JP Orbeta is presently CHRO, Ayala Corp.
Mr. Orbeta has been managing people and organizations for over 30 years in various corporate, consulting and operating business environments. He capped his consulting career as global practice director of human capital consulting overseeing over 700 consultants in 90 offices around the world. Today, he leads human resources, stakeholder communications and information & communications technology at Ayala Corporation, one of Philippines largest conglomerates and one of the oldest business houses in Asia.
In his 15 year association with Ayala Corporation and as a member of its senior management committees, Mr. Orbeta has transformed human resource systems and processes not only at the holding company but also throughout the Ayala group.
In this exclusive interview with People Matters and ServiceNow, JP talks about leveraging digital tools to enhance communication and collaboration across a hybrid workplace, keeping employees engaged through innovative and sustainable solutions and the four keys to making business agility and operational excellence a reality for a distributed workforce.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
As a talent leader, what key factors are shaping your outlook towards the new ways of working and emerging hybrid workplace?
Our primary concern has always been the health and safety of our 106,000 direct and indirect employees. Ayala has been continuously thinking of ways to champion care for our employees across the group.
Looking ahead, Ayala envisions varying degrees of a hybrid onsite-offsite workplace across business units. We look at key factors such as quality of life, productivity, and social factors in deciding what the future of the Ayala workplace will be.
- On quality of life, we want to help employees live a balanced life as we consider the various circumstances our employees are in—some live with senior citizens or have kids younger than 12 years old taking online classes;
- On productivity, we want to empower employees to work efficiently and effectively under a remote setting and in the workplace which we have called “Work Where Effective”; and
- On social factors, we want to continue fostering the Ayala culture of collaboration and innovation.
How has a renewed focus on communication, engagement, wellness, and productivity impacted your employee experience strategy?
Our rapidly changing environment pushes Ayala to find innovative and sustainable solutions to our ways of working that ensure employees remain engaged and productive.
For the Ayala group, almost all activities are now done online. Pre-pandemic, Ayala began introducing online tools for collaboration such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Now, the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of these digital tools and have allowed us to expand our digital platforms by implementing cloud-based workflow approvals and digital signatures. We also have embraced our digital banking and e-wallet technologies such as BPI Express Online, BIZLINK, and GCash. We regularly conduct virtual townhalls as well.
Ayala has also rolled out various employee-first initiatives that prioritize employee holistic well-being. Keeping them engaged means that we maintain a sense of connection with each other, and we do this by striking a balance between work- and non-work-related activities.
We help ease health worries by providing an alternate quarantine facility for employees and dependents, a dedicated healthcare hotline, and the HealthNow app—an all-in-one health care app—among other initiatives.
We advocate mental health through resources like therapy sessions with professional psychologists and mindfulness workshops.
Lastly, we strive to keep the spirit of connectedness and camaraderie among employees by implementing non-work-related employee group activities like virtual cooking workshops, quiz nights, and fitness sessions that let them bond with colleagues through hobbies and interests.
How do you see the role of digital workflow solutions in making workplace communication more efficient, especially cross-functional communication?
Keeping an open communication is essential for Ayala in thriving in today’s new ways of working. We learn from each other—not just within our own teams, but also across business units.
While we have our online collaboration tools that help employees carry out work responsibilities safely, our internal online community, WeAreAyala, also became a platform for all Ayala group employees to bond with each other and stay updated.
Regular virtual town halls also help assuage employees’ fear of uncertainties, keeping them up to speed on company matters. Hearing it straight from our management and having this open line with them has helped improve engagement among our employees.
By maximizing our digital tools, we find opportunities to improve our processes, and develop more innovative and sustainable solutions to new ways of working.
What is Ayala Corporation doing differently to enhance cross-functional collaboration for its workforce?
Ayala carefully thinks about the work structure in each team, making sure it fosters synergy within and across teams. We look at assigning or grouping together people with complementary skill sets to collaborate on projects, which encourages knowledge sharing and integration.
Our periodic group events and activities also strengthen communication, cooperation, and teamwork among employees. Through company-sponsored social activities and other events, teams get to bond within and across different groups.
Leveraging on our available digital collaboration tools also help us work efficiently and effectively in a remote work setup.
Finally, we welcome and encourage constructive criticism to ensure continuous improvement.
What are some steps employers can take to make business agility and operational excellence a reality for a distributed workforce?
- Build networks. We encourage collaboration across the different companies and functions of the Ayala group to leverage our knowledge, experience, and diversity, and share resources, ideas, and solutions through group-wide initiatives aimed at improving customer service, stakeholder management, and employee engagement.
- Be adaptable to change. For the Ayala group, this means constantly finding innovative and sustainable solutions that allow us to be always ready to make quick decisions and respond to the changing needs of our employees, customers, and communities that we serve.
- Adopt a growth mindset. Fostering a culture of continuous learning by investing in employees’ growth boosts their morale, as much as it also prepares the group to be future-ready.
- Champion care for employees. Our employees are our most valuable asset. Despite our ever-changing environment, having a culture that prioritizes employee health and well-being contributes heavily on employees’ engagement and productivity. This, in turn, helps propel the business to remain relevant even in changing times.
If you could offer one piece of advice for leaders in the new world of work to improve workforce and workflow management, what would that be?
- Trust and flexibility go hand in hand. This has been more apparent across our group, even in our remote work setup during this pandemic.
- Bringing in talent means that we trust them, and we will continue to cultivate that trust, which will help empower them by allowing flexibility on how they work, plan, and deliver their commitment.
- Looking beyond the pandemic, Ayala will continue to ensure we provide a balance of what is best for our employees and the company. We will continue to champion care for our employees and the communities that we serve so that we can continue to contribute to our country’s recovery efforts.