In today’s dynamic and fast-paced world, technology acts as an agent of change, revolutionizing industries at every turn. Among these, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has emerged as one of its trailblazers, centered on innovation and operational excellence. The BPO sector has seen a dramatic change as a result of rapid technological evolution, allowing many firms to leverage technology for HR strategies that perfectly connect with their goals and objectives, ensuring uninterrupted business continuity.

GC Services, a prominent business process outsourcing (BPO) company that specializes in providing exceptional customer care, collections, and back-office support services to clients across various industries for 60+ years. With a strong presence in the BPO sector, the organization has built a reputation for delivering high-quality and cost-effective solutions to meet the diverse needs of its clients. Today, GC Services is one of the largest privately owned outsourcing services providers with 12 geo-diverse contact center locations in the United States and two sites in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines.

Marc Calumba, Country Manager of GC Services Philippines, shares with Asia Select how GC Services leveraged technology to revolutionize its HR initiatives during and post-pandemic. Discover how GC Services emerged as a digitally enabled brand, fostering lasting relationships with its clients and employees. From adopting cutting-edge technologies to implementing visionary approaches, the interview reveals a narrative of how GC Services transformed challenges into opportunities for digital growth and empowerment.

Interview Transcript:

What role do you see technology playing in the company’s human resources strategy, especially in light of the pandemic? How has technology helped to support employee well-being and ensure business continuity during these challenging times?

It’s not just about the day-to-day HR tasks. It’s a comprehensive process that encompasses everything from sourcing and hiring to onboarding and managing the employee’s journey until they leave the organization. I firmly believe technology will play a big role in these aspects, including regular coaching and development. Through the years, I expect technology to continue improving, and I believe that the hybrid model will stay. The pandemic forced us to embrace the digital way, with virtual screening becoming the norm throughout the hiring process. We only ask candidates to come onsite during the job offer process.

Looking ahead, I believe AI can take the lead in preliminary recruitment steps, efficiently screening people off the bat, and it will only get better through the years. This will allow recruiters to focus on the final interview stages, where we assess skillset and job fit.  By incorporating digitalization, we can navigate the database faster, avoiding going through 100 resumes to hire 10 people. I believe optimization will be a key factor as we progress with technology. Platforms like Zoom and MS Teams have become important video conferencing tools for us, and that will be the norm. We have evolved throughout the pandemic that allowed us to communicate with people in Zoom, Teams, and social media and that will continue to stay.

At GC Services, where 70% of agents work remotely, we do encounter challenges, such as occasional latency issues with ISP providers during nighttime, resulting in 3-6% outages. However, the government and ISP providers have invested a lot of time on hardware solutions already, and I think as we march toward the full acceptance of hybrid work, I expect this challenge to be less than 1% at any given time.

In what ways has GC Services leveraged technology to optimize talent acquisition and development processes? Are there any particular tech tools or platforms that the company has found to be particularly effective in attracting top talent and promoting career growth within the organization?

We have completely shifted to remote work for talent sourcing. We are heavy in posting ads on Facebook or LinkedIn to cast a wider net. Additionally, we still have our 3rd party recruiters who assist us in finding candidates with specialized skills. The internet has played a crucial role in establishing this work-from-home aspect of our business. Zoom and Teams have been invaluable platforms for conducting interviews and screening potential hires.

Our VPN connectivity, which allows people to work remotely, has been a key ingredient of our success. It boosts employee engagement and helps us attract top talent. We always have an easy learning process that allows people to complete everything online at their own pace. This leadership and development tool enables us to cycle improvement across the lines. If someone wants to expand their skill set, they can access a plethora of management suites and courses with just one click. Technology has been quite beneficial to our organization in this regard; in fact, our management development team was able to promote 15-20% internally and all of them went through the management process online.

As part of GC Services’ efforts to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, how has technology been utilized to promote these values within the workplace? Are there any tech-based initiatives that the company has implemented to ensure that all employees feel valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity?

When we plan our engagement activities, our focus is on creating a fair, diverse, and highly inclusive environment. We ensure that our sportsfest includes not only basketball games but also volleyball games, emphasizing inclusivity. In our meetings, we prioritize inclusion and make sure remote workers are not isolated. It can be challenging to bring remote employees who have been working from home for over two years to onsite engagement activities. However, we leverage platforms like Zoom, Skype, Teams, and social media to market and promote our activities. We must generate double the excitement compared to in-person events. Social media plays a crucial role in expanding our reach, particularly for those working remotely. Our marketing team does an excellent job of promoting materials with inclusivity in mind.

After conducting online engagements, we conduct employee surveys to provide a platform for expressing thoughts and opinions. This feedback helps us identify areas where we excel and areas that require improvement within our organization. When we make policy changes, we consider everyone’s opinions and insights, ensuring the stability of our organization. Employee input is crucial to our decision-making process, and these surveys allow us to gather valuable insights.

What is your experience with Digital Transformation? Have the priorities of the Country Manager changed post-pandemic?

When we made the decision to transition employees to remote work, it had an impact on internet service providers. The increased demand compelled them to step up their game and meet the growing needs of businesses like ours. Witnessing the evolution of contact centers since 1994, I started as a message handling specialist before entering the BPO industry in 2000.

I’ve experienced contact centers operating on analog lines, which was costly. Fortunately, we embraced VoIP technology early on, and now everything, including voice components, operates over the internet. The digital transformation of international contact centers has been remarkable, and the advancements in big data have been significant. We now have tools like PowerBI that enable us to make strategic decisions and streamline processing time.

As a company, our focus remains on being digitally enabled, aligning with our vision to become the most trusted digitally enabled brand. Our CIO’s mindset is dedicated to supporting this core value, and I am confident that it will continue to drive our progress going forward. The importance of digital transformation cannot be overstated, and it will be our guiding principle as we navigate the future.

How do you plan to measure the impact of technology investments and initiatives in the local market, and what metrics will you use to evaluate success? How do these metrics align with the company’s overall strategic goals and objectives for growth and profitability?

Investing in technology always incurs upfront costs, necessitating a calculation of return on investment (ROI). In most cases, efficiency would be the measure of success for ROI. Whether it involves deploying new software or upgrading hardware, the impact should be evaluated based on how it simplifies processes for both customers and businesses.

In the call center space, a significant reduction in average transaction time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes indicates success. This translates to a decrease in headcount for that project, thereby reducing costs. This allows you to accept a new workload which will enable you to allocate resources to another project. Moreover, if artificial intelligence (AI) is thrown into the mix in terms of scoring call quality, this opens the possibility of having 100% automated quality assurance (QA). This advancement will positively impact the customer experience, resulting in reduced customer turnover and enhanced customer loyalty.

Maintaining a solid client base and fostering word-of-mouth recommendations generates a net promoter effect, further contributing to the ROI gained from technology investments. While numerous metrics can be employed, efficiency remains the primary gauge of success when introducing new technological products.

As one of the leaders in GC Services, how do you approach performance management? What processes are in place to help employees receive regular feedback and improve their skills and performance? Are there any particular technology-driven tools or platforms that have been implemented to support performance management and enhance employee development within the organization?

At GC Services, we highlight the growth and development of our employees through self-paced leadership development courses through our Easy Learn. Aligned with the organization’s values is to do right for our employees and clients. Our vision promotes optimization and digitalization, with ongoing efforts to improve our reporting and coaching platforms. To facilitate coaching sessions, we heavily rely on Skype and Zoom, providing convenient remote options for our workforce.

Furthermore, we are also heavy in utilizing our easy learn learning courses for people aspiring to progress within the organization, whether through vertical advancements or lateral transfers. We also emphasize the importance of regular one-on-one sessions between employees and their managers, at least on a weekly basis, ensuring consistent support and guidance. For remote workers, technology plays a pivotal role in delivering an effective coaching process. Zoom, Skype, and our online coaching portal are integral components of our performance management framework.

How do you promote a healthy and productive work culture at GC Services? What steps have been taken to ensure that employees are able to work effectively and efficiently while maintaining their overall well-being?

At GC Services, we prioritize the well-being of our employees through a monthly wellness program conducted via Teams, in collaboration with our healthcare provider. As strong advocates of rewards and recognition (R&R), we firmly believe in the profound impact that motivation and appreciation can have on our employees. Recognizing their achievements and acknowledging them as top producers not only boosts employee morale but also enhances their overall well-being.

Sometimes, patting a person on the back and telling them that they are doing a good job is already a healthy proponent. While the pandemic has slowed us down on outdoor activities, we are confident this year that we have the full intention of reviving our fun committee. Having said that, I believe family day and sportsfest would be the next steps for us to promote a work-life balance for the organization.

The BPO industry is considered as a competitive space, what advice/insights would you give to operations professionals who are looking to be part of a multinational company and grow in their chosen career in the industry?

GC Services’ mission and vision to be a digitally enabled brand. To stay relevant in today’s world, it is essential to adopt a continues improvement mindset. If you have been dormant in a particular skill for years, it is time to upgrade and future-proof yourself. Furthermore, you must be abreast of changes in the industry and always be on the lookout for courses made available to update your skillset.

At the end of the day, when new technologies emerge tomorrow, it may suddenly render your task and role redundant. With technology that improves services and everything else, sometimes you must always be on the lookout for what you need to improve. You also need to upskill yourself to prepare for more complex work, so I believe you must embrace a continuous improvement mindset.

Do you believe that Search Firms are more important than ever to identify top talent? Why? Why not? 

When it comes to sourcing applicants, search firms continue to play a significant role. However, for regular positions like BPO jobs, including Tier 1 customer service and retail, organizations can effectively attract candidates on their own. Social media platforms and referral programs serve as valuable resources for sourcing candidates in these areas. Nonetheless, search firms remain particularly important for highly skilled roles, where their expertise can complement our talent acquisition efforts.

The partnership between organizations and search firms is expected to persist for the next five years and beyond. However, the focus will shift towards sourcing candidates with more complex skillsets. Search firms will assist us in identifying individuals with specialized qualifications, ensuring a tailored approach to recruitment for these critical positions.

Leadership: How do you define effective leadership?

Effective leadership for me is being a servant leader. The best-case scenario is for you to enable the employees, support them, and serve them. I believe that’s the primary essence of an effective leader. It all comes down to catering to the needs of your employees, enabling them to succeed in their roles. Also, make sure that you walk the talk, show them how it’s done, lead by example, and show them exactly how to do it and following through. I believe those are the perfect traits an effective leader should have.

Recruitment: What do you think are 3 most important factors to consider in hiring new employees?

  • Skillset
  • Positive Mindset
  • Integrity

GC Services: What is your favorite part about working with GC Services?

As the accountable leader for talent development and retention within the organization, I recognize the crucial role it plays. Because if you develop and retain talent, that means you are prioritizing the well-being of your employees. When employees are well taken care of, they in turn provide excellent care for our customers, so with this, you are also taking care of your clients.

My mindset is that by investing in talent development and retention, we empower potential employees to grow from within, opening doors for promotions and fostering loyalty. Embracing the trust and confidence bestowed upon us by our senior executives, I am dedicated to constantly driving myself and improving our employee retention initiatives.

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