PAHRODF Case Studies

Results Story 4:  Strengthening PRIME HRM

Institutionalising Meritocracy and Excellence in HRM

For Marissa Ceneta, Supervising Personnel Specialist and Officer in Charge of the Civil Service Commission’s Audit and Position Classification Composition (ACCP) under the Human Resource Policy Standards Office (HRPSO), elevating HR systems in a big way has always been her orientation since she joined the Commission.

On board in 2011, she shortly found herself immersed in an intervention programme sponsored by PAHRODF (Philippines Australian Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility) which commenced in February 2012 and which stretched on until the end of that year. This resulted in the development of, the programme to institutionalise meritocracy and excellence in human resource management (PRIME HRM).

Shortly thereafter, a second intervention was developed with PAHRODF’s Facility Director, Ms. Milalin Javellana. Being a member of the certifying board that evaluates nominees  for the Seal of Excellence in Human Resource Management, she saw the need to elevate the programme further. Thus, “Strengthening the Civil Service Commission PRIME HRM – Assessment Phase” was held from October 2013 through June 2014 with the HRPSO and ACCP as proponents, and included assessors from civil service region offices from the Personal Standard Evaluation Division (PSED) as participants.

This “assessment phase”, as it was referred to, sought to evaluate not just compliance to HR systems, but also the maturity level of the implementation, focusing on the 4   core areas of recruitment, namely: selection and placement; performance management; awards and recognition; and learning and development. As Ms. Ceneta explains, “The objective is to strengthen the programme so that it does not only include the checklist form of audit. We have to level up to a certain degree to enable us to assess agencies - not only in complying with civil service rules but also in the effectiveness or impact of their implementation of the HR programmes in the bureaucracy.”

High level of involvement

An HR practitioner and implementer for more than 20 years, Ms. Ceneta admits to lacking experience in managing and introducing projects or programmes to government bureaucracy. She credits the PAHRODF for changing this. “It is really in the area of managing a project or programme that I learned a lot.”

With ACCP charged to implement the programme and Ms. Ceneta at its helm, she had her hands full setting the wheels of PRIME HRM in motion.  Having drafted the initial HRM policy in 2012, she and her team also monitored its implementation throughout the region. “I have three members on the team. Our main job is to evaluate recommendations from the civil service regional offices for agency accreditation to PRIME HRM. My main goal is to see at least one agency level up to our strategic HR. Or at least obtain, or gain an award in the centre of excellence or HR excellence.”

The road to achieving this goal is by no means an easy one. Tasked to present PRIME HRM to the Learning Service Provider (LSP) for its project implementation was tiresome to say the least, as it also included the tedious process of explaining certain systems such as the training of assessors and the preparation of guidelines. This, coupled with the fact that ACCP is a lean team really stretched Ms. Ceneta to the limit. She shares, “It was bloody. You had to work very hard with the team - this, on top of your daily job as head of the division. Hard because if you didn’t work hard, and hand in hand with them, you’d be losing much of the essence of the project. Yes, it was bloody, but it was worth it.”

With their recently developed computer-aided assessment tool for example that is drawing positive feedback from their regional counterparts, she realises that all their hard work is now slowly paying off. She too acknowledges that as highly involved as she was, PAHRODF and the LSP were as equally involved. Ms. Milalin took a hands on approach – personally checking every detail of the training and of the project as a whole where it concerns the ACCP and the Learning Service Provider.

Taking the cue from the private sector

With the intervention, the opportunity to have worked with private organisations that follow international standards appears to be one of Ms. Ceneta’s most important learning experiences. “We realised that we really have a lot of things we needed to work on,” she shares, citing computerisation in the private sector as among the major eye-openers.

“That’s basically what impressed us. They get to know ratings online. They also use an online recruitment system. They are ready for that, they have good programmers and security.” She continues, “When you benchmark them (the private sector), you really see the big difference in the implementation of a programme; in the technology and systems they use. It is something worth emulating.”

Though still very far from this ideal state, Ms. Ceneta is convinced that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) is heading in that direction. For starters, she cites once more the computerised assessment tool in place of the old checklist system. As she muses, “Of course it is giving hope that the bureaucracy is getting there. We are also innovating in terms of our performance management system and our employee and human resources information system.”

Turning things around

While remaining upbeat about the future, Ms. Ceneta cannot help but intimate how difficult it has been to implement the programme. With such a short time frame involved and the lack of manpower, cascading it to all the regions has been a major challenge. “We were only about two in the division doing the evaluation. And then we became three, then four. That’s why I call it bloody.”  The maintenance of the database, the agency file, are  other areas for concern. “It was in Excel form and was really difficult for us to get the report in real time and accurately.”

To top it all, there was also a rather lukewarm acceptance from some agencies, the Local Government Units (LGUs) especially, who think of it as “just another programme”.  “So we really have to work hard for them to really appreciate that we have a new programme.  That it’s not just a programme to give them accreditation, but also one that will help them or assist them in their developmental needs,” she emphasises.

Notwithstanding the challenges though, there seems to be general acceptance and appreciation of the programme among the end-users and stakeholders. “Because of this, we are able to move on with the programme,” she says. Likewise, the support from her organisation and ACCP’s regional and field offices have helped them press on. From mere compliance, the ACCP is now looking at the maturity level of the HR systems and determining the interventions needed to elevate the agencies to the level of programme implementers themselves.

Fired up

Moving forward with her Re-entry Application Plan (REAP), an integral part of the intervention that is meant to apply her learnings to address organisational gaps, Ms. Ceneta is confident. She has full support from her director who wants quality evaluation of all the recommendations and a quality evaluation workshop for all the HRPSO technical staff. The objective is to link the programme to all civil service initiatives so that all stakeholders will know and understand the significance of the PRIME HRM to the civil service and the whole bureaucracy. “We want to live up to its expectations.”

The work is on-going, and although feedback from all the regions remain incomplete, Ms. Ceneta remains excited as a lot of agencies are eager to be assessed using the new standard. Effectiveness of the programme is gauged as it is implemented and as assessment reports come in from the different regions. Ms. Ceneta shares, “I think it is working because I would say that from now until December, we would get at least one agency to a certain level of maturity for the HR systems and programmes.”

Witnessing these little breakthroughs, Ms. Ceneta’s optimism is fired up even more. She predicts that with PAHRODF’s help, the commission will achieve its vision to be Asia’s centre of excellence in 2030. “Personally I am very grateful to PAHRODF. It was such a huge intervention. We were able to realise that we really have a lot of things to work on especially for the government sector.”

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