PH firms prepare to restart, recover
With the significant blow dealt by the pandemic on the Philippines’ economy, thanks to lockdown measures that ground almost all activity to a halt, companies are gearing up to regain their losses—while ensuring that the health and safety of their workers, consumers, and the country’s front-liners are consistently guarded.
As it reopens its stores for dine-in services, homegrown coffee chain Bo’s Coffee also rolls out its COVID-19 Safety Plan for its team members. Some of the measures being implemented include: daily body temperature checks of each store personnel at the start of each shift; clothes and shoes sanitation of each employee upon arrival at the store; wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, face shields and gloves; and provision of foot bath/sanitation mat.
Team members will undergo online training on new and updated safety, cleaning and sanitation procedures. Strict cleaning and sanitation procedures during preopening and postclosing of the store will also be observed. While in operation, all points of contact and areas touched by customers and team members will be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
Since the washroom is considered a hot spot for bacteria, it will be kept locked; customers who need to use it are advised to ask a store team member to open it. It will also be sanitized after every use.
For Bo’s customers, expect hand sanitizers to be stationed at store entrances, and the cashier and bar areas. There will be markers on the floor to indicate proper distance between customers who are in line to order. Temperature checks by the store’s team members or security personnel will also be conducted.
Even air conditioning units and air vents will be thoroughly sanitized and cleaned at least once a week to make sure there is minimal chance of air contamination.
“Things will be very different with our stores now. [We will be] putting more emphasis on providing a safe and sanitary experience to both customers and team members,” says Bo’s CEO Steve Benitez. “But the one thing that will stay the same is the best Philippine coffee experience [we offer our customers], whether in the comfort of their homes or in our stores.”
The Aboitiz Group, meanwhile, has laid out an “agile” strategy for the remainder of the year for all of its business units, leveraging digital technology to restructure their work environment. As Sabin Aboitiz, Aboitiz group president and CEO, puts it: “Preventive measures are going to be the name of the game until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.”
Like other organizations, their employees’ protection was the No. 1 priority for the conglomerate, which meant the implementation of telecommuting and online work measures. Aboitiz says they also made it a point to first protect their employees and help them cope with the pandemic by allotting P900 million for financial assistance, which included the early release of their end-March salary and 13th or 14th month pay.
In addition, around P400 million in monetary and in-kind assistance was extended to serve affected communities, as well as medical and government front-liners nationwide. To date, the Aboitiz Group’s COVID-19 response efforts amounts to P1.8 billion, which excludes various payments waived, reduced, extended, or restructured to help customers cope with the impact of the virus.
Aboitiz also assures their stakeholders that the conglomerate is ready to serve their needs, despite having to cut their capital expenditure (capex) from the originally planned P73 billion to P47 billion. Most of the capex reductions are from the infrastructure, power and land units, and covers mostly operating, maintenance and expansion costs.
“Most of our businesses are in industries that are vital to keeping the economy running. Filipinos need electricity, food products and money, for example. And for our other businesses, we have been prudent in capital expenditure spending so this should not be much of a problem,” Aboitiz says.
Thanks to its successful transition to a digital system, UnionBank, for one, has been able to weather the pandemic. According to UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista, the crisis “has accelerated the coming of the digital world, as the bank saw its digital customers increase tenfold during the [enhanced community quarantine].” Aboitiz’s financial arm also announced an upgrade of its existing UnionBank Online application, which has allowed users to directly transfer funds nationwide to remittance centers such as Cebuana Lhuillier, LBC, PeraHub, and soon, Palawan Express—a useful service for those still unable to return home because of the lockdown.
Another one of Aboitiz’s digitally enabled solutions is The Good Meat by Pilmico, which has an online platform where customers can order fresh pork, ready-to-cook meat, and eggs. And with the boom of e-commerce, Aboitiz Land is also bracing itself for the rise in demand for new distribution centers and warehouse-type facilities.
“Digital infrastructure investments in previous years and regular business continuity planning has allowed us to cope with the adverse impact of COVID-19. While it’s anyone’s guess how the future will unfold, we assure our stakeholders that we are fully equipped and prepared to guarantee the continuity of all business transactions,” Aboitiz says.
People are also the driving force of multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) efforts to weather the COVID-19 crisis. The company also draws strength from its “enduring culture,” which, says P&G Philippines country human resources leader Vince Dizon, is also why the company has lasted 85 years in the country.
“We are consistent with our purpose, values and principles, which are timeless and boundless, and is brought to life daily by our people around the world,” Dizon says.
And a health crisis does not, by any means, change the company’s culture.
“This situation actually reinforced how we must continue prioritizing people as our most important assets. When we take care of our people, they are able to focus and be more effective in taking care of their teams and the business of serving consumers with needed essential goods,” Dizon says.
As a global company, P&G’s systems have been built for engagement amid physical distance, for employees to be able to reach out to each other to across countries and across time zones. Once separated by the lockdown, the company’s 2,000 employees, Dizon says, brought their company culture to life daily through three Cs: care, through “Alagang P&G” program; communication done regularly by leaders and their team members through virtual town halls and other online meetings; and community corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Alagang P&G is a new program designed to care for employees across the company’s workplaces, factoring in the unique new challenges brought about by the pandemic. All employees still working on the company’s front lines, such as plant workers, are provided with hygiene kits, PPE and vitamins, and are ensured 100 percent pay continuance.
“For our work-from-home (WFH) employees, we want to ensure that they also enjoy a healthy work-life balance physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually,” Dizon says. “We revamped our ‘Vibrant Living’ wellness programs so employees can enjoy different online activities together. We have regular online fitness classes, mental health classes, cooking and barista classes, and even virtual recollections. This program will continue to evolve as we move forward to a ‘new normal.’”
Dizon adds that because of this unprecedented situation, P&G is currently reviewing how to evolve their WFH policies to ensure that even postquarantine, people can safely and effectively work.
And to continue engaging employees in the company’s CSR programs, P&G has the “Safeguarding the Front-liners” program. So far, they have been able to provide hygiene product kits for 15,000 front-liners, as well as 50,000 face masks and 5,000 PPE suits to COVID-19 hospitals in Metro Manila and Cabuyao, Laguna.
They have also set up a new face mask manufacturing line at their Cabuyao Plant, which is set to produce one million masks for donation that will be coursed through government health authorities and agencies, as well as for the company’s internal use to protect employees as they produce essential products.
“This situation has shown [us] how we can connect even more efficiently and effectively than what many employees thought possible,” Dizon says.
“People will be living in a new, significantly altered new normal post this pandemic. It won’t be easy for many companies and people to go through this change. My advice to other companies would be: Keep your people as your top priority. Find, learn and adopt creative, digital/virtual solutions and policies as early as now. And find new and meaningful ways to keep your people engaged and healthy.”
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