Thursday, June 30, 2005

“Bayanihan” at Unilab

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, June 30, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
“Bayanihan” at Unilab

I AM sure you are familiar with that image of men carrying a nipa hut on their shoulders while the women walk beside them carrying food, water and things from the house. Bayanihan is the tradition of working together and sharing the fruits of common endeavor.

Bayanihan has always been associated with Unilab Laboratories, Inc. Unilab claims that bayanihan is the heart and soul of its culture from which it crafted its UL Creed:

We believe that we are UNITED IN THOUGHT AND ACTION, and from this we derive our strength and our spirit of Bayanihan.

We believe in the NOBILITY OF OUR PURPOSE— in the service of medicine, for the welfare of our people.

We believe that INTEGRITY IS LIFE TO US, and to preserve it we must maintain ethical standards of the highest order.

We believe that TRUTH IS OUR CHALLENGE, and our search for truth is our contribution to the advancement of medical science.

We believe in EQUALITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, that our greatest asset is our human asset, whose endeavors must be given meaning and dignity.

We believe in the DIVINE PROVIDENCE, whose love has sustained us, whose blessings give fulfillment to our lives.

Unilab ranks among the Top 50 corporations in the Philippines and is the market leader in pharmaceutical industry with an important presence in Asia. It has 366 brands in almost 900 stock sizes, complemented by 3,000 employees in their manufacturing, marketing and support divisions. The Unilab Group consists of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in 10 countries.

It has a marketing network in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. It has marketing and manufacturing plants not only here in the Philippines but also in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and a biotechnology manufacturing plant producing human-growth hormones in Shanghai, China.

Unilab was built on the concept of Bayanihan. The word comes from the Tagalog words bayan (community) and anihan (harvest). It is a Filipino tradition to have the entire community help at the time of harvest and share in the fruits of their labor. There is another theory that says the word Bayanihan comes from bayani or hero; someone who helps a neighbor tackle big tasks, such as moving a house. Bayanihan in Unilab means teamwork, looking after the welfare of those in need, enthusiasm and excellence at work and sharing the fruits of a common effort. In times of difficulties, it also serves as the anchor that guides the company’s action.

This is actually what guided the company in its Change Journey. Last column we discussed how the company characterized and assessed the prevailing environment in which it operates in 1997. Having done that, the company identified four major areas to ensure organization effectiveness: organization design, product portfolio, systems & processes and people & culture.

Let’s zero in on the people and culture initiatives to attain organization and business excellence. To do this, Unilab anchored its people programs on the strength of the Bayanihan culture; invested heavily on training and development programs; streamlined and aligned its HR systems and programs based on competency development; recruited new talents with the required critical competencies; redesigned its performance management system and enhance reward and recognition program to promote high performance; launched its leadership standards and reoriented its Employees Council toward productivity-related issues.

As an offshoot of Bayanihan, Unilab instituted its Employees Council (EC) in 1959 founded on the belief that no one could best determine the needs of employees than themselves. The EC introduced its employees to a new role—that of managing and taking responsibility for their own benefits program. The EC is acknowledged as a unique and distinctive model of harmonious industrial relations and has been emulated by several companies in various industries.

Now, there is a lot to learn from Unilab for our entrepreneurs. Foremost is that going from good company to a great company requires strategic leadership (who shape the culture) and concerned talent management for recruiting, retaining, motivating, developing and transitioning people. One such program is giving employees just and fair wages/salaries and benefits. An organization is only as good as its leaders and people are.

(Reference for this article is the PQA application of Unilab. Moje awaits your reaction at

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