The country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has grown considerably since it started in the early 90s. Today, more than 1 million Filipinos are gainfully employed in one of the country’s largest and most dynamic industries.
From the outside looking in, it would seem like its success came out of nowhere. Those part of the BPO industry know that many years of development and trust have led to the state it enjoys today.
One thing that is clear to the public though is how much BPOs are helping the Philippine economy. Our culture, business landscape, and people all contribute a great deal to the industry’s success.
The United States continues to be the biggest market for BPO services. Filipinos are a natural fit for BPO work because of our affinity with western culture, primarily due to the strong influence the United States left more than 6 decades ago.
A lot of Filipinos also have relatives based in the US, and this strengthens our understanding and ability to relate with American clients as compared to our neighbors in the region. This comes into play in simple situations like understanding everyday nuances and idiomatic expressions, to more complex ones like work ethic.
Of course, a more obvious reflection of this western influence is the Filipino’s English proficiency. The country was ranked highest in the 2013 Business English Index (BEI). Since effective communication is integral in the outsourcing industry, this is a huge plus.
More importantly, it’s the values in our culture that make Filipinos suitable for the job. We are known to be hospitable, accommodating, and empathetic, and these are vital traits to have for a job that requires are lot of interaction and coordination.
The practice of pakikisama is another edge. Filipinos are willing to adjust their lifestyles, which is asked of many BPO employees. This goes beyond just changing one's body clock. Working in a BPO also means having to adhere to strict deadlines, working with a team, and learning on the job.
When it comes to business, the Philippines proves to be an ideal destination. In 2014, a junior executive in a BPO could earn P21,590 (~$464), a small sum compared to what a company would have had to shell out if the job was done in the US.
Still, compared to the employment landscape in the Philippines, BPO workers are compensated well, and it is one of the biggest considerations potential employees have in entering the industry. But more than that they are attracted to the bright prospect of working for an international company, free access to technical and skills training, and even the chance to travel.
For Bob Gogel, chief executive at Integreon, Inc., a New York-based company with BPO operations in various cities including Manila, saving on costs is not enough. "It's not only about cost, but about efficiency across all lines of business,” he said.
A business is only as strong as its employees and one of the Philippines’ greatest economic assets is its workforce.
Today, about 90 percent of the Philippines' population is under 55 years old. That’s a large pool of working age, educated, English-speaking talent. It is also said that Filipinos are naturals when it comes to customer service, a valuable skill to have in a BPO position.
The Philippines also has a large pool of college graduates with high-level skill sets. This includes licensed CPAs, medical practitioners, and engineers. Because BPOs offer a wide range of job opportunities, Filipinos are able to find a place that is fit for their skills and career goals.
As the BPO industry expands, subsectors including contact centers and back office services that require data transcription, animation, software development, engineering, and game development have emerged.
More than communication skills and an impressive educational background, what truly sets the Filipino apart as a BPO employee is his work ethic. Filipinos work hard and value their jobs. In the BPO industry, they not only survive, but thrive. — Rappler.com
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