IT-BPO firms resilient amidst flooding in Manila
Last week’s surge of southwest monsoon rains in the Philippines devastated parts of Luzon including Metro Manila, which hosts a large number of the Philippines’ information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) companies.
Flooding in this instance was widespread and persistent compared with previous storms such as Ondoy (international name Ketsana) in 2009 and IT-BPO firms reported an increase in the number of employees that were unable to travel to work because of the calamitous weather conditions. The exact percentage of employee turnout, however, varies among companies and isn’t yet clear.
When Malacañang suspended work in public and private offices on August 7, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP)—the umbrella organization for the IT-BPO and Global In-House Center (GIC) industry—asked member companies to ensure that their affected employees not risk their safety should they attempt to report for work that day. “Our top priority is the safety of our employees, their families, and the communities we operate from,” said Benedict Hernandez, BPAP president and CEO.
IT-BPOs implemented business continuity plans (BCP) which included provision of safe, shuttle transportation to employees. Employees were alerted of transportation arrangements via sophisticated communication trees using SMS, email, online portals, dedicated support hotlines, and social networks of transportation arrangements. These systems also helped confirm employees were safe and prepared to come to work.
In many instances, employees used these systems to request assistance from their employers. Companies alerted private-sector and government rescue organizations when employees required urgent assistance.
Sitel Philippines Corporation’s memo to employees issued August 7 illustrates the tone and content of these communications. It stated, “You are very much welcome to stay in our sites until it is safe for you to go home, and we have also made arrangements for accommodation for those who cannot go home yet. Food shall also be provided, and you will continue to have the assistance of your support teams.”
In an initial survey conducted by BPAP late last week, other IT-BPOs reported similar initiatives, including monetary relief for affected employees consisting of interest-free loans and 13th-month pay advances.
According to Hernandez, the industry—employers and employees alike—demonstrated resiliency and commitment in dealing with the impact of the severe weather disturbance. “Most IT-BPOs continued to deliver services despite the reduced workforce. Only a handful of IT-BPOs suspended operations for less than 24 hours. Even in those cases, critical service staffing was maintained,” Hernandez said.
Employees that reported to work were generally able to cover for their colleagues. Other employees and their managers worked from home. Throughout the crisis, despite some outages, electrical and communications infrastructure was stable. Employees reporting to work August 7 received a 30% premium on basic pay in compliance with a directive from the Department of Labor and Employment.
According to Hernandez, BPAP will conduct a review of the industry’s response to the calamity to strengthen its efforts to prioritize and safeguard the well-being of the industry’s human resources. “We’ll continue to work closely with the government to ensure employee safety, enhance disaster preparedness, and mitigate service disruption,” he said.
In 2011, the Philippine IT-BPO industry generated more than US$11 billion in revenues and employed almost 640,000 Filipinos. By 2016, it is expected to reach US$25 billion annual revenues and employ 1.3 million, according to the industry’s road map.
The Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) is the umbrella association for the IT-BPO and GIC (Global In-House Center) industry in the Philippines. BPAP serves as the one-stop information and advocacy gateway for the industry. With approximately 300 industry and support-industry members, including five associations, BPAP plays a pivotal role in sustaining rapid growth of the IT-BPO and GIC industry by working to ensure an enduring supply of high quality labor, supporting service innovation, and providing country visibility.
BPAP assists investors in setting up operations easily and quickly in the Philippines. Relevant research, introductions to key government and industry officials, and a series of briefings at each step of the investment process ensure a seamless development process. On-going support is provided through a wide variety of initiatives, including programs for HR development, business development, and on-going knowledge sharing and networking opportunities.