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Convergys Celebrates Work-Life Balance

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 10, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

The top performing employees at Convergys’ San Lazaro facility were recently recognized by the company for their great work with an all-expenses paid provincial outing. The San Lazaro site is one of the global relationship management company’s 14 facilities across thePhilippines. Convergys recognized its top 100 agents at that facility  as part of its Best of the Best program, and treated the employees to a trip to Camayan Beach Resort inSubic.

Convergys is now the country’s largest private employer with about 25,000 employees across its sites, and it serves international companies in a number of industries.  With activities like Employee Appreciation and Family Day, Convergys seeks to develop a healthy and balanced work life for its employees. Convergys supports programs for personal growth and development, as well as fun and leisure activities, where it encourages the attendance of employees’ family and friends.


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Work Life: Effective Motivation

 The Nice Stuff Works Better

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 10, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By: Jhoanna O. Gan-So 

Bosses have different ways of motivating employees to improve their performance.

Smart ones use several methods of reward and punishment and adjust their approach according to circumstances.

In my experience, I have found that rewards and punishments are equally effective depending on the situation and the type of people you manage. But in general, people respond more to rewards, incentives, promotions, recognition and all the nice stuff. Occasionally, however, punishments or “threats” may be warranted; but using these can become counter-productive and dangerous, too. If you threaten and put people down often enough, they might get paralyzed by fear and begin to lose focus. Instead of finding ways to improve performance, they might get caught up with just fighting the perceived threat.

Such is the case of a reader of mine:

I’ve been connected for two years to a real estate company as an AVP in Marketing. My position gives me a basic living subsidy, over-ride commissions and the use of the company vehicle. In the previous year, I used to be no. 3 among the 15 Marketing Directors. At times, I would even be no. 1 and no. 2. But two months ago, my Marketing Directors were transferred to another group. Hence, I am now in survival mode and currently at no. 3 among four AVPs. My concern is that our EVP has been threatening to dissolve our group if we don’t increase sales. As a result, we have been under tremendous pressure for the past few months. Although I am determined to fight, the threats are becoming worse. What should I do?—Threatened Abe

My response:

From a relational perspective, it would be great if you can talk to your EVP and calmly explain to him that you understand how critical sales is for the company and that you are doing many things to increase sales. However, his approach (or “threat of dissolution”) is becoming counterproductive to your sales team’s morale. Point out gently that you would appreciate it very much if he tries a different approach. You need to do this in such a way that he won’t feel offended or alienated by you.

From an emotional perspective, it would be great if you can find some sort of stress release. I know Sales is highly stressful since you have quotas to reach. Two of our own company’s top sales people actually had a very difficult time getting the numbers the beginning of this year and it almost paralyzed them. To solve the problem, one of them opened up to management and sought support. The other one took a short retreat to reenergize herself. With the help of our Mancomm and some smart changes in their sales routine, things eventually improved and they are back on track.

From an HR perspective, I think it’s wise to revisit the Employment Contract you signed with the company, as well as the company policies for Termination as it pertains to Sales People. Much of your protection will come from what type of employment you have, the provisions in your contract, the HR policies and processes in your company and the Philippine Labor Laws. Since a sales job is highly quantitative, much will be based on your sales results. Normally, verbal warnings are the first steps for disciplinary action. Written warnings carry more weight and these are actually needed for an employer to terminate employees if due process is to be followed.

Meanwhile, I think it’s not too late yet. You still have your job. The real estate industry has been booming for the past few years. You can still focus and concentrate on generating more sales, despite the threat.

Motivating Employees

I wish I could talk to Mr. Abe’s boss and point out that his “threatening” approach is de-motivating his people. But since I do not really know him, allow me to use this column to reach out to similar bosses out there.

Fear is a potent tool. Its powers can motivate people to move, but it could just as easily demoralize people. I personally would only use it as a last resort.

The job of every boss is not just about pushing people to do what they want. Great bosses take the time to understand what drives their people and figure out what buttons to push to positively impact their subordinates. They also arm their people with the means and tools to let them achieve their goals. They push, encourage, guide and support others to be great at what they do.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:


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Shape Up or Ship Out: How to be Globally Relevant

Get hired/promoted/noticed—anywhere in the world—in five easy steps

By Nikki Constantino

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 6, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

Miranda*, 47, was on top of her game when news about the approval of her petition to migrate to the U.S. arrived. She was at executive officer level here in the Philippines, had a total of eight managers reporting directly to her, with a daily cup of coffee (black, two sugar) always waiting on her desk when she got to the office.

Settling down in New Jersey two months after the office despedida, it hit her that she was going to have a hard time finding work despite her stellar resume, when one morning she intended to make herself a cup of joe and realized she didn’t know how to work the coffeemaker. Without the managers doing her spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and a secretary to sort out her schedule, she knew only how to fire e-mails in Outlook.

With the American economy still looking bleak, there was absolutely no company that would hire her—at least for the big decision-maker position that she was accustomed to. Three long months later, Miranda found a job delivering medicine samples from one department to another in a local pharmaceutical company.

Rachel*, 29, on the other hand, was a dean’s lister in college—lowest grade 1.5, a regular at the library. After graduation she quietly established a career in writing and later on editing manuscripts by sticking with her company where she is known for being consistent and dependable. When the recent economic downturn forced her company to downsize, she was spared, but it meant that the remaining employees had to take on more work—and go out of their comfort zone.

Rachel was tasked to make cold calls and sell their product abroad by phone apart from her usual editorial work, but without giving it a try, she decided she couldn’t do that new aspect of the job and called it quits after two weeks.

Globally Relevant

“Grow with your job and promotions,” says Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources expert, in an article published in “You may be a valued employee but if your skills and contributions don’t accelerate over the years, when crunch time arrives, you may find yourself out of a job.”

This is most probably what happened with Miranda—the higher up the ladder she went and the more people there were at her beck and call, the more out of touch she got with technology. She learned too late that operating such technology comprises the skills that headhunters look for at hiring.

With Rachel, however, it was her inability to adapt to change, be flexible, and challenge her skills that did her in. Had she tried making even just one call, she would have known that it was not at all difficult, and she could have held on to a job that many would kill for especially in these bad times.

So if graduating cum laude or having a master’s degree does little in enhancing one’s career in the open global workplace, what will? Letty Altavas, organization consultant for Profiles Asia Pacific and a 40-year veteran of human resources management, and career expert Dr. Greg Ketchum of Talent Planet (, list down five new skills that an employee nowadays should have or acquire in order to thrive and succeed:

1. “Develop analytical skills.”  “Don’t just follow instructions like a robot,” says Altavas. “Always think why, how, what, where, etc. This will make you understand your work better and improve your skills and outlook on other jobs.” This may also mean exceeding expectations.

2. “Get to learn about other jobs around you and develop multitasking skills,” says Altavas.  Such is the case of Josie*, whose job was to come up with the monthly newsletter that her company blasts out to clients, but the artist she was teamed with often flaked out and often left her resizing images and polishing the layout herself. She was forced to learn Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver due to the artist’s absences. When her boss learned that the newsletter had become solely her output, he let go of the artist and gave Josie a significant pay increase.

3. “Keep climbing the skills (note: not corporate) ladder,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Remember the idea of the corporate ladder and how everyone was expected to climb that ladder to ever-higher levels of responsibility and success?” he asks. “Well, that ladder is kind of broken now, but we can take that same idea to describe what people need to do today: keep climbing up the ladder in building your levels of expertise and experience that enable you to do more complicated and custom work rather than work that can be reduced to a routine.”

4. “Develop proficiency in the English language,” advises Altavas. Or any language that you need to be fluent in, especially when you work for a business process outsourcing (BPO) company and have an international clientele.

5. “Develop specialized expertise that can’t be reduced to a simple formula,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Improve your communication, business, industry, and strategy skills. Your ability to see the big picture at work and understand how business works will allow you to see new opportunities and be able to personally add to the bottom line.”

*names have been changed

This article appeared in the April 19, 2010 issue of Business Agenda and originally published in the February 2010 issue of HIPP Magazine.

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Taking Your Feelings to Work

(Originally published on June 29,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Anne Kreamer

When I graduated from college in 1977, the world was still neatly divided into two spheres: work and everything else. Work was supposed to be a hyper rational realm of logic, filled with timetables, organizational charts and returns on investment. It was only outside of work that emotions—so dangerously ill defined and unpredictable—were

supposed to emerge.

But from the first day of my first real job, as an administrative assistant at the Park Avenue headquarters of a commercial bank that is now defunct, I realized that emotions were simmering everywhere in the workplace.

My desk, on the hushed, deep pile-carpeted executive floor, was a few feet opposite the restroom doors. (Clearly, I was lowest in the pecking order.) Every few days, one of the three executive women on my half of the floor would rush into the restroom and, after a little too long, re-emerge with the remnants of a good cry still visible on her splotchy face. I also watched men dash into the men’s room and leave a few minutes later, tight-lipped and ashen.

Even as a 21-year-old workplace neophyte, I realized that emotion is a force that underlies all of our behavior. For my book, “It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the

New Workplace,” I spent two years exploring Americans’ attitudes toward e my findings suggest this amended version of Descartes’s famous line: I think and feel, therefore I am.

In the old days—pre-Internet, pre-cellphones—it was a lot easier to believe “work equals rational” and “home equals emotional.” But now that work and home life constantly

bleed into each other, that distinction has become anachronistic and probably self-defeating. People text and e-mail their friends and family members throughout the workday, and they receive messages from colleagues and clients on nights and

weekends and during vacations.

The membranes between private life and work, especially office work, have always been porous, but today employers and employees expect accessibility and accountability pretty much round-the-clock. And whereas old-school office memos and business letters generally weren’t expected to be friendly or candid—that is, human—business e-mails

most definitely are.

Conversely, what used to be considered private behavior can instantly reverberate at work through social networking. People fire off e-mails late at night, only to regret

their tone and intent in the cold light of day. Facebook friends from work can stumble upon wild and crazy pictures from a bachelorette party. Tweets and anonymous mobile video uploads can instantly broadcast unflattering emotional displays by surly customer service employees or misbehaving C.E.O.’s.

The conventional wisdom used to be that we brought home the emotions we couldn’t express at work—snapping (or worse) at blameless partners and children. That is still true, but what’s new is that home life, with all its messy, complicated emotional currents, has become inextricably and undeniably woven into the workplace.

The rulebook for modern office etiquette has yet to be codified. How do we avoid hurting one another’s feelings if everything is supposed to be rational, yet also transparent

and accessible? How can others understand the emotion behind what we’re trying to say in an e-mail if no one takes the time to read beyond the subject line and the first sentence?

And the more we relegate communication to the electronic realm, the greater our longing for face-to-face contact. Our new “flat” organizational structures at work might seem to promote a more hang loose level of emotional expression. But, if anything, flatter organizations tend to require even higher levels of emotional competency and effort

in order to navigate amorphous command structures.

No one is sure where the lines are anymore. Should we high-five an underling? Is it cool to make jokes with the boss? What if we overhear the man in the next cubicle crying?

Clear rules for this new working world simply don’t exist. But one thing is certain. The Millennials, a generation raised with the 24/7 naked emotional transparency of texting and social networking, is now entering the work force by the millions each year. As they replace old-schoolers born in the 1940s and ’50s, there is no turning back to a compartmentalized world.

I like to imagine that if men and women were to express more emotion routinely and easily at work—jokes, warmth, sadness, anger, tears, joy, all of it—then as a people we might not feel so chronically anxious and overwhelmed. By denying the range

of emotional expressiveness intrinsic and appropriate to the workplace, we find ourselves at a loss for how to handle this brave new boundaryless world.

Overtly acknowledging how and in what measure anger, anxiety, fear and pleasure color and shape our working lives can help us manage those emotions and use them to our

benefit, both at work and at home.



A version of this article appeared in print on June 12, 2011, on page BU8 of the New York edition with the headline: Taking Your Feelings to Work.

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Best Careers in Human Resources Part 1

Published on Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By Jhoanna Gan-So

There are two types of jobseekers: Those who know exactly what they want, and those who have no clue as to what career to pursue, even after years of studying.

If you belong to the first group, good for you!  All you have to do is follow the direction that your heart takes you in, and you’ll be on your way to finding the career that you desire.

But for those who are not sure, those who have not yet zeroed in on a particular career, and those who are still searching, don’t worry.

Here’s another Career Guide that can help open your mind to more options and opportunities. For this month, I will focus on Best Careers in Human Resources. (If you are interested in other career options, check out past issues archived in my blog


Contrary to popular belief, HR is not just about paperwork and payroll processing. There are many facets to this exciting career, stimulating issues to challenge your mind, great rewards, and benefits.

First, let’s discuss what the requirements are if you want a career as an HR professional.

In terms of educational requirements, most four-year college degree-holders are sought for HR entry level positions. There is a preference for psychology, behavioral science, organizational communication, industrial relations, sociology, and humanities, but many companies are quite open to other general courses as well, since there’s really no “College of HR.”

In terms of attitude and skills, companies look for people who are good with people—meaning, good communication and interpersonal skills are must-haves if you want to pursue a career in HR.  Other wanted skills are organizational skills, records management, and leadership.

Many HR practitioners start out as HR assistants and administration officers, learning the ropes along the way and gaining knowledge as they work in this field. They are usually sent by their employers to HR seminars to arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. Many are trained on different HR functions such as recruitment and interviews, training and development, compensation and benefits, labor law, and employee discipline.

So if you are a new graduate or if you are thinking of shifting careers, HR is a field that’s quite easy to get into as the requirements for entry level positions are general. HR can be learned on the job; it will also help if you acquire additional knowledge through HR seminars and books (for more information about courses you can take, visit


As an HR practitioner, you can either be a generalist or a specialist. There are companies, usually SMEs, who look for generalists—HR people who can do all the functions of HR, sort of like jacks-of-all-trades. But there are also companies, usually those with big and compartmentalized departments, who look for specialists—HR positions where the job entails only a single but specialized function (ex. recruitment officer, training officer, payroll officer).

Being a generalist or a specialist has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are just starting in the field of HR, you may want to experience the different functions of HR to get a feel for the field, to find out where you are best suited and what you like the most.

My suggestion is to learn as much as you can about human resources. Get as much experience as you can with the different functions, then carve out a good stable career for yourself.


Like all careers, many HR practitioners start off as HR or administrative assistants. These entry-level positions usually come with entry-level (or a little above it) salaries.

As you gain experience, your salary and responsibilities rise. After a few years on the job, you may be promoted to HR supervisor or executive. You may have a generalist or specialist function, depending on the size of your company.

When you’ve got about 5 to 10 years experience, you may become a manager.  That’s where you gain more influence in your company, create programs that affect all employees, and get to work strategically with top management. Salaries at middle to top management levels are usually pretty good, as you are climbing the corporate ladder. Once you’ve proven yourself, gained extensive experience, and have stayed with your company long enough, you may reach AVP-VP levels.


A career in HR can be very rewarding. The financial rewards are usually commensurate to the work that you do, your knowledge and expertise, and your position level in the company. But aside from this, there are other perks to being part of HR.  Let me share some of them:

Influence with People Matters. As an HR practitioner, you will be in a position to advocate programs that will fill the needs and benefits of all employees in your company. You can directly make a difference in everyone’s lives and work relationships.

In the Know. Since you are the one hiring, processing the payroll, and recommending promotions, you will be privy to confidential information. This knowledge will allow you to benchmark your own position against those of others and you can negotiate well for yourself.

Being in the Loop. You will know what’s happening in the company, whether it be events, employee movements and management policies. You may even be tasked to lead most of these matters.

Last Ones to Go. During retrenchments, HR people are usually the last ones who will be let go. This is due to the practical reason that they are needed for the actual retrenchment process.

These are just some of the perks of being in HR. It’s an exciting field because you get to touch people’s lives directly. (To be continued on Sunday, June 13. For Part 2, I will discuss the different positions you can try or apply for in the field of human resources.)

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Work Life: Different Types of Interviews

(Originally published on May 19, 2010)


Find out what they are so you can prepare for them

Most of us have experienced one-on-one interviews where the recruitment officer asks questions and we answer them as best we can. But did you know that, depending on the position you are applying for and your entry level, you might encounter other forms of interviews? Let me share with you some of the most popular types of interviews so that you can come to any interview prepared, and you won’t get shocked if all of a sudden, you are asked to do something else other than just answer questions.


The most common type of job interview, this is usually the format you will encounter during first contact meetings. A recruitment officer will conduct testing and interview you as a first step. Once you pass this, you will then be called in for a second interview which is usually conducted by the supervisor or manager you will be working under. Depending on the hiring policy and procedure of the company, you may then be asked to return for a third interview. Otherwise, if your qualifications are suitable and the supervisor or manager gives the go-signal for hiring, you will meet the recruitment officer and receive a job offer.

This differs from company to company. Some companies have two to three series of interviews with different formats, but there have been cases where applicants are hired on the spot by smaller companies where you deal directly with the boss.


Increasingly becoming popular, phone interviews are done as a screening method before an actual face to face interview. Some recruitment officers prefer to ask questions during the first phone call so that they can see if you are applying for the appropriate job and if your circumstances suit you for the job. This saves them time and effort. When they see that the basics are covered, they will then schedule a face-to-face interview for you in that same call.

Meanwhile, other recruitment officers also use this type of interview, particularly if they are mass-hiring for back-end types of jobs (general documentation, billing, accounts, etc.). It is supposed to eliminate biases as they won’t immediately see your appearance and mannerisms.

Phone interviews are also best for long-distance interviews. Before asking you to travel and spend money to go to their main office, recruitment officers will do phone interviews first for your mutual benefit.


Most career fairs are used by companies to collect resumes. However, there are some instances wherein you will be given a chance to undergo a screening interview wherein the HR representative will allot 2-5 minutes for you. If you do well, you may be called in for a more in-depth interview. Since time is limited, you will have to take care to make a good first impression. So be sure to dress properly for job fairs; you never know when you might just get a quick interview right there and then.

When you are interviewed, be sure to smile. Listen attentively and give concise but informative answers. Thank the interviewer for his or her time and before you go, tell the interviewer that you would be available for a more in-depth interview anytime and that you are really interested in their company. Do this confidently and not desperately.


There are cases when you will be interviewed and tested with two or more other candidates who are all vying for the same position.  There could be two reasons for this. Either there’s only one job opening and the interviewer wants to see candidates prove themselves or there could be several job openings for the same position and the interviewer wants to see how well you can collaborate with other people. Testing your competence for collaboration is usually done in technology industries where employees work in teams to find solutions.


There are also instances wherein you will have to face three or more members of the organization. These may be the management committee or representatives of different departments that you will be closely working with.

This type of interview is usually done in academic institutions or for senior level positions. It is somewhat similar to your college thesis defense. It can be a bit nerve-wracking, so you will need to trust in yourself and believe that you can do it. The reason why this is done is because it saves time and effort for everyone, but more importantly, it also tests your ability to face a group of people, how well you can address their concerns, and perform with grace under pressure.


For careers that require public speaking such as event hosting and training, or on-cam jobs like acting, singing, or entertainment performance, you will most likely have to undergo an audition or screen test. You will be given a series of public-speaking exercises, reading lines, and impromptu tests. This is to see how well you are able to communicate with an audience, whether you are prepared or not. You will also be asked questions and it may feel like an interrogation, but it is a necessary part of an audition. Remember, when you are faced with this type of interview, just have fun, enjoy it, and bring out the star in you. You are being asked questions because they are interested in how you communicate with an audience or in front of a camera.

These are just some of the types of interviews that we normally use as HR practitioners. In fact, in our recruitment seminar, we further examine interview styles and questionnaires so that we find the best person for the job. As a job seeker, it is important for you to know what to expect and take time to mentally prepare for these types of interviews since some companies use several of these formats in their recruitment process. I hope this helps you job seekers prepare for and enjoy your interview! Good luck!

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