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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Addressing the Brain Drain

As a recruiter/headhunter, let me share with you some of my rough observations on the employment situation in the Philippines.

The latest data I got on overseas Filipino workers stats is 2006 which approximates it at around 8 million. It is needless to say that this number has increased significantly since then. Add to that the fact that many Filipinos go abroad as undocumented workers. Two out of three Filipinos who work abroad are skilled workers. Most of them are sea farers, nurses (and doctors turned nurses), engineers, IT professionals, teachers and accountants. A good number of them have significant years of working experience with supervisory and managerial capacities. This Diaspora is felt by the industries these people belong to in the Philippines. Because of the scarcity of skilled and experienced human resources here, companies are battling it out for the ones who decided to stay in the country (or the ones still waiting for the opportunity to leave). Often, the ones who win the best educated, trained and experienced workers are the big and multinational companies. With very little left for the small players.

The things I mentioned above are not the only causes for alarm. There is a marked reduction of applicants for positions in direct sales. A client lamented once that before the arrival of the call centers, they had applicants lining up outside the door, waiting for the opportunity to join the company. Now, they have to use the services of search companies like exeQserve to help them fill their vacancies. There used to be an overabundance of experienced accountants or accounting graduates. After the arrival of BPO and shared services companies, the applicants one gets are mostly chaff rather than grains.

The globalized business pace is manic. A lot of companies do not have the time and the patience of building employees capabilities from scratch. Much of the flattened, streamlined and right-sized organizations have lost their training capabilities. They want employees who can hit the ground running. They want as little to do with learning curve as possible and therein lies the problem. Add to that the increasing fear of training and then losing employees before companies get a good return on their training investments.

As the exodus of skilled workers continue and the number of big offshore companies setup their shared services shops here, the demand for the continually decreasing number of skilled workers will draw to a chaotic and frustrating pace. Soon, companies will look for people with certain skills and experience that only used to exist here unless we do something about it. By we, I mean our government, the educational institutions and the industries joining hands and creating programs that will feed the organizations the necessary talents they need to run their business and hence the economy. Let us address the great mismatch by requiring schools to update their teaching to suit the requirements of the industries. Let’s setup an effective training systems that make up for the need for lengthy experience. Let’s develop mentorship programs and require our managers to train successors. Government should offer incentives to organizations who participate in developing the country’s talent pool through partnership with schools or by putting up their own competency building program. There is a real reason for us to hurry up. Neighboring countries are building their capabilities. They are hiring our teachers to teach them how to speak English. They are getting our most experienced professionals to help develop their own pool. If we do not do anything about our depleting source of talents, it will be just a matter of time until our neighbors tell investors, go to us instead, we have plenty of capable workers that you will not find in the Philippines. I hate for that day to come.

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