The Lure of the Pioneer Batch

09New call centres open every week in Manila and this presents numerous opportunities to be part of the much coveted pioneer batch. This is a hot topic amongst many Filipino workers. There can be a great deal of pride associated with being the first starters in a company, but only a few source this pride from their work achievements and their contribution to making something out of nothing. The pride felt is often more of a territorial ‘I got here first’ attitude that can promote elitism and division amongst staff in the early days.

The lure of the Pioneer Batch often comes down to the opportunities that this presents for career progression. Everyone in the first batch will have seniority to all subsequent hires, and first chance at promotions when the headcount expands over time. There are some companies who will promote exclusively on tenure and an opportunistic job seeker could bed down relatively easy career path in such an environment. Such a policy to me seems crazy!

Promoting people without any regard for merit and what they bring to the job would inevitably lead to incompetence amongst staff in key roles. An endless source of potentially serious problems that could snow ball over time and be very hard to fix. On the other hand, all of your staff will know exactly where they stand. This brings a level of certainty, which is valued by many Filipino workers. However, a far greater cost to the long term health of your business will be your best & brightest young talent quitting in frustration due to the fact that hundreds or people may be due for promotion before they are regardless of how well they do in the job… A serious disincentive to work hard and stand out.

The gloss of the pioneer batch does wear off over time. As the years go by the significance of being there first fades, and on the job performance takes on greater importance. Many from that Pioneer Batch will go on to achieve great things, but they probably would have done so if they were part of any subsequent batch anyway. Their talents and work ethic is what will get them places, it just would have been easier to notice them in a smaller group early on. The opportunities for them to take on more responsibility, and show leadership, would have been more prominent when the company starts to grow and resources are limited. This certainly gives them an edge in their careers if they prove they are up to the job. If they reach their level of incompetence then it will not be long until a less experienced staff member flies right past them in skills and ability.

A poor performing employee with limited potential will be found out over time. Any seniority they may have enjoyed in the early days will evaporate as those around them wake up to the fact that they are not contributing at a level their experience should warrant. A pioneer staff member who performs at a poor level will find any sense of elitism could potentially transform into ridicule from co-workers when they do not meet the expectation placed on themselves by others who expect more from a Pioneer Agent. As time goes on more often than not these employees will move on, possibly hunting for the next pioneer opportunity to ride the territorial advantage of being their first. This can be a potentially endless cycle for those seeking significance in the workplace, but are not prepared to back this desire up with actually doing good work.

There is no question that being part of a Pioneer Batch can be a great career move, but it is in no way a free ride to a successful career. It merely provides a fast track to achieving bigger things. I have seen a number of staff who have been turned down for promotion jump ship and seek the easier path of the Pioneer Batch. However, the reasons for their lack of progression remain and they have walked away from an established support system designed to improve what they are capable of. The easy route in the short term costs them that opportunity to invest in themselves for the long term. Real pride comes from achieving something that was difficult, and overcoming the obstacles you face along the way. By avoiding those obstacles you may fall into that endless cycle of chasing significance the easy way. There is a quote from an old 90’s movie A League of their Own that I always remember when faced with such a choice. “It’s the hard that makes it good.” The easy route may get you results in the short term, but eventually you will have to ask yourself did I really achieve anything?

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