How to bring employees back to work after the pandemic

In the US, we’re hearing about the Great Resignation because workers who don’t want to return to the workplace are opting to resign.

We’re not seeing that in the Philippines just yet, our country being a developing nation and the majority of Filipinos really don’t have a choice.

Last November 10, I moderated a hybrid panel organized by the Philippine-Swiss Business Council (PSBC) as part of its General Membership Meeting.

Joseph “Joe” Folkman delivered the keynote speech titled Extraordinary Leaders During Extraordinary Times. Folkman is co-founder of leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman.

Roche PH general manager Diana Edralin, Nestle PH president & CEO Kais Marzouki, and Holcim PH president & CEO Horia Adrian were the distinguished reactors.

Many points were discussed but my biggest takeaway was his reply to my question on how companies can encourage their employees to return to the workplace.

Folkman said this would depend on two things: giving employees a sense of purpose and rewarding their efforts.

He said that this is because COVID-19 has made people think more about life in general, their respective journeys, what they want to achieve, and the need to make their lives more meaningful.

This is where that sense of purpose comes to mind. Companies that work for the common good, mindful of the needs of their employees, stakeholders, and the greater community, are more likely to see their workers return to the workplace, he said.

Promotions, incentives, and other benefits would also help, he said.

Folkman listed some qualities that business leaders should have during these difficult times, following extensive research conducted by his organization.

One is for leaders to balance results with individual needs. They should be mindful of the needs of their employees as well as their company. Roche’s Edralin said that to achieve this, leaders should also be aware of their own needs so they can lead their organizations better.

They must enable an environment where there is cooperation from people in other parts of the organization.

Folkman said leaders must also bring a high level of energy and enthusiasm to the group. Holcim’s Adrian very much agreed with this and exuded such a high level of energy.

Company leaders must also help their team understand the organization’s vision. Nestle’s Marzouki said this is where the sense of purpose comes in. The company must convey this clearly to its stakeholders so they can constantly work toward achieving this.

Folkman said it is also important to have the courage to make changes and recognize situations where change is needed.

It’s a good discussion and especially timely as companies prepare for a post-pandemic world.

Props to the PSBC for this successful event–a mix of virtual and physical forums.

In her report, PSBC chairperson Christine Fajardo said 2021 marks the 18th anniversary of the Council. It was formally established in November 2003 with close guidance and support from the Swiss Embassy.

“We are profoundly grateful for the excellent leadership of Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen and his team, which initially included Mathias Domenig and now Senior Economic and Trade Officer Kent Primor,” she said.

“The PSBC Board is composed of volunteers motivated to sacrifice personal time and resources for love of country and our fellowmen. I thank our hardworking Board for the spirit of volunteerism, high energy, and enthusiasm to work together for our members and contribute to improving lives, livelihoods, and nation-building,” Fajardo also said.

In all, she said PSBC and its members collectively help improve the country’s health and economy, and support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a brighter future for the next generation of Filipinos.

During the event, PSBC and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set out a framework for cooperation on “Sustainability Reporting Advancement Initiatives”.

Through the MoU, PSBC, with the support of GRI, aims to help accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and sustainability reporting in the Philippines.

Kudos to PSBC for a successful event. It was a morning well spent for all.