Years ago, I started working as a preschool teacher for a progressive school in San Juan. Its connection to my HR career may not be immediately apparent but bear with me. It actually has a lot to do with my journey to where I am today.
Learning the Fundamentals in Preschool
Back when I was a teacher, I would start my day at 5 a.m., commute for at least an hour, and sometimes spend a good portion of it standing in crowded buses. At 7:45 a.m., I would be at school greeting my students, 3–4-year-olds with insane amounts of energy. I had to sneak a sip of coffee after each activity just to keep up with them. Saying that I was always stressed and tired would be an understatement.
My job required creativity, grit, patience, people skills, and of course, compassion. But taking care of young children also gave me a sense of purpose. The drive to create valuable experiences for students kept me going despite the long days and sleepless nights.
Teachers work hard to create magic in the classroom so kids can learn and enjoy at the same time. We also cultivate meaningful experiences that will elevate their self-development. Things clicked for me when I realized this. As adults, we spend most of our time at work, continuously learning and working hard to improve ourselves. Why, then, can’t we have that same passion and drive for creating meaningful workplace experiences? Soon after this, I decided to pursue a career in Human Resources.
Defining My Personal Mission as an HR Professional
When I transitioned into my first Administration/HR role, I thought that I will not be able to apply my experience as a preschool teacher. Surprisingly, I found that they share the same principles that helped me in my new role. For example, I needed to be creative when organizing events and programs to keep the people I worked with engaged. Grit was also required to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of keeping operations afloat, even though this meant endless paperwork, spreadsheets, and emails. When resolving conflicts and easing tension between my co-workers, a level head and patience were my best friends. The communication and people skills I harnessed over the years came in handy when negotiating breaks and deadlines not only with kids but adults as well. Compassion was the filter that I had to apply in all situations – from an employee’s well-being to decisions and discussions around important changes in the organization. These eventually led me to focus on organizational development. I made it my mission to create a great workplace for my co-workers and an organization where they can maximize their potential.
Organizational development, at its core, is really about people development. And as research shows, people perform better and are happier when they feel that their environment fosters that growth. A big part of HR’s role in this mission is to create that kind of culture. But what makes a workplace great?
I found the answer at an HR event where I encountered Great Place to Work® (GPTW) for the first time. Their mission and vision immediately captured my attention:
“To build a better world by helping organizations become great places to work for all.”
There, I listened to GPTW Philippines Managing Partner Antoniette “Toni” Talosig speak eloquently about what makes a workplace stand out. Essentially, it is where you trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do, and enjoy the people you work with. She added that this is what they hope to create and experience whenever they work with organizations. That stuck with me and guided me throughout the rest of my HR journey, a journey that led me to work alongside Toni and the rest of the Great Place to Work® team a year later.
Helping Organizations Become Great Workplaces
Currently, I have the privilege of working with many people towards the goal of improving workplace experiences all over the country. These are not just leaders from HR, but from different departments, countries, and even those at the executive level.
The Great Place to Work® process is valuable to companies looking at assessing and evaluating their culture and elevating their employer brand. During the onboarding sessions, we discuss their culture strategy goals and see how we can support them in achieving those with the help of the Trust Index® survey and the For All™ model.
We don’t only focus on Great Place to Work Certification™, but we also look at the company’s data and share with them insights and best practices from the Best Workplaces™ in the Philippines and the rest of the world. Overall, the program aims to celebrate these amazing organizations and encourage others to follow suit.
The Need for Trust and Compassion During a Pandemic
In 2020, we experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on how we work. Since then, there has been a greater focus on employees’ well-being and how employers take care of them, not just as an employee, but as individuals, regardless of their role in the company. The organizations I’ve worked with truly put their people first and showed bold acts of leadership despite the challenges. They tapped into their mindset of compassion and creating environments of trust to make employees feel safe, not just physically but psychologically as well.
Having a broader view of these different HR practices and workplace cultures across locations and industries only grew my love for what we do and our collective purpose in uplifting the workplace experience in the Philippines.
If you value Credibility, Respect, and Fairness in your leaders, Camaraderie with your colleagues, and Pride in the work that you do, then you’re one step closer to that goal. Ultimately, what I learned from working with these Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies is that everyone wants meaningful experiences at work, and everyone can contribute to making their organization a great place to work.
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Denise is a people advocate and a firm believer that company success is a direct result of employee success. Her mission at Great Place to Work® is to help her clients evaluate and elevate their company culture. When she’s not managing projects, weekends are spent meditating to music, watching films, reading tarot, or experimenting in the kitchen. Her idea of a perfect day includes an iced coffee by the beach, freediving in the ocean, making art, and eating good food with friends and family.