plain company letterhead or some gift items of small value e.g. books, desk items, cups, mugs, caps or movie tickets, office lunches for the team or endorsement to a professional enrichment course.



Some suggestions before you implement this program

For long term effectiveness, it is good to get top management support first and consult the employees if they really want to have a program implemented in the organization.  One approach is to use the Open Space Technology process where engaged employees attend a 2-hour session. In the process, you  ask them what they value in rewards and recognition, listen to their comments and respond appropriately by providing meaningful and motivational rewards. Face to face meetings help you gain a better understanding of the employee beliefs.


Continuing communication is very important throughout the process even before the implementation date.  This will allow you to let the employees know how they will get involved.  The rationale and the “how” of the new program should be clearly enunciated in the communication strategy.

After the roll-out, continue to communicate the responsiveness of the employees by  posting in the website some data already available. This will entice those who have not used the program to try it.  This latest data can also be posted in your Communication Boards found in strategic places of the company premises or even be printed in your weekly or monthly newsletter.  A photo of the employee being recognized is a bonus in the Asian context.


Use it everytime!

Rewards program especially informal recognition is one of the most powerful yet underutilized tools available in our tool kit.  Use it always and you will be amazed on how you will transform your organization’s culture to one of appreciation and gratitude without the heavy investment you put in those formal recognition programs.

In the end, other potential tangible payoffs may also enhance your company’s bottom line e.g. fewer grievances, increased ability to overcome challenges, lower turnover rates, reduced absenteeism and more satisfaction with the overall climate of supervision in the organization.