Staff turnover is a big problem for many companies in Manila. Especially in the call centre industry where there are job opportunities galore for those with some level of competency.
You do not need to accept high attrition as just part of doing business in the Philippines. If you put some genuine effort into some key areas you can create an environment that people want to be a part of long term, and build a solid base of loyal employees.
If you frequent any online employee or HR communities no doubt you would have encountered something like this:
This simplistic garbage is simply out of touch with reality and more often than not posted by people who you wouldn’t hire anyway.
There is much more to keeping your staff long term. Yes, managers are important but it is only a small piece of the puzzle. A-class performers will excel no matter what their manager does. If there is an unworkable relationship then they will do something about it before running for the hills and sobbing about it.
It is easier of course to quit, blame your manager for your plight and post on FB that people leave managers, no company’s. Yeah, yeah… Grow a spine and take charge of your life or you will probably find you have the same problems with your next manager.
That’s enough preaching. The type of person I am speaking to here that is relevant to probably didn’t make it this far down the page. If you are still here you probably want to learn something useful. So let’s get on with it.
Be Careful Who you Hire
This goes without saying, but the culture of your office must be protected at all costs. No matter how brilliant someone may seem, if they are not a good cultural fit then do not hire them.
- Anyone who used the word favouritism in an interview.
- Anyone who cites office politics as a reason they left their last role.
- Anyone who recounts gossip or office affairs between employees and the boss in their last employer.
- Anyone who left their last employer because they were not promoted.
These are all signs that the person has a victim mentality and lacks any kind of personal responsibility for furthering their career and making a contribution in the workplace. They will bring a sense of entitlement to your office. No matter how well they are treated they will complain and demand more. They will gossip, and resent the success of others.
Look for those who have a genuine reason for wanting to be there. When exploring motivations 99% of people will say their family. This is a bullshit answer and not enough to identify real motivation. So dig deeper and look for signs that people are naturally competitive and derive satisfaction from being good at what they do. This type of person owns their own success and wants to win regardless of the rewards – although they will appreciate and strive for these too.
Attitude trumps talent any day of the week. This is true anywhere, but I have found it is magnified in the Philippines. Those who genuinely want to get ahead are rarely the most gifted naturally, but they dominate in most areas because they work harder.
It takes work to be this picky, but I guarantee you that it will be a massive time saver in the future and you will have the foundation to build a team of performers rather than victims.
The great thing about Filipinos is that most people will form strong bonds with those around them just because of proximity. These bonds within teams can be a blessing and a curse. If you leave people in one group for too long they develop an identity that is independent of the whole office. The leads to an Us vs Them mentality, and the group becomes isolated and resistant to anything and anyone who is outside that inner circle.
There is a real risk here that if the group is unhappy together, they can leave together. As other companies recruit aggressively with referral bonuses if you lose one you could lose them all.
This is a very easy cycle to break. Move people around regularly – easy! Whenever you move people they will for, bonds very quickly with their new team mates. You will encounter resistance at first. Filipinos can become entrenched in their comfort zone very quickly. However, people will get used to moving around and it will become normal.
Every time someone moves they develop new friendships and expand their social network. The more they do this the more entrenched they will become in your company’s culture.
If you have done your hiring right then every group will be just as friendly as the next. Even if you don’t get it right you will find that groups will be just as friendly (you may get a different result once bonds are formed though that isn’t a positive one).
Make Promotion Difficult
It is important to have an abundance of opportunities for career growth in your company. The more visible career progression is to your staff the easier it is to maintain engagement with your most ambitious people. However, you should not compromise standards to achieve this.
You will find that almost everyone likes the sound of career growth. In fact you will be told this at nearly every interview. The reality is that very few want to put the work in to achieve this. This can lead to the favouritism argument coming in as people seek to justify their own laziness to their colleagues.
There is a time consuming, but fairly easy way to overcome this – make the process of achieving promotion difficult. If you just interview people this is not enough. Conduct multi stage assessments that will make people uncomfortable and forces applicants to showcase the relevant skills.
This will have three major benefits:
- Being successful is a greater achievement and the opportunity will be respected more by the successful applicant and the broader staff.
- Most people who like the sound of promotion, but never put the work in will not be prepared to place themselves in the uncomfortable position in the first place. So there is no reason for them to save face if they never apply. Those who do apply and are put through the ringer will tell everyone how hard it was, not that they have been judged unfairly.
- This greatly reduces the chances of appointing someone who can bullshit their way through an interview and come across as brilliant, but has no substance on the job.
Transparency, feedback and support for everyone to achieve these milestones will be key to making this work. You can build good will with both successful and unsuccessful applicant if you put the timer in to make sure that everyone feels fairly treated, and has a thorough understanding of what they need to do next to prepare themselves for the next opportunity.
Pay Well for Experience
If you can keep people long term they can become a very valuable asset to your company. Even a mediocre performer who tries hard and makes a reasonable contribution long term is a great asset to have. If you really want them to stay you have to recognise this and pay them well.
Your business model and training requirements will dictate just how valuable these people are. The cost savings in recruitment and training alone makes it worthwhile to look after these guys. Not to mention the headaches that come along with these activities to find people that may or may not work out.
Review your salaries annually. Make it known to people that this is happening, and how they will be measured and rewarded. Be transparent and consistent.
You can also include progressive benefits like additional health cover as they clock up the years of service.
Stay away from those retirement benefit schemes. I have never been able to make sense of these, and have interviewed plenty of people who left their job of eight years just so they could get the cash they had accrued in their retirement plan.
No one likes working in a boring workplace. So get creative and try new things with your guys regularly. All jobs get boring and routinary after a while. So mix things up a bit. Involve your staff in planning for activities, games, lunches, awards, parties etc.
The cost of these things are relatively cheap compared to western countries, and the benefit you get from them are also much higher than you may be used to back home. You will be trending on social media in no time with photos and stories immortalising your event online.
If you are the boss then make sure you are including yourself and are not afraid to have a laugh at yourself. Try their food, sing at videoke, dance when they ask you to, play trip to Jerusalem if invited. You get the idea. Get involved and make the most of the unique cultural experience. This will build so much goodwill with your staff and they will respect you for it no matter how bad a singer or dancer you are.
I would place managers after all of these factors in the order of importance. If you are able to execute all of the above then your manager will know what is expected of them to uphold the company culture and maintain a well functioning environment.
If you are equally stringent with your management hires then you just have to add the polish when training them to be good managers. You don’t ned to work miracles here. Just ensure people are fair, reasonable, allow people to be heard and keep the emotional responses to a minimum.
You will never eliminate problems, but the right environment will ensure that issues are aired and resolved rather than people quitting, crying and resorting to social media.