As you read this, I will be finishing a two-week volunteer trip to Cebu City in the Philippines. I’ll be immersed in our topic for this month – valuing diversity. Spending time with friends and colleagues who live and work in another culture helps me increase my cultural awareness, learn new things about myself, and challenge my assumptions about the world.
A colleague who has lived in Cebu wrote a story about going to a currency exchange that was out of pesos. The employees were working, but they were not able to help customers. This kind of thing occasionally happens due to glitches in the supply chain. He concluded:
Why don’t stores just close and send employees home early? I’m not sure exactly, but I don’t think they can. “Regular employment” is a technical category for employees in the Philippines. Employees who have regular status need to be paid when they are scheduled to work (and show up of course) even if there isn’t any actual task to be accomplished. You can’t shut down because this would deprive the employees of a benefit…and hopefully, your supplies could show up at any moment.
As an HR professional, that’s a different way to think about work. Businesses in Philippines seem to place a higher value on providing employment opportunities than is typical in the U.S. For example, the parking ramp near my building has switched from attendants to automated ticket machines. It’s hard to imagine that happening in Cebu. More likely, there would be one person employed to take your ticket and another to give your change. And they’d be wearing nice uniforms to announce that they work for the building management company.
There are all sorts of cultural and logistical issues embedded in this story and I understand only a fraction. But thinking about why people and organizations do what they do allows me to come back with new insights. It’s not necessary to spend 24 hours on an airplane to experience another culture. What experiences have you had with other cultures, and how has it impacted your leadership?
Dee Anne Bonebright