Good news for employment opportunities in 2009

Published by rudy Date posted on March 24, 2009

There is good news in the offshoring and outsourcing (O&O) industry for 2009 but companies and parents/schools need to wake-up to cultural challenges and career opportunities present in the industry.

The Philippines has embraced globalization through the O&O industry. This industry is composed of six segments: (1) contact centers (call centers), (2) back-office processing/shared services, (3) medical transcription, (4) animation, gaming development and digital content, (5) software development, and (6) engineering design services.

The O&O industry has provided significant new employment opportunities, which currently generates around 320,000 jobs locally. By 2010, it is estimated by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) that the industry will grab 10 percent of the global market share employing more than 900,000 workers and contributing $12 billion to the economy. The O&O industry is less then ten years old and is the only bright light on the Philippine economic horizon for job creation. Seventy percent of the O&O employment is in the contact centers.

The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) shared that the industry can still expect a double-digit rate at a cautious estimate of 23 percent in 2008. Even with the US economic crisis, CCAP membership holds that growth will continue into 2009 with over a third even predicting a faster growth rate. This emerged in their projections for 2009, as 52 percent estimated that they will experience a similar growth rate, with 37percent expecting it to be faster, and 7 percent saying it will be slower.

While the industry has a positive outlook, there remains less than 5 percent acceptance of applicants which may be caused partly by cultural differences and parent/school misunderstanding of the career opportunities in the O&O industry.

Companies need to be aware of cultural differences as they move forward in providing career opportunities to Filipinos in global O&O industries.

At first glance, there are many signals that allow foreign business executives to feel comfortable in doing business in the Philippines. Many Filipinos speak a high quality of English. The American-Philippine colonial past has created a similar legal and educational system. American products permeate the Philippine culture with Starbucks and McDonalds, just two examples, replacing traditional eating habits. Recently, a leading computer company observed that the empathy, the real ability to connect with the American consumer is something that is very unique in the Philippines making it a great base to talk to American customers.

However, the work of Gert Hofstede in Profile of Philippine National Culture versus Selected Western Countries notes that there are significant differences in power distance and individualism between American and Philippine culture. Filipinos prefer social distance or hierarchy and group behavior versus informality and individualism. Creative work and job design should recognize cultural differences and draw out the excellence while building Philippine values.

Parents may be ill-equipped to provide relevant career counseling. Filipino parents place a great deal of importance on their children’s educational success. Even with parents who have little or no education, they have a high expectancy that their children’s education will correlate to high economic rewards in the future for the family. They usually go to great lengths to send their children through college.

Schools may not fully understand the potential for careers in the O&O Industry. An example is a June 2008 graduate whose mother did not think that call-center work was a real career. The young man studied international relations with a focus on European Studies. After graduation he looked at many opportunities without success. However, he finally accepted an offer with one of the leading call centers in February 2009. Had he focused on a career in the O&O industries with the support of the school and family, he would have shortened his job search.

While there is good news for employment in the O&O industry in the Philippines for 2009, companies need to understand cultural strengths while parents and schools must appreciate and support career opportunities in the O&O industry.

Dr. Robert Keitel teaches at the Ramon V. del Rosario Sr. Graduate School of Business of De La Salle University—Manila’s College of Business and Economics. He received his Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Management from DLSU-Manila with distinction in 2007. He can be emailed at rkeitel@yahoo.com.

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