Robert Walters Leadership Podcast E13: Conversation with Eric Magdato, Lingaro
Even as employees welcome greater work flexibility during this ‘new normal’, how have companies adapted to running businesses with their stakeholders being mostly ‘out of offices’?
Episode thirteen of our Talent Talk with Robert Walters podcast in South East Asia sees Eric Magdato, Country Head – Philippines at Lingaro, sharing his insights and advice on enabling greater flexibility in workplaces.
From having ‘office as an option’ to making the most of the current volatile climate to implement changes and show employees you care, Eric reveals how we all can make work ‘something we do’ and not ‘something we commute to’.
Our Robert Walters Leadership Podcast is part of our Talent Talk series, where we feature leaders from diverse industries and the sharing of their experience, advice, and insights into the world of work. Watch the videocast of this episode here.
Rexanne Gali: I'm Rexanne Gali, Principal Consultant of the Tech and Transformation division at Robert Walters Philippines. I'm your host for this episode of our Talent Talk with Robert Walters. It's actually our leadership series where we interview business leaders, recruitment experts and career growth specialists on their careers, leadership lessons, and the latest talent trends.
Today, it's my pleasure to have Eric Magdato, Country Head of the Philippines at Lingaro, join us. Welcome, Eric, and thank you for being part of this episode.
Eric Magdato: Hi Rexanne. Thank you for inviting me and thank you to the whole Robert Walters team for having me here.
Rexanne: Sure. It's our pleasure, Eric. Well, great, for our listener, who might not know Eric, Eric is an experienced leader in the IT services sales and delivery field, where he has consistently driven growth, innovation, and client success across top global companies, such as IBM, SAP and currently, Lingaro.
I understand Eric is passionate about building and motivating dynamic teams and developing leaders in organisations, so we are definitely very honoured to have Eric share his insights with us today. Without further ado, let's begin with our first question. I hope you don't mind, Eric? Let's go straight to it.
Eric: Yeah, sure.
Rexanne: Okay. Well, two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many professionals have visibly shifted their priorities when it comes to work. So comparing the situation now to the start of the pandemic, what do you think are the biggest differences or changes for companies and employees?
Eric: Thanks, Rexanne. Well, at first, working from home became a necessary stopgap measure for all of us, for all companies, just to keep the business running amidst the COVID-19 crisis. And as we all know, it has actually evolved into a new business paradigm. So over the course of almost two years, since the pandemic began, I think the biggest difference for both companies and employees is how well they have adapted to the new business paradigm, where most if not all, are working remotely. So there has been a shift in the general attitudes towards the workplace, as businesses and employees reflect on the true value that a workplace brings.
So most people have actually come to realise that work is something that we actually do, and not something that we commute to. That's a realisation during this pandemic. The pandemic has actually accelerated the existing trends in remote work, in e-commerce, and in automation. Hence, these have been critical to how companies were able to continue and thrive in the past two years, including Lingaro of course.
So for employees, I've seen many people trying to cope with mental health challenges brought about by the new setup - working in isolation, the lack of interaction, and basically having no clear boundaries between work and personal space. So this continues to be a challenge, a very hot topic still for a lot of people. But I think more and more people have actually adjusted and accepted the fact that this is actually the new normal. And on the positive side, many employees have praised their newfound flexibility, where they can balance their time for their work and time for their own families.
For employers, the main challenges or the main challenge is really about running the business effectively even when employees, their clients and partners aren't in their offices. So negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback for employees, even onboarding new employees are examples of activities that many feared may lose some effectiveness when done remotely. And after two years, most companies have adapted well through the use of technology. And in fact, a lot of companies have expanded their candidate pool since remote employees can be situated anywhere. So now, this is a new challenge on its own that employers will continue to face globally, as we see a more competitive labour market that we are already seeing today.
Rexanne: Alright, well, I think one of the things that we have also seen in terms of the effect is the initiatives of companies when it comes to digital transformation. I believe that because of this situation, it has somehow accelerated that for some companies. But I agree that there's still some things that need to improve especially with the current situation. So thanks for that, Eric.
Well, this is something I think I have experienced personally. So in the Philippines, we have seen many employees leave or candidates reject hiring offers when organisations require them to work in offices with no option whatsoever for hybrid or work from home arrangements. So do you see this happening in your sector? How is Lingaro evolving to address such a workplace normal?
Eric: Oh yes, Rexanne, this is very true, especially for IT. IT people would want to have that flexibility, especially that they expect that being in an IT company, you would have the right collaboration tools and the right technologies to use for remote work.
So in the past, providing a remote work or work from home models were nice-to-have benefits, but for some companies and employees now, we really feel that it is actually a necessity. So the remote work arrangement has become a necessity as employees see this as a must-have in the current times. Hence, employers need to provide the right kind of flexibility to be able to retain people, and at the same time, compete in the market for new talent, just as what you just shared. Lingaro has invested heavily in bringing three important aspects or initiatives to its employees during the pandemic.
Number one is of course the health and safety for our employees and their families. We've actually aligned our benefits according to the present needs of our workforce. We provided internet connectivity for everyone, mental health awareness training, access to health professionals even at their homes, providing personal care kits, extending benefits coverage to senior and even super senior members of the family, which is actually well-accepted and loved by our employees. Now, in terms of IT again, if we look at IT people, they are what I call problem solvers, and as problem solvers, you need to continuously learn and develop your skills.
So in Lingaro, despite the pandemic, despite all the bad market conditions globally, we continuously provided learning and development opportunities for our people. Case in point, there was a time that for a few months, we halted our hiring and recruitment to be able to focus more on our business resiliency. What we did was to provide even our HR team, our recruitment team, with the necessary training for them to be able to do some automation work for our HR operations. So data analytics plays an important role, and even for HR, our HR people, they were able to enjoy these opportunities for their own learning and development. So that's the second one - about learning and development.
And thirdly, we have invested in employee engagement and interaction wherein we realised that despite that we all work from home, the human touch, the human interaction with our employees is very important. So we created interest groups, we constantly provide periodic virtual games or team integration activities just to keep the people feeling that they belong still to the group and to the whole Lingaro. So it is an essential part of our initiatives. And one of the more important adjustments we did was in opening the flexibility of our people to choose their work location. If in the IT world you would hear software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service, right? This hybrid model was coined by our CEO as office-as-an-option, so the hybrid work model being called as office-as-an-option. And Lingaros from our global locations love this. We all love the flexibility of being able to make a choice. So this is very important because if you listen closely to the people, there are members who are saying that they don't want to go back to the way things were, prior to the pandemic, at least not entirely. So it has been great for many to have additional time with the family and to work from home in slippers, avoiding the commute, especially the Manila commute.
For some, their homes weren't exactly wonderlands where they would have a great working condition, they would be happy to return to the office, even on certain days. So in essence, and not surprisingly, most people want to work from home to a certain degree, but still have that flexibility to go to the office, collaborate with people, interact with people on certain days where they deem necessary, or they deem fit for their schedules. So I think that sense of belonging - people miss other people. I think we all do, right? So that is very important. And that is something that we have opened for all our employees across our global locations.
Rexanne: So in your view, I know we touched on a bit about this already, but what do you think are the other key challenges for leaders and managers like yourself when it comes to hybrid or remote working?
Eric: Sure, I think we need to step back a bit. You know, I was also a long time IBM employee as what you've mentioned in the introduction. And if you recall, IBM is actually a pioneer of remote work. So when I joined the company, we were already implementing remote work, and that has continued for so many years.
We, as IBMers at that time, myself, we were really loving the fact that we had that kind of choice. And a few years ago, that was probably three or four years ago, I was shocked to know that IBM has called most of its off-campus workforce back to its office. You know why? To improve innovation. So I think this underlines so well, the challenge of purely having a remote workforce. So offices as spaces are critical for creativity, for sharing knowledge, collaboration and interaction. Face-to-face interactions between humans build long-time trust and rapport in a way that remote working doesn't, and those things are the very foundation of having an effective team working together.
I mean, these are the building blocks of creativity, and the other facet that is important for me as we work through this pandemic is about trust and transparency. The focus is on output rather than the hour spent in the office. And we need to continue giving the trust to our people, while of course holding each other accountable for each other's action or inaction. So trust from all levels of the organisation is essential to continue building a highly efficient workforce, especially during this crisis.
And lastly, transparency is very key. There is an even more pressing need for leaders to be more transparent about business decisions and business performance. I think people need to know how the business is performing and why certain decisions are made, and also what are the plans ahead for the organisation. So I think these things are very important during this pandemic time.
Rexanne: Alright. Thanks, Eric. I think two keywords that you've mentioned - trust and transparency. So for my next question, for firms in the IT or Tech and Transformation sector, what are the key opportunities that you are foreseeing, as we steadily emerge from the pandemic and workplaces adopt hybrid work arrangements?
Eric: Okay. Maybe not just for the IT industry but in general, we see that there are more opportunities for companies to go global, as people, or as work locations are no longer that important. And we see that the trend of hiring more and more people outside of Metro Manila, or even outside of the main cities of the Philippines, or even outside the Philippines, is becoming a trend for IT. We see that more and more companies have the opportunity to look for more talent outside and also hire these talent within their companies. So it's a growing pool, and it's actually a challenge for most of us, while at the same time having that opportunity to grow our talent pool.
In a general sense, I think with all these uncertainties that we face and we continue to face, now that we are still in this pandemic, and as there is also an ongoing conflict in Europe, I think flexibility will be the name of the game moving forward. Companies who would be able to provide the flexibility for its people, for its partners and for its clients is very important. And us as leaders have the flexibility to change a lot of things in order to prepare ourselves post-pandemic - how we will be able to make our organisations really resilient to these kinds of changes.
It is actually an opportune time to show also our people that we care, especially in the most difficult times; we care during the best and during the worst of times. So this is how actually people really see if the organisation is a people-first company, or having a people-first culture.
Rexanne: Before we end this session, I know you have already shared a lot with us today, but any other points that you would like to add or share with the audience right now, Eric?
Eric: Okay, Rexanne. I think the last message I want to share with the audience here is that, now that we are facing various challenges, now that we're facing a crisis, we are in this pandemic, and we are now also facing a crisis situation in Europe, this conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Historically, these difficult times have also been opportunities for change for leaders. And this is something that we need to grab the opportunity to make some changes for our company, for our people, and for ourselves, and for our families.
So that's how I would end this session, Rexanne.
Rexanne: Alright, well, as you have pointed out, change is constant, so it's really how you embrace changes that are happening in the environment. So thanks so much, Eric. With that, we actually have come to the end of this session. Thank you again for sharing your insights and personal advice with us. I'm sure our audience appreciate hearing how Lingaro is changing up its workplace model to suit professionals and work cultures of tomorrow.
Eric: My pleasure, Rexanne. Thank you and have a good day, everyone.
Rexanne: Thank you. To our listeners and viewers, don't forget to stay tuned for our next episode. Take care and stay safe. Goodbye.