BPOs in Philippines stay resilient despite weather issues
MANILA, Philippines - While the southwest monsoon brought Metro Manila to a standstill for several days last August, the impact to operations of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms in the the capital was manageable.
More employees were affected by the August 7 monsoon than by Typhoon Ondoy (international code name Ketsana), which also inundated the capital in September 2009. However, the BPO firms' post-Ondoy business continuity strategies and disaster preparedness plans kept the industry more resilient this time.
An industry-wide survey results that the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) and Outsource2Philippines released on September 28 showed that 80% of the 166 respondents suffered a downtime for less than 24 hours only.
This was because absenteeism rate last August 7 was more than 25% -- a rate the industry considers as "much higher than usual." About 47% of the respondents said more employees did not report to work due to the 2012 monsoon rain than during the Ondoy floods in 2009.
Absent employees who were caught up in the floods, rains and traffic hampered their Philippine operations, noted FIS Global Solutions VP-ITO Philippines Armand Cajayon Jr.
However, with BPO firms' contingent plans in place, almost half, or 47%, of the respondents that cater to the outsourcing needs of clients abroad or of their own parent firms returned to their normal operations in 2 to 3 days.
The Philippines is the call center capital of the world and a prime destination of other outsourced non-voice jobs.
Given that "susceptibility to calamity" was identified by 21% of respondents as a "huge risk factor in doing business in the Philippines," most of the companies already have an elaborate contingency plan in place.
“Our business units had to activate their own business-continuity plans to pick up what we couldn't do—to meet critical deadlines, deliverables, and service levels,” said Gigi Mantaring, VP and general manager of Manulife Business Processing Services.
“Being in a disaster-prone region has compelled most IT-BPO companies in the Philippines to always be ready for the unexpected…Having a ‘Plan B’ enabled us to achieve and manage disruptions in our operations,” said Benedict Hernandez, BPAP president and CEO.
The August floods in Metro Manila was the recent test on the effectiveness of IT-BPO and global in-house center (GIC)companies’ business disaster preparedness plans.
“Given the difficult situation and possible extended weather disturbances, we had to activate our disaster recovery plan to allow our business units to continue servicing our clients,” said Pointwest Technologies president Ma. Cristina Coronel.
A structure of accountability previously formed to track if each employee was safe in their workplaces or at home came into play at the height of the weather disturbance. About 75% percent of companies called down employees to ensure their safety while 47% provided shelters onsite.
“We called employees one by one to see if they were okay,” said StarTek regional human resources director Joyce Peñalosa. For almost 50 NorthgateArinso employees affected by the storms, country manager Hans Montenegro said accommodation, meals, clothing, and laundry allowances were provided over two days.
Meanwhile, Oce Business Services temporarily housed employees whose homes were submerged in floods. “We converted our training rooms to this purpose for the meantime,” said general manager Rommel Regalado. MediCall management went out of its way by providing both in-house and hotel accommodations to shelter employees, according to president Jeff Williams.
Although 70% of respondents’ companies provided a variety of in-kind assistance, a fewer number of beneficiaries required assistance in 2012, the survey said.
To assist their workforce, 53% of companies provided in-kind assistance, which included food, water, and basic necessities while 34% extended emergency calamity loans to affected employees.
While about half of respondents’ companies did not provide emergency loans, most did. About 39% said they extended emergency loans for each employee worth P5,001 to 50,000.
Telus International Philippines provided free meals to all team members across all sites. “We ensured that our concessionaires had fresh and steady supply of food to keep our employees comfortable despite being in the office,” said head of communications Warren Tait.
HRMall global HR director Chiara Zotomayor shared, “We provided immediate financial assistance to affected employees and their families through a special calamity loan program.”
In 2011, the IT-BPO industry generated $11 billion in revenues and employed approximately 640,000 people.
The industry is aiming to become a $25-billion industry by 2016 and to provide direct jobs to 1.3 million Filipinos. - Rappler.com