Microsoft HR director says Philippines must change its thinking about the workforce

Author: Poorna Rodrigo | Date: 15 Feb 2017

Organisations must learn from each other and drop the ‘I know it all’ mindset

The Philippines’ HR sector needs to raise its game – making the function a strategic part of the business value chain, says Microsoft’s Philippines HR director, Sheel Majumdar.
He believes the process is hindered largely because organisations are hesitant to learn from one another. Majumdar argues that the Philippines’ HR industry should “learn and change” without getting rooted in an “’I know it all’ mindset.”
“There is an opportunity to get help from colleagues and from other organisations as role models on the behaviours and benefits of being strategic,” said Majumdar. “I believe the fraternity of HR will need to be close-knit to learn from each other.”
There is, he says, a way to go, with few organisations in this archipelago nation having recognised the need for HR to be a strategic partner. So far Philippines employers’ predominant focus has been on hiring and implementing programmes around engagement, wellness, benefits and statutory compliance, among others. This needs to change, said Majumdar.
A key problem, he added, is that despite a falling unemployment rate, the country’s graduate students are still short of “life skills” that will prepare them for jobs. Improving their presentation and communication skills and attitudes towards work are key. After all, 2017 will see a demand for fresh talent in the Philippines’ tourism, manufacturing and the BPO (business process outsourcing) sector.
This, on top of the new government’s proposals to “create at least 1.2 million new jobs each year until 2022 to fully tap into the local workforce,” means labour markets may be tight.
Majumdar said early indications are that employment is on the rise. Quoting data from New York-based market intelligence firm Trading Economics, Majumdar said the Philippines unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 per cent in January 2017 from 7.1 per cent in January 2014 and the country topped the Business English Index, an assessment of English skill across the workforce – which are positive signs. “All economic indicators are positively inclined for the Philippines” and it is up to country to develop its talents, said Majumdar.
However, the World Bank would like the Philippines’ government to focus on job quality as well as quantity. The bank’s Labour Market Review Report warned “pervasive in-work poverty” is a challenge facing the country’s labour force and recommended “gainful jobs with better education and skills” as a remedy.
As organisations enter the so-called ‘fourth industrial revolution’ in digital production and services, “business models are getting disrupted, workforce models are getting rewritten, the traditional concept of the workplace is being challenged,” said Majumdar. Organisations need the right talents to respond, which requires “revisiting” HR skills.
Talent management, especially building a “leadership pipeline”, grooming new managers and ensuring what Majumdar calls the right "talent bus" – the right people on the bus and the right people on the right seats - are essential. This is “much beyond just hiring”, he said, yet this is still the key focus of a majority of organisations in the Philippines.
Majumdar said that from an HR point of view, Microsoft Philippines is focussed on realising a “culture of growth mindset in everything we do,” notably in how best to use data to help such a cultural transformation in the workplace.