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Employer Branding: People-Centricity, Collaborative Journey, and Balancing Purposes

August 29, 2023

Victor (Sr Manager for Employer Branding at SAVii) brings experiences and examples of how employer branding can put people first

Discovering the gift of communication: Insights on the broader impact of employer branding

Kitty: Thank you so much, Victor, for joining us on this call this morning. To start off, tell us a bit about your career journey. How did you end up in employer branding and acquire the skills needed to deliver a great employer brand?

Victor: Thank you, Kitty. Actually, my journey is a beautiful accident. Prior to where I am now, I thought I would love to be part of the hospitality industry, specifically as a flight attendant. That was my dream before and still is. But one thing is for sure, I love talking to people.

I submitted my resume to IBM, and they called me to become an onboarding coordinator, and it started from there. At IBM, I was moulded to be part of the onboarding team, resource management, and talking to agencies. It then transcended into becoming part of the aid. That's where I discovered one of my gifts, the gift of communication.

I love talking and interviewing seemed to become a therapy for me. Talking is a way to truly have a conversation and get to know people. Sometimes, you forge relationships, nice, healthy, and professional relationships where there is mutual benefit in terms of what I can learn from you and what you can learn from me.

Aside from that, I'm a person who doesn't love to judge, but I love to assess personalities. I love to really know the people I'm talking with inside and out. So talent acquisition is something that sparked interest. That's one street that I really love to be part of, and I've been successful at it.

In talent acquisition, I had ten years of experience when I was part of Alexander Man Solutions and also with Citibank. They entrusted me to do events for job fairs, job fair marketing, and volume hiring as well. These things were actually new to me, so I had four years of experience in that. Throughout the years, I learned the value of employer branding.

What's good about SAVii is that my Chief People Officer put 100% trust in me to become a competent employer branding person. It was scary at first, but with her trust and guidance, I believe they're satisfied with my work so far in the employer branding realm.

At SAVii, our products are all about financial wellness, our strategy is to partner with HR departments and make these products an HR-endorsed type of benefit. We want to make HR like rock stars. That's the goal, while we transform the lives of people by making finance inclusive, so they have the confidence and freedom to enable themselves in whatever purchases they need in life.

As part of those financial wellness products, we also have in-person activities that help the HR department with employer branding and employee engagement. We provide tips and tricks on how to make it better. The pressure is on me and the HR department because we want to be the best. We provide webinars and seminars, so internally, we have to be the best as well because people and companies are looking at us. It means that when they take a look at our internal employer branding and employee engagement, we need to be best in class as well. That's just the backstory.

Going back, it's the trust that made me keep going on in terms of employer branding. As I've mentioned, employer branding is really important in my 15 years of being part of talent acquisition. It's the most important component.

If SAVii is a house, employer branding is the gate. If you have a compelling employer branding story and a good perception of your company, job seekers will knock at your door. No need to look for them because they will be the ones to knock at your doorstep and apply. I believe the sourcing component is the door going inside the house because they have to filter and assess candidates.

From the get-go, it's really the employer branding that will get you there in terms of bringing in the best talent. That's my career journey. In terms of skills, all I know is that employer branding is very important in talent attraction. It's not just about employer branding, but it also helps your brand overall if you want to reach people in buying your brand, not just the job seekers, but in totality, including the products.

We are in an era where people are looking for purpose. You need to have a compelling employer branding story because if they don't find purpose in your company or if you offer lacklustre products, they may not feel like it contributes to the world. I think they wouldn't. Kitty, that's my answer to your first question.

The heart of SAVii: empathy, purpose, and remote-first work culture

Kitty: Thanks so much, Victor. You've already sort of answered the second question in the process of talking about your journey. But maybe to hone in a little bit more on SAVii in particular, what's the number one thing that attracts talent to work here?

Victor: SAVii is a company that is easy to love. As I mentioned, it's easy to really like SAVii because our goal is to truly transform the lives of Filipinos and, who knows, the future, the whole world. It's a very current company, a very up-to-date one. We want financial inclusivity to happen. There's so much inequality right now that SAVii is really stepping up the game in terms of giving regular individuals the freedom to improve their lives. Because too many people right now don't have the capability to choose what they want in life due to lack of money. That's the current situation.

Sometimes they want to pursue postgraduate studies or buy a car to improve their mobility and make their lives easier. This will also give them more time for their family since traffic is really congested here in Manila. What we really do is empower people to improve their lives. With that purpose in mind, people are actually flocking to apply because we have a very good purpose.

The transformation and the goal of transforming lives every day is something that we've been emphasizing. Additionally, in one of the surveys or events I have attended, it was found that 89% of Filipinos prefer to work from home, with a few others opting for a hybrid setup and only a few wanting to work physically in an office. With that data alone and our embrace of the remote-first setup, we are one of the few companies upholding that kind of employer marketing the remote program, the remote-first agenda.

These are the two things that really appeal to people. Number one is purpose because people are really looking for purpose, especially the younger generation. This is highly valued in SAVii because our products and services have a clear purpose. Then there's the remote-first approach. Again, I cannot stress enough the demand of the population to work from home because it's currently the trend. Actually, it's not just a trend, it's becoming the norm.

The current setup that is viable or trending, shall I say, is the work-life integration. Prior, we're really aiming for balance, to truly balance work and personal life. But right now, just after the pandemic, or probably during the pandemic and the new normal, people have realized that work is now intertwined with their personal lives.

In meetings, we see people taking care of babies while there's a meeting, taking care of their dogs and cats, and so on. And sometimes people are having meetings while they're shopping or in grocery stores. It's the work-life integration that matters right now. How do we make it easier for people?

It's really the purpose, the remote-first, and then under the remote-first is the work-life integration. I also had another thought as well, it's people-centricity. This is my understanding and my experience as well. The leadership, the management component of SAVii is mostly, if not all, focused on people-centricity and empathy. We also care about the personal lives of people because we know it affects work. So work is very important.

We say you need to compartmentalize the baggage you have at home. Leave it there because when it's work, it's work. But in a remote-first setup, it is really important to check on people. To ask them, how are you? It also extends to personal matters. Not that they need to share all about breakups and all, but just to check how they are. How can SAVii not mitigate, but provide something or do things that would make the situation a little lighter for that person? If there are things that SAVii can do for you in order for you to maintain peak performance or be a little happier in this game that we call life.

Empathy really is there. We highly market that in the people-centricity. All these things, we make them part of our persona, our employer persona, so that we can market our brand better for the shops.

Marrying remote and onsite work in the modern landscape, exploring employee preferences and employer interests

Kitty: The word "wellness" says it all because it's holistic. It's about the whole person, not just one facet or persona of the employee. We need to consider the whole person.

You just made me realize something about remote work. There are so many opinions on remote work, and I wonder, do you have a perspective on why so many organizations are resistant to remote work? Even despite surveys showing that employees want this, where does that fear or uncertainty come from?

Victor: It's something that I found out when I talked to the corporate leaders in the Philippines while I was in Manila. They want to see the people in person so they can monitor what they do. Monitoring is especially important in a call centre environment, as the Philippines has a lot of outsourcing or offshoring components or businesses.

In transactional operations, monitoring is key. Currently, it seems like we haven't yet developed the right technology to effectively monitor these people. It's still better to physically monitor them in the office.

Second, in terms of the policy, corporate setup, and office setup. If you have a physical office, especially in an economic zone, you get tax incentives. How would you be able to utilize the office space if people are not working there? Those are the two things. It's the monitoring and also a very policy-oriented type of thing.

It seems like corporations entities, and establishments, want to take advantage of these tax benefits if they have a big office space in a certain economic zone. However, I believe that these leaders, at the back of their minds, also want remote work. There's really a clamour for remote work.

But, in the current landscape, it seems like we need to marry remote work and onsite work. Being onsite is important to align the interests of the employer, the company, and the employees. There's probably a reason why institutions and establishments want their employees to work onsite, even though surveys show that a staggering number of people want to work from home.

Kitty: Yeah, it's quite fascinating because it's often the push to return to the office. It's not just the boomer corporations or MNCs. A lot of it is coming from fairly new startups. They want people to return to the office. But having said that, I think maybe some people actually do want to work from an office. Maybe their home setup is not optimal for working. So I think there are always two sides to the coin, correct?

Victor: Yes, I have spoken a lot, especially with more mature people in terms of age who wanted to work on-site. I think it provides them with the necessary energy.

Probably seeing a lot of people or maybe when they look out the window and see many restaurants. I think it fuels them to be at home. Everyone has their own preferences, right? But surveys don't lie. The majority really wanted to return to on-site work. So your question really sparked an interest in me to do more research on that.

In the Philippines, there are probably two or three reasons why there is a clamour for on-site work or why they want to still push for it. Is it tax cuts? Is it the benefits that they can get from the government when they make people work on-site? And all of those controversial things here and there.

The seamless partnership: how HR and marketing work together for SAVii

Kitty: It's more complex when you dig a bit deeper than it seems. We could go all day, but there are always interesting things that come up.

Can you share some stories where you collaborated with other functions to amplify the employer brand? Any moments where you realized that employer branding moves the needle for the business?

Victor: In SAVii, I've been working closely with the marketing and communications department because they're the ones who are at the forefront for our clients. They conduct webinars or live seminars on employer branding to make our client's HR department stand out.

We have a wide range of services for these clients because we truly take care of them. We have a lot of expertise from our Marketing Communications team when it comes to employer brand and employee engagement. That's why they're licensed to conduct these special webinars and seminars. I collaborate closely with them, especially in our social media agenda. On LinkedIn, I work closely with the marketing team to further the agenda of my HR team.

What's the benefit of that? With this deep collaboration with the marketing team, we have gained valuable insights on how to reach job seekers. If we talk about unconscious bias, this is something that I may have pioneered. I want unconscious employer branding to be ingrained in people's minds, almost like second nature.

When they think of looking for a job, the first thing that should come to mind is SAVii, and it should be a subconscious thought. This is based on the collection of experiences that people have had with SAViii throughout the years. Perhaps they were once a client or had experiences with SAVii as a vendor for salary bonuses or webinars. These collective experiences leave a lasting impression and create a strong narrative about SAVii as an employer.

When the time comes for these job seekers to look for better opportunities, they will apply to SAVii. That's the goal - to have this unconscious embedding of employer branding. It's my personal goal for SAVii, and marketing is really helping with that collaboration.

With this collaboration, I know for a fact that it's better to focus on organic content creation in social media. If you visit our LinkedIn page, you'll see that we feature stories from our employees. For example, we had a person from Georgia who was featured in Forbes 30 under 30. It's great that we have someone from our team being recognized by Forbes, so we heavily feature that person on LinkedIn. We also feature individuals who have been interviewed by the news or who have graduated with high honours from business school. Any achievement that we believe is worth publicizing, we do so because we know that featuring these individuals reaches a wider audience. It not only helps maintain high engagement among our employees, but also serves as marketing for our employer brand and products.

In summary, employer branding is really the heart of SAVii. If SAVii is a home, employer branding is the light bulb that illuminates everything - the talent component, the brand components, and more. Going back, I must say that the collaboration we have with marketing gives us valuable insights on how to penetrate the job market and attract job seekers.

Kitty: In terms of cooperation, what does that look like? Do you guys share OKRs or initiatives? Or do you have weekly sync-ups? Like, how do you guys collaborate?

Victor: We have a weekly sync-up. And not just that, it's an open book. The KPIs are being shared. We have a full document, a living file of those things to double-check. We are being supported by the Chief Marketing Officer, the Chief People Officer, and all these things that we want to do. We're being supported by the C-level people coming from the respective departments.

I can't stress enough how open we are in terms of laying all the cards on the table and knowing what we need to know about how we could actually win in the game of employer branding and reaching the proper audience that we want. If you ask if there's competition between marketing and HR, yes, there is. But more than that, it's the collaboration and the pursuit of reaching just one goal: to make SAVii profitable and to truly enable and transform, which is the everyday mantra of our company.

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