Thursday, 18 March 2010

Attention HRM of BPO enterprises

By BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS
Manila Bulletin
http://mb.com.ph/articles/247671/attention-hrm-bpo-enterprises

While the Philippine economy almost came to a grinding halt, growing at less than 1 percent in 2009, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector grew by 25 percent and employed some 400,000 highly-skilled professionals. Industry leaders are already projecting a 40 percent increase in 2010 as the US and other major trading partners recover from the Great Recession of 2009. It is estimated that in the next ten years, the employment generated by this sector can exceed one million. Without doubt, it will surpass the electronics industry in net exports and in the number of people employed. It will be employing our highly educated young Filipinos and Filipinas.

There is, however, a major fly in the ointment. Because many BPO companies are repeating the mistakes of the first industrialists of the nineteenth century--treating workers as mere tools or instruments--the industry may self-destruct. Because of negligence or lack of interest on the part of the management (especially of Human Resource executives), sexual promiscuity among the employees of call centers and other BPO companies is increasing the risk of HIV-AIDS and of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Although there is no hard data about an epidemic, the problem could threaten the very viability of this industry if nothing is done to mitigate these risks. Human resource managers of BPO companies must rack their brains to find solutions to this problem if they want the industry to continue to prosper in the next ten years or so. Of course, the main motivation should be a sincere interest in the welfare and happiness of their work force.

Certain lessons about the right kind of sex education from the US may be learned by the management of a BPO company in order to reduce sexual promiscuity. Since many of these young professionals, especially the females, are still unmarried and live with their parents, parental guide can also help immensely. Fortunately in Philippine culture, young people in their twenties often live with their parents. Their parents still have a strong moral authority over their children. These are cultural assets on which we can capitalize in making future managers ready to assume enlightened and principled leadership.

The first area where there should be both vigilance and concern on the part of the employers and parents has to do with the dangers of pornography that is almost inevitable among computer-literate youth who constitute the majority of BPO workers. We may get some insights from a recent report on pornography by Patrick Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Center in Washington. I remember having met Dr. Fagan in an international conference on sex education held in Manila in November 2007. In a 30-page report, "The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community," Dr. Fagan wrote: "Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of the social and psychological effects, and neurologists are beginning to delineate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful negative effects."

Although the focus of the study was on American teenagers, much of the findings can be applied to young Filipino adults who are about at the same level in knowledge about sex as teenagers in advanced countries where there is greater sexual promiscuity at a very early age. The following finding of the study of Dr. Fagan, therefore, could be a guide to both employers and parents of young Filipino adults: "Pornography viewing among teenagers disorients them during that development phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values. A study of 2,343 adolescents found that sexually explicit Internet material significantly increased uncertainties about sexuality. The study also showed that increased exposure to sexually explicit Internet material increased favorable attitudes toward sexual exploration with others outside of marriage and decreased marital commitment to the other spouse."

A sincere concern for the psychological and moral health of their employees should motivate the employers of BPO businesses to take special care to limit access to pornographic materials by their employees in their respective places of work. There are sundry ways of filtering out pornographic websites and other harmful sources of texts and images in the Internet. It should be made an explicit company policy that viewing pornographic materials, using the computers of the company--whether or not during work hours--is a serious infraction and can lead to the offending employee being laid off. To help the workers make productive use of their rest period and leisure time, the company should make available to them cultural and educational programs (such as family-oriented films and documentaries) as well as sports facilities and gyms for physical exercise. Because of the pressure-cooker and boring nature of the repetitive tasks usually associated with BPO work, careful thought must be given to company-sponsored culturally and intellectually stimulating programs that can serve as an antidote to the stifling impact of the work.

Another guide to what can be done by Human Resource Managers in BPO enterprises can be found in a study published recently in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study came out with the finding that there is solid evidence from a federally funded United States study that a program limited to an abstinence message can significantly reduce the onset of sexual activity among young adolescents. This finding can be validly applied to young Filipino adults for the reason cited above. As the Washington Post reported, "The abstinence-only portion involved a series of sessions in which instructors talked to students in small groups about their views about abstinence and their knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also conducted role-playing exercises and brainstorming sessions designed to correct misconceptions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, encourage abstinence and offer ways to resist pressure to have sex."

It is not too late in the human formation of the young adults working for BPO enterprises to be exposed to seminars and coaching sessions about the dangers of pornographic materials and the desirability of abstinence from sex until marriage. These seminars can include for those who are Catholics a big dose of the Theology of the Body as authoritatively taught in the books of the Venerable Pope John Paul II. They can also incorporate findings from the social sciences about the dangers of pornography and premarital sex as described in the studies cited above. Human Resource Managers interested in these studies may go to the website of mercator.net. A concern about the right attitude to human sexuality should be a major part of the human development program designed by the Human Resource Department of BPO enterprises, if they want the industry to be sustainable and not to be threatened by HIV-AIDS and abortion in epidemic proportions. For comments, my email address is bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.

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