September 30, 2016
For over 100 years and spanning five generations, creating long-term value for all its stakeholders has been the Aboitiz Group’s single most important focus through the evolving business landscape. A key measure of its success has been the ability to identify and prepare team members for leadership positions as the baton gets passed from one generation of leaders to the next. In so doing, it has inimitably developed a unique way of developing people that adapts to the changing times.
Only a strong team can drive excellent performance, especially at a time of growth amid a challenging business environment.
-Erramon I. Aboitiz, President and CEO, Aboitiz Group
As Aboitiz finds itself on the cusp of another era of expansion, it recognizes that the only way to sustain its business growth is by attracting top-caliber people. Its new generation of leaders will not only help manage the business but also upgrade the Group’s capabilities moving forward, and more than building a profitable enterprise, they will enrich a values-oriented organization. And this is where the strategic pillar of building human capital plays a central role.
Group President and CEO Erramon I. Aboitiz said, “Only a strong team can drive excellent performance, especially at a time of growth amid a challenging business environment. We aim to continuously strengthen our leadership team and cultivate a unique performance culture.”
Culture-building efforts have prompted the Group’s business units to level up their leadership development and team member engagement initiatives. According to AEV Chief Human Resources Officer Txabi Aboitiz, “There are many admirable initiatives that exist today. We have to find a better way of harnessing these and gain a more coherent and deliberate talent management and people strategy”.
For AEV EVP and COO Sabin M. Aboitiz (SMA), an enabling culture allows team members to fulfill their leadership potentials. “A company of diverse identities and capabilities such as Aboitiz must realize that everyone is interdependent and should be successful together,” he said.
This is evident through his experience as leader of the Food business group, working together with Pilmicans in what is deemed as an example of the Aboitiz Way of building human capital. It is always about the people, their values, and how they can become Partners for Growth. What is the story of Pilmico and how is it helping shape the Group’s organizational culture?
Pilmico’s People Strategy
In 2009, ‘World-Class Pilmican’ was the driving force behind Pilmico under the leadership of then Pilmico president Antonio R. Moraza. Operational efficiency, discipline, quality, and strong management team — these were the defining characteristics of the Pilmico organization that can be traced from it’s early days in 1958 with Don Ramon Aboitiz as the company’s first president.
We need to be organizationally ready and take our people program seriously; personal growth and development is your responsibility together with your leader. As a leader, it is our role to help others become better at what we do, whatever that role is.
-Sabin M. Aboitiz, President and CEO, Pilmico
When SMA took over Pilmico, he wanted to bring the excellent team that Mr. Moraza has already built to even greater heights. It was then that ‘Partners for Growth’ was brought to life. As a strategy, it allowed the company to undergo a culture-building process guided by its roadmap of ‘Inspire, Engage, and Entrench’.
Everyone agreed to make Pilmico become an ‘Above Average Organization’ in five years’ time. Benchmarks (Google and Zappos) and baselines (Corporate Quality Assessment Survey or CQAS) were plotted and quantitative targets were set for talent attraction, retention and optimization. Coffman and Buckingham’s book ‘First Break All the Rules’ became the bible of the HR team, which was led by Gie Polanco. Inspired by the book’s unorthodox style of people management, the team chose key principles and strategies that would bring life to the culture-building program called Partners in Leadership (PL).
The PL program was implemented bootcamp style. The first bootcamp, facilitated by SMA himself, was conducted for the executive management team who were in turn trained to run the program for their respective teams. For the next two years, PL drove the enculturation process — team members and team leaders, old and new, understood and appreciated the core concepts of the program. It was important for the top team to understand and truly believe in the program. It was more challenging than it was originally envisioned. One thing is to say, “Yes I believe and support it”, and the other is to truly believe in it.
PL was not intended as a carrot-and-stick approach; it is not tied to performance appraisals, metrics, or incentives. Instead, it sought to make people understand their roles so they can contribute to making Pilmico become an ‘Above Average Organization’, and allow them to be part of the company’s greater success.
Our program reflects the culture of the organization. And our culture represents the values we believe in. For Pilmico, while we are bringing greater efficiency to the company, we also ensure that the strategy will impact people’s heart, head, and hand. In doing so, the impact is transformational.
-Gie Polanco, Chief of Staff and Vice President for HR, Pilmico
By 2011, PL had become embedded in the employee onboarding programs, meetings, and coaching sessions. The PL became a strong platform in the implementation of the five-year strategic business plan. It even inspired management to develop themes that helped reinforce the overall people strategy. ‘Creating Leaders’ was the theme in 2013, which coincided with the launch of the Aboitiz Group’s refreshed core values, namely: integrity, teamwork, innovation, and responsibility. This was sustained in 2014 through 2015 with the theme ‘Leading Through Values’. (Read the story of Freniemer Dacaya, a former scholar who now works in PANC).
The culture-building journey is still ongoing. But it can already claim success as reflected in its quantitative results. Its CQAS factor for culture and purpose improved from 3.88 in 2010 to 3.94 in 2014, making Pilmico as the record holder for the highest CQAS rating in the Aboitiz Group.
As for the qualitative results, one only needs to visit them at the 9th floor of NAC Tower to get a taste of its organizational culture (Read related story: From World Class to Partners For Growth). The walls are alive with stories of team member achievements and a palpable buzz fills the air. Each Pilmican walks and talks with contagious energy, each stride bursting with purpose, a vibe that is also felt at its Tarlac, Iligan and Cebu offices.
For veterinarian and poultry operations manager Serge Tan, he feels that Pilmico engages, equips, and empowers its team members. He has been with the company for 16 years now. What he likes about Pilmico is that leaders are approachable and they allow everyone to be heard and do innovative work. Performance is peer-reviewed on top of the team leader’s assessment.
“I’ve said before that in Pilmico you can build a career. You really can. So it’s really up to you and how badly you really want it. This has always been my view of the organization during my early years and it just gets better and better each year,” he said.
Pilmico has come to be known as a workplace of driven and happy individuals committed to delivering results. Pilmico’s culture fosters a bottom-up approach and acknowledges shared responsibility between team leaders and team members to build and sustain relationships. Behind surveys and numbers are behaviors and actions that reflect a culture of empowerment, a workplace that is less rigid, more fun and exciting, and a Pilmico that is on its way to becoming a self-driven organization. In the words of SMA, “Culture is the way we do things from moment to moment without being told what to do.”
Creating the Future Organization
Using Pilmico as a benchmark, a strong company culture will drive the fulfilment of the Group’s growth objectives. As Aboitiz prepares its next generation of leaders, the behavior and beliefs nurtured and strengthened for over a hundred years in The Aboitiz Way will continue to guide decisions and actions. Consistency and simplicity are key, making it easy for all A-People across the Group to understand their role and contribute to the Aboitiz mission of creating long-term value for all its stakeholders.
Pilmico is both water and sunshine, it nurtures its people to bloom and be the best. When you have the best of people, you will prevail. Our leaders know their business when it comes to talent investment. I’m looking forward to witness the unfolding of all the new company initiatives, expansions, innovations — especially the ones I am personally leading — to be realized. I’m privileged to be an active part of something that is bravely breaking new grounds!
-Joana Jayson Pequiro, Quality Assurance Manager, Iligan (joined in March 2009)