Bing Santamaria, 2015

PAHRODF Case Studies

Results Story 7:  Human Resource Management

Capitalising on Human Resources for Effective Governance

In an organisational assessment conducted around 3 years ago by the Philippine Australia Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility (PAHRODF) on the Provincial Government of Aklan (PGA), it was determined that it was weakest in the area of human resources. Project scholar Bing Santamaria, the assistant department head of their Provincial Human Resource Management Office (PHRMO) and with the government service for eight years, concurs.

Bing concedes that at that time, PHRMO hardly operated in any human resource capacity with many of their employees lacking in training and development to improve their competency. Their operations were very transactional in nature, and their roles were relegated to merely record-keeping. Through the Australian Government and their involvement with the Provincial Road Management Facility (PRMF), PHRMO had the opportunity to benefit from PAHRODF’s assistance. Considering the facility as a great blessing to the department, she says, “PAHRODF came to help us reinvent ourselves.”

She narrates that after PAHRODF’s organisational assessment, the facility’s recommendations were quickly accepted for implementation with the full support of top management. Three areas that needed attention were identified. At the top of the list was to establish human resource training through a training and development division; second was the installation of electronic human resource information to update records; and lastly, the review of recruitment, selection and promotion policies. “The big three. These are not just competency building, but also systems installation,” says Bing.

Three interventions were then conducted, with participants from top management including the governor, department heads, those from the Department of Interior Local Government (DILG) and the provincial road management. The first intervention covered ‘learning and development’ which then progressed to the human resource development planning. The second one was to help PHRMO establish its electronic human resource information system, and the last one provided scholarships to qualified individuals.

Of the Learning Service Provider (LSP), Bing has this to say: “A learning service provider was something very new to us. If you’re in government, you don’t hire learning service providers because they’re too expensive.  We had the best - all very excellent & patient consultants. We didn’t just learn the how to’s, but the complete thing for when the intervention is over and the system is installed.” The participants were also introduced to new concepts such as sustainability action plans and risk management plans. Bing reckons that these brought out the best in their employees and amongst them, future potential leaders, as they were given the opportunity to shine.

Alongside the interventions, the scholarship program was also rolled out. Because it was assessed to be the weakest, five scholarship slots were allotted to human resources, but unfortunately, none of those qualified came from HR. The scholars, including Bing who was still not connected with HR then, were picked from other departments. She and 3 others went on to take post-graduate studies in human resource.

Initially, Bing’s objective before leaving for Griffith University inAustralia to attend her one year scholarship under Australia Awards Scholarships was to establish the training and development program in her department. “But later on, I realized it’s too limiting,” she reveals. While there, she shifted to Human Resource Management as she realized that after her studies, she would then have to take on more than just training and development.

Bing admits that when she was chosen to be assistant head of PHRMO, she wasn’t ready. But, she relates that the interventions prepared her for the work ahead. “My learnings from the intervention have really helped me as a person and as a worker in the government. It has made me see clearly what we mean by strategic direction,” Bing proudly says. While her university scholarship has given her a broader perspective and the fundamentals of strategic HRM, the intervention given by the LSP upon her return, cemented in greater detail the steps she needed to take for their organization. Bing explains, “In Australia, it’s very academic, but it gave me a broader perspective. This is the change in the world, if we cannot stand up and join the change we will be left out. But with the intervention of the LSP, the steps and systems that we had to install became crystal clear.”

PGA-wide HR strategy

In terms of her Re-Entry Action Plan (REAP), a plan integral to the interventionpl that applies her learnings to address organisational gaps, Bing reveals that she has had to revise it. From the installation of a training and development system, she has had to shift to a 2015-2017 human resource development plan for the entire province. This came about because the facility already initiated an HRD plan for 12 departments related to the PRMF. “But then, when that was done, we realized that we cannot do only HRD planning for the 12, because if you talk about human resource, everything in human resource affects everything in the province,” she reasons.

Thus, her REAP is in line with the learning and development functions of their department - it focuses on identifying the competency gaps of all the departments PGA-wide and strategizing on what type of interventions are needed to address them. Also, the basis for the allocated budget must be clear and linked to the systematization of the training programs. As Bing reveals, this is primarily to address their practice of making departmental training budgets with nothing to base them on. With this plan, she hopes to develop more targeted programs that will really zero in on enhancing competencies needed by the participants.

Bing shares that the HRD planning intervention supported by PAHRODF and implemented last year has been helpful in harmonizing the budget and their activities. “With the HRD plan, we calendar the training and target the participants,” she says. As far as her REAP from her scholarship however, she mentions that she is nearing accomplishment, estimating it at 90% done at present. “I’m working on it with the other Australia Awards scholars. Actually, we have already finished the identification of competency gaps of all the departments. We are grouping them according to sectors, but we have not yet packaged the whole thing,” she intimates.

A bumpy ride

Although they currently have the all-out support of management, including the governor and the legislators, plus the budget to run the programs, Bing mentions that getting to this point was not without difficulty. With a change in leadership every 3 years, the process of explaining the program and convincing them about its merits repeats. “When PAHRODF started, we had a different governor. When I left for Australia for the scholarship, there was another governor – the one who started all these. He was very supportive. He was the one who put me in this department. When I came back, we had a different governor and a new set of legislators. We had to make them understand why you have to do this REAP, why you have to send people to training. Training is not very attractive to local executives, they see it as an extra expense,” Bing explains. Emphasizing the role of human resource and building competency had to be done all over again.

Likewise, she brings up the challenge of getting the department heads to get out of their comfort zones and embrace the change. “If you have department heads who have been in the government for 30 years and all of a sudden you introduce something like aligning objectives to provincial objectives, doing this, resorting to electronics and so on, it’s something new and difficult,” she reasons.

Bing also laments about the scarcity of qualified scholars. “They (scholars) have to be in positions of influence, they have to be administrative officers. But if you look at the structure of the government, the practice right now is to promote people according to age and according to tenure in office. Those who are qualified, don’t want to go back to school. Those who are ready and hungry for learning and post-graduate opportunities are not yet qualified. So there is mismatch in qualifications and standards.” As a result of this, Bing finds it such a waste that they have had to let go of scholarship opportunities offered to the provincial government.

Significant developments

Notwithstanding these, Bing also cites what has been accomplished. The change in the PHRMO, for instance, has been significant. As Bing puts it, “when I started, we were just an office dealing with papers. It was really just the secretariat of the governor processing papers of appointments, etc. but now we have the training and development systems. It’s working but we are trying to refine everything.” With the HRD plan in place, Bing’s ongoing REAP, books and manuals, and a trainers’ pool that handles training across departments, much has changed. Now, employees see the PHRMO as the department that not only looks after their benefits, but also their competency needs.

As Bing further discloses though, the most noteworthy development in their organization is a change in mindset. If before, their work view was myopic, now they are more aware of their contribution to the provincial government. If before, strategic thinking was not even in their vocabulary, now, everyone thinks about strategy. With this, Bing mentions that they are also more conscious of how resources are now spent, ensuring that these are maximized and aligned with the province’s needs. As she puts it, “The best thing that the intervention has left us is the realization that everything we do in all departments must be aligned with the mission and vision of the province. Before, we really didn’t even think that way. We just went to the office and most of us would just wait for 5 o’clock to leave.”

Just like the road network that PRMF concerns itself with and which got the ball rolling for PHRMO, the path to good governance it seems, does not only have an impact on the Provincial Government of Aklan. With PAHRODF’s help and with all local government units doing their part, the entire country stands to benefit.  Bing muses, “If you look at the whole of it, good governance will help alleviate poverty. And one of the ways government employees can help do this is by delivering excellent service which will result in the development of the lives of the constituents.” Clearly, with her, and others like her better appreciating the roles they play, truly there is much hope for the country.

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