Delivering HR That Matters Today and Tomorrow

President Gerry A. Plana, DPM Inaugural Address



Good afternoon, everyone. To our esteemed guests, PMAPers, and friends. Allow me to share my thoughts together with the 2019 board so far as how we want to go this year with this very simple, basic presentation of some ideas.


I wanted to start of with in 2017, Past President Mon Segismundo, who is known as Mr. Disruption himself, disrupted many things during his term. He disrupted the Annual Conference. He disrupted the GMM. He even disrupted the recent elections and he disrupted me. But one of the greatest things that happened during Pres. Mon’s term was we started the PMAP logo change. That was when it all began. Now when we take a look at 2018, the keyword that IPP Michelle Garcia presented was the word FOCUS and it was in this year that we had a lot of things that were completed as a result of what we started in 2017 because of the FOCUS and the order and the efficiency President Michelle had set. When you come to think about these two words, disruption and focus, the words that come to mind which resemble these are innovation and efficiency. Another pair of words that come to mind are order and chaos. But the kind of chaos that disruption brings is the kind of destruction that excites and energizes. It is a positive energy that we want to see as a result of what we disrupt.


The thing is, some people say this is sometimes an either-or situation. We either go for innovation at the expense of efficiency or we go for efficiency at the expense of innovation. But I would like to pick up one thing I learned from an old book by Jim Collins which he wrote in 1994, Built to Last, and it was very well-explained in this book this concept about the Tyranny of the “Or” and the Genius of the “And.” He says that the higher order intelligence that we need to navigate today’s environment requires the ability to unite opposites, the ability to unite extremes. This is where he mentions the genius of the And. It’s no longer going to be an either-or proposition, it’s going to be an “and.” “And” means that it’s not just balancing, it means integration. We want to explore the best of the two sides of things. When we reflect on these thoughts and take it down to our profession and we did a lot of FGDs during 2017, one of the questions I asked our participants in the FGDs was “When you think about PMAP, what is the first word you think of?” The word that came out here is HR.


Now let me reflect on this. I was just talking with Raju, my seatmate earlier, about the visit of Peter Senge very recently. It was one of those moments when we invited him over during a PMAP occasion where Peter Senge mentions that he is not comfortable with the word resources. As a matter of fact, he mentions that this could be a very demeaning word because he reminded us what it meant. He said “Don’t you know that resources means something that is on standby for use?” and we cannot possibly refer that when it comes to people. That kind of observation really made me think hard about HR and is there another word we can use to replace resource to make it more acceptable. That made me reflect and think and I came up with some suggestions. I’d like to share, the first one is what if we just called it Vice President for Human Requirements? It doesn’t seem exciting though. Vice President for Human Requirements is unexciting, too straightforward. I read recently in a report on job exodus in the UK in 2019 and it was alarming to discover that ½ of the UK workforce wants to get out of their jobs. They’re complaining about the environment being toxic, being not fit for humans. So probably I thought another possible R word would be something like this – Vice President for Human Remains. It does not sound good as well. So as we take a look at our discussions in the last years, it was all about AI, Robotics. We had a lot of talks on these topics. The scary and exciting possibilities that technology will bring. The possibility of machines taking over a lot of what humans have been doing. Probably, we should even call our profession – Vice President for Humans and Robots moving onto the future as we see ourselves working with more intelligent machines.

But sometimes, we forget when we get so enamored with AI and Robotics that we forget that there are a lot of potentials for people too. It’s not just about machine potentials that we should get excited about. We should get more excited about our profession, about human potentials. And talking about human potentials and how to unleash these potentials, then probably, we could call ourselves VP for Humans Rising or Humans Raised or in short, VP for the Human Race in a globalized economy.


Now, HR Matters is the short term for how we see 2019 and it’s a great continuation for 2017 to 2018 and today because in 2017, Mon disrupted things. President Michelle focused on a lot of things to see it to completion and so I say in 2019, the bottomline of all of that is we want to matter. We want to deliver HR that truly matters to our organizations. So given that, HR Matters could be a phrase that is desired by the young HR professionals. It is probably something that is experienced by seniors like us and if we are PMAP leaders, we would want to communicate it to the rest of the world that HR does indeed matter.


In three slides I want to tell you the history of HR. Once upon a time, HR was like this. What does the big H represent and what does the R stand for? It simply meant that if H is for people and R is about resources which pertains to the business, it means that once upon a time, we HR practitioners were so enamored by HR technologies and HR techniques that we didn’t mind understanding the business. As a matter of fact, I remember one account when I was in a conference in Hong Kong a few years back and there was in this conference several CEOs on stage and I raised the question while we were talking on the topic of succession management. I asked a very simple question, “Is it ever possible in your organizations that the HR becomes the next CEO?” and I immediately got the response “It cannot be because the HR does not know the business.” It was a response that remained in my memory for many years and probably this is because we were so enamored with people things and we didn’t mind what was on the business side. So in response to this, I remember a period when we started reversing this and all we talked about was business partnering wherein we would be the business partner of the CEO. But in the process of doing that, the H or human part became a little less. Again, going back to the Senge experience, one of the questions we asked him when we invited him here in PMAP was “Mr. Senge, what do you see is the biggest threat moving forward?” and he answered that in a very profound way. He said “The greatest threat I see is the diminishing appreciation of “human-ness.” The decreasing appreciation of human-ness. Isn’t this what is happening, that’s why in conferences abroad we see topics like “Can We Bring the Human Back in HR?” Can we bring back in the human in HR while being good business partners? Let us not forget the human side because after all that’s what we’re here for. I propose we take a look into H & R on an even level. I’d like to make a distinction between good and great HR today. Good HR work is when you become a good HR business partner. You’re very strong in the R. But you become a great HR practitioner if you are able to advance the business interests but at the same time advancing the well-being of people. That is the power and the genius of the “and.” We need to clearly see the connection between the people and the business side.


As we reflect and as we do all our activities for this year, this is the whole statement that we see around us. We want to deliver HR that matters, and we mean great HR work, today and tomorrow.

Let’s talk about today. What do we find today? This is about us and any professional association would be concerned about its own professional growth, isn’t it? My formula for our continuing to advance our profession is a simple triangle like this. It starts with HR fundamentals. This is a forever thing. We need to be continuously updated whether its on performance management or industrial relations. This is our main staple. There are so many developments coming that we need to be consistently updated. This is a never-ending challenge for us. We need to be on top of this game. But if we truly want to be business partners, I think we need to see the line going into business literacy. We heard this from the interviews of CEOs earlier, isn’t it? The need for business acumen or business literacy. We need to step up our business literacy or business understanding level because it’s only in trying to apply what we know in HR to solve business issues and challenges can we truly claim ourselves to be business partners. But I think there is still a lot to be done in the business literacy side – understanding the strategy, what do I need to understand about finance to make my HR interventions work for the organization, and so on. Given this year, we’re going to take a look at that. We’ll have research. We’ll have some training. We’ll have some consultation and round table discussions, but we’ll need to deep dive into what does it take for an HR to be a true business partner in terms of the level of business literacy that is needed. This is the R side of HR or the resource side. Let’s take a look at the human side. The human side is how can I use my HR fundamentals to be able to promote the well-being of employees or people. This is the human side and well-being – is there a difference between the words we’ve used all these years? Welfare, wellness, well-being. You know welfare is a very reactive term because it prevents suffering. We went into the proactive stage on this and used wellness and although it took a look at the whole, it focused on the physical aspect. I think the keyword for well-being is the word being, the process of becoming. I think in the process of advancing business interests, we need to advance the total well-being of our employees because that is the only sustainable strategy. In the end, that is what can make businesses sustainable. Again, we apply the power and the genius of the “and” and so I want to be a good business partner promoting at the same time the well-being of people. That is what great HR work means to us.


Let’s talk about tomorrow. There’s one aspect to tomorrow that we need to give our attention to – the future supply of HR professionals. I’ve had the personal experience when I got involved in some schools that told me that there were some HR courses that are suffering from dwindling enrollees. As a matter of fact, it’s gotten so low in some cases that they close the HR program already. That is worrisome from a quantity perspective. But the other side of tomorrow is the quality side, the quality of HR education. So I was thinking if there is something we can do to improve that quality of HR education, if we can just have a dialogue and a training with the teachers of HR and the practitioners of today, then probably we can influence how students of HR today are taught, with the hope that when they practice in the future they can become better than us. I think that is our responsibility as a professional organization. We have started something last year during the time of Pres. Michelle, we called it the TEACH program where we gathered a few HR teachers and we ran a several days program updating them on HR, making them see what are the current practices so that when they teach their students, they would be able to benefit from that. Can you imagine what would happen if we could just reach 100 teachers today? And if each of these HR teachers had 20 students, that is about 2,000 students. 2,000 students just this year alone and we could have made them better HR professionals that would make and deliver great HR work. What is the impact of this to our organizations and to the country as a whole? That is the kind of thing that we need to get ourselves engaged in. It’s not just today but it’s about tomorrow. But moving forward to tomorrow, I think the greatest challenge we need to do because PMAP is PMAP and we have the manpower to do it, we can say that we can do great HR work for the country as well. That’s why right now and part of our 5-year plan is the creation of a national HR agenda. We would like to initiate a national conversation that can probably craft at some point a winning national HR agenda, capitalizing on the best of the Filipino to bring the best to the country. I think our collective efforts and our collective minds might be able to just add a lot of value to whatever we have right now as far as a national HR agenda. We have started that process of building alliances and having these conversations and we want to at the end of the year have something a little bit more concrete so that we can move towards the crafting of a national HR agenda that is adopted by the Philippine government. I’d like to enjoin the members to play an active role this year. I see a lot of my batchmates here who have resurrected themselves from their inactive years and I’m glad to see them really. We need each one to be able to bring these to fruition.


To end, I would like to go back to our logo, one of the greatest contributions of the 2018 Board is the change of our logo. It’s an upbeat logo. It’s a logo that says that we are in the people business because that’s a human figure. But what is not discussed here is something that I want to emphasize here and something that best describes the 2019 Board and I would like you to pay attention to the figure with one foot raised up. This would be the best way to describe your 2019 Board as we did our planning because we are eager to take a giant leap in advancing HR during our term. I would like you to be inspired by the kind of leadership that your Board for 2019 will bring because in the end, what we want to see happen is that we want to be proud of our own profession for we can say I Matter, We Matter collectively because the kind of work we do truly matters. Thank you very much.

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