IS a 100-year-old movement still relevant? “Cooperactivists,” or those who advocate for cooperatives, think so.
They believe today’s public is just unaware of the benefits of cooperatives.
Co-ops are, in fact, the biggest contributor in the communities they serve and oftentimes even earn more than their corporate counterparts, according to One Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines (1CISP) President Roy S. Miclat.
Cooperatives have some of the most competitive compensation and benefit schemes in the industry, he added.
“The challenge is how to communicate these to encourage everyone to support cooperatives,” Miclat said. “Our aim for 2019 and beyond is to elevate cooperatives and make them known for what they really are—an important pillar in economic and social development.”
Miclat and his colleagues believe the one important step is to attract young people to participate in the movement that began in Los Baños, Laguna, when the first cooperative was established in 1908.
1CISP human resource (HR) head Jackelyn Podiotan-Ballena believes the first step to getting younger people to work with cooperatives is to hire them.
“Our problem is getting people into cooperatives [like] 1CISP. Once they are inside, we had a very low attrition rate. Actually, our attrition rate for the last two years was quite low. The real causes of the recent resignations were one got engaged and the other one had to resign when he got married to a former colleague,” she said.
To entice the youth to join 1CISP, Podiotan-Ballena said they are offering a competitive package. For an entry-level position, 1CISP offers a monthly salary way above the current minimum of P15,360.
“We are getting to the P25,000 level, otherwise known as the living wage based on the current economic conditions in the country,” she said. “We’re trying to serve a different standard with cooperatives. When you say cooperatives, we want to erase the usual notion that it is a place for people who have not crafted their career path.”
Podiotan-Ballena, 34, a graduate of University of the Philippines-Diliman, is a testament to that.
She started as a training assistant but was promoted as head of HR in a span of three months. Furthermore, she also held a simultaneous job of handling the claims department for three years. She was promoted last year as vice president for operations.
Bed of roses
PODIOTAN-BALLENA said her work in 1CISP was not a bed of roses. However, she adopted a positive attitude as she wanted to learn the foundations of operations.
“My background as sales and insurance in [an insurance firm] was a big help in understanding the job,” she said.
Podiotan-Ballena admitted that she did not have any knowledge on 1CISP until the day she was hired. When she was appointed to head the HR department, her immediate task was to transform the organization by engaging the employees to ensure they will work on longer terms for 1CISP.
“We want to stay committed to the organization. For the past year, we had a low attrition rate compared to other big organizations.”
Podiotan-Ballena said people she interacted with during external training sessions were surprised with the compensation offered by 1CISP.
The company also offers travel opportunities such as team-building sessions in different countries. The recent team-building session was held in Hong Kong.
She said the company provided her the opportunity to travel to Japan and the United Kingdom for training.
To attract a bigger number of applicants from Generations Y and Z, Podiotan-Ballena believes a rebranding is needed to transform 1CISP into an employer of choice.
Miclat shares Podiotan-Ballena’s view and emphasized that the country’s cooperative movement needs young blood to transform it into a more vibrant movement and become a catalyst in economic development.
First, there is a need to pursue wide awareness to entice the millennials and Generation Z to join the movement and promote it as a place that can provide them career opportunities, new challenges, technology-friendly environment, sense of purpose and a youthful environment, he said.
“Adults often say to the youth there is no future in cooperatives, which is not true at all,” Miclat said in a press briefing during the recently held HR Summit in Quezon City.
The movement also needs young blood to take over the leadership mantle, which has lost major stalwarts, Miclat said, citing the late Horacio “Boy” Morales Jr. as an example.
Morales was a former technocrat of the Marcos administration who defected to the underground movement during martial law. After he was released from detention in 1986, he led the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and the Cooperative Foundation of the Philippines Inc. He served as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform under the Estrada presidency.
Although cooperatives in the Philippines have been overachieving in terms of operational and financial performances, Miclat admitted that cooperatives are not popular choices for employment, particularly among the younger generation of graduates.
He believes local cooperatives need to enhance and overhaul their HR development programs to ensure the entry of skilled and passionate leaders in the cooperatives.
“HR needs to focus on people who will stay with you,” Miclat explained. “It also has to embrace new technologies to remain dynamic in the fast-changing times.”
MICLAT believes cooperatives can be a major catalyst in economic development.
To achieve this, however, he said they have to contribute about 10 percent to 15 percent to the country’s GDP. At present, the cooperatives’ share to the GDP is 2.1 percent.
“In a five-year plan, we aim to contribute 5 to 8 percent to the GDP,” he said. “We need to strengthen our organization and be more competitive to get recognized.”
“1CISP, in comparison to corporate insurance counterparts, is growing at a remarkable rate, and believe it or not, this is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a lot more common than previously thought, with a precedent since 2007,” Miclat said citing the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation’s 2018 rankings and industry trends.
He added there’s also a need to adapt in an ever-changing technological environment.
“Disruption in technology is happening in an unprecedented rate and if cooperatives [do] not adapt, they will [go] extinct,” he added.
Miclat believes getting young people into cooperatives would help the movement avert this extinction.
Image credits: Ruslan Karazbayev | Dreamstime.com, Photo courtesy of 1CISP