Fellow Executives and Staff-members of the Lopez Group, Friends and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish all of you a very good morning.
The theme you have chosen for our HR Summit this year is: “KEEP UP, MOVE UP, LEVEL UP HRs!” If this were a collegiate basketball game, then I’d say that those were fighting words. They are the words of warriors exhorting themselves to gallantry on the eve of battle. Or of athletes pumping themselves up in order to achieve a record-breaking performance. Or of the dedicated core of managers that you are, determined to meet the business challenges of our times.
And well you should be. For if we have learned anything from the eighty years that the Lopez businesses have been in existence, we have learned that crisis is always just around the corner. We have always steeled ourselves for the next challenge, undaunted, yet fully aware that we are neither invincible, nor impervious to failure. That we have always been able to resurrect ourselves, like the proverbial phoenix, gives us the confidence that we can overcome any challenge. Yet, that is never an excuse for being unprepared.
Today, even as we take a welcome respite from the corporate wars that we have had to fight for the better part of ten years, at least one of our businesses is again in crisis mode. At FPIC, we continue to address the consequences of a leak that had eluded us despite the array of leading edge tools and technologies that we had deployed, first, to prevent such a leak from occurring, and second, to warn us if a leak had taken place or was about to take place. For forty years, we had operated and maintained our pipelines to the highest standards of safety and efficiency. But that never meant that a malfunction could never occur. And when it finally did, those leading edge tools and technologies let us down.
And yet there is a simple cause for that leak and our own FPIC officials had forewarned the government about it when the Bureau of Public Highways decided to build the Magallanes overpass on top of our pipeline in 1976, that the weight of all the trucks and cars passing over the overpass would in time put undue stress and pressure on our pipeline and our top FPIC officials at the time had put in their protest to the government and we have the FPIC letter to attest to this complain but it was martial law at the time and nothing came of our protest and it took a UP geologist, working for Makati City, to find leak without the benefit of all the sophisticated equipment we used. He used common sense to look for where the stress is on our pipeline to find the leak.
This is now a case for our lawyers to decide if the residents of the West Tower Condominium filed a case against FPIC, should our lawyers also file a case against the Bureau of Public Highways. At least it would put the blame where it properly belongs
KEEP UP, MOVE UP, LEVEL UP…this is the challenge that you have set for yourselves and in this, I am in total agreement with you. It is a very exciting time for our businesses. Fortunately, Asia has been spared the worst effects of the economic crisis that continues to depress the rest of the world. Our economy continues to move forward, as do those of our neighbors, in an environment that is singularly optimistic. Closer to home, we have overcome the best efforts of our adversaries to take over our businesses, or to drive us out of business. For the most part, they have vanished into relative anonymity, even as we have emerged stronger, and better poised for a brighter future. We are going through a management succession that, in some ways, also represents a generational change, as those of us over sixty give way to our younger peers. We have sought, and we continue to seek, any opportunity to grow and improve our businesses. The strongest examples of this are the acquisition of EDC and the emergence of First Philec Solar as our largest-ever investment in manufacturing. Significantly, in both instances, the need for a deep managerial bench was made abundantly clear to all of us.
As of last count, a total of forty-nine officers and employees of First Gen and First Holdings have had to be seconded to EDC in order to fill in key vacancies in the organization. The number stood at fifty until we had to pull Tony Mabasa out to head the FPIC crisis committee. We have similarly stripped First Philec in order to meet the rapid organizational build-up at First Philec Solar. This is something we have had to do because we did not have the time to identify and recruit from the outside in order to fill our needs. In many cases, we were unable to find the right people even though we head-hunted extensively for them. But this is not a sustainable solution to our needs. Today, we can probably say that our managerial bench is empty. We have no substitutes available, and the companies from whom we took people are hamstrung in their ability to pursue further sectoral expansion.
This, then, is where you have to move up and level up as our HR resource. The traditional roles that you have performed will continue to be yours to perform – payroll and benefits administration, performance monitoring and management, training and development, workplace counseling, and the many other nurturing activities that you undertake everyday to ensure that our employees have a work environment that is conducive to their good performance.
But an even more important role that you must play as we move forward is that of being a strategic partner to your Chief Executives in developing the managerial talent and bench that we so sorely need if we are to attain our growth objectives. “Strategic Human Resources Management”… management of human capital…these seem to be the buzzwords seen in business bookstores these days. What do they mean? I’m sure I could find a dozen definitions just by “googling” the words, but here’s one that adequately serves the purpose:
“Strategic human resource management is the process of linking the human resource function with the strategic objectives of the organization in order to improve performance.”
And what does this really mean in the context of our particular Lopez Group challenges? Well, I guess that it means you have to be part of the strategic conversations and dialogues that continuously shape our strategies and plans and adjust them to our changing realities. But, to be a participant in those dialogues, you have to have something meaningful to contribute, and that must always start with your mastery of the subject matter. Where is the company headed? Do we have the right people to get it to where we want it to go? How do we prepare our people for the managerial tasks ahead? How do we motivate them to perform at their best? And if we don’t have the people on hand, where and how do we go about getting them on board?
Permit me to now shift to another topic, and another valuable lesson that we have gained from the adversities that we’ve had to overcome.
A crisis happens when we are blind-sided by events or realities that we absolutely fail to anticipate. Because we are caught by surprise, we are unable to react fully, properly and immediately to whatever threatens us. In time, the crisis passes. We are able to collect our wits, marshal our resources, and bring them to bear in the proper manner and in the proper doses. Solutions are found, and the threat is removed. The real danger occurs during that period of time that passes between the event that provokes the crisis, and our getting to grips with it. That is where our training pays off, to the extent that we can condition ourselves to react automatically to counter the threat. The latest pipeline incident, however, reminded me of something even more important. When we are under clear and present danger, when we have to act and make decisions under enormous pressure and before we can clearly think things through, more important than the training, it is our unity and values that protect us. Unity enables us to accomplish together, what we could never hope to accomplish alone, even though the accomplishment might be the simplest act of coping, as opposed to panicking. Our values give us the confidence to act and to make necessary decisions, because intuitively, we believe that we do things for the right reasons, and those values have never let us down in the past.
These, then, are the other things that, as custodians of our human resources, you must seek to nurture and develop, particularly among fellow employees who are new to our businesses. Our unity. Our values.
I bid all of you a very good morning, once again, and I extend to you my best wishes for a most productive summit. There are words from William Shakespeare that I’ve always wanted to use, and this, perhaps, is the appropriate time for them, and I quote:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea we are now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”