With its beautiful natural surroundings and bustling cities, the Philippines has a lot going for it. But once you spend some time there, you quickly realize its greatest asset is the people.
We’d love to give an introduction to the Filipino culture, their unique values and why they make wonderful team members. If you’re looking for incredible customer service, warmth, helpfulness and more… you’ll find your dream team right here.
The Philippines is a westernized culture where most young adults speak fluent English, and 1 in 3 people in their 20s are university educated. As a result, the culture is similar to your own, and offshoring is easy.
At first glance, Filipinos have a very similar culture to most Australians and Americans:
To make your offshore operations a roaring success, it helps to understand the cultural differences as well as the similarities.
And we’re pleased to tell you: you’re in luck. Because the Filipinos’ most endearing cultural differences are the traits that make them wonderful offshore employees.
English is one of the country’s two official national languages, so most Filipinos speak fluent English. Everyone learns English at school, and it’s the main language in every professional workplace, plus the government, the legal system and higher education.
In other words, talking to a Filipino is just like speaking English with any other English native speaker, in that communication feels natural and flows easily.
And because the Philippines has a history of American influences, they have a particular Filipino-English accent that’s easy to mistake for an American accent.
In addition to American influences, the Philippines is geographically close to Australia and New Zealand, so Filipinos are quite accustomed to interacting with English accents of all kinds. And that means everyone understands each other, which certainly helps a lot.
Filipinos are famous for their warm and friendly culture, and their positive approach to life. So much so that hospitality is part of their national identity.
They’re welcoming to foreigners, which is a huge advantage, considering the Philippines is a popular holiday and business destination for Americans, Canadians and Australians.
It’s no surprise, really, that the Philippines is such a successful location for offshore providers. Thousands of years of developing hospitable and welcoming traits have given Filipinos the perfect culture for customer service roles.
You’ll quickly notice that Filipinos are extremely respectful people. It’s common to hear customer service staff calling customers and bosses “Sir” or “Ma’am” out of respect. They naturally show empathy for the customer’s situation, and that makes them genuinely suited to call center and service roles.
When younger Filipinos speak to a person who is older or more Senior, they’ll add the word "Po" to the end of the sentence as a sign of respect. For example, people might say "Salamat Po" which means “Thank you, with respect.” A similar word you’ll hear is “Opo”, which means “Yes, with respect.” It’s a charming cultural trait that shows how much Filipinos respect their elders.
In family situations, you will see children and young adults 'bless' their elders by reaching out for the elder's hand and placing it on their forehead. To them, it’s a sign of respect and an essential part of greeting their elders.
Just as importantly, they’re educated in formal English and skilled in conversational English, so they can use the level of language that’s appropriate for the situation. If the customer is getting upset about something… no problem: they instantly switch to a more formal and honorific tone to diffuse the situation. It’s seamless and they’re absolute naturals.
One of the traits you’ll appreciate most about Filipinos is that they’re incredibly hard working. They demonstrate a strong work ethic and they’re super efficient during their work days.
Experienced offshore staff are excellent problem-solvers, to the extent that they can often anticipate what you’ll need even before you ask for it.
What’s more, Filipino workers are very receptive to feedback. They constantly strive to do a better job for their boss, so they thrive on positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.
Filipinos have tight-knit families, often with three generations living together in the same family home. Typically, the younger adults work full time in the city, while their older parents work part time and take care of the grandchildren before and after school.
For them, it’s about family members supporting each other.
These young, English-speaking, university-educated workers earn a generous living wage working in city jobs for foreign companies. As a result, they can support their families by contributing to the household income - often sending up to 60% of their wages back home.
For you, these family ties make for loyal and dedicated workers. Once an employee has secured a rewarding and well-paying customer service role, they want to keep it long term, for the benefit of their family. By the same token, their whole family does their best to help support and maintain that employment.
The culture of strong family ties carries over into the workplace, with many Filipinos treating their colleagues just like extended family. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see colleagues talking to each other with familiar names and terms of endearment, because they’re as close as a family.
When you get to know your team, don’t be surprised if they treat you like part of the family too.
In offshore operations companies, many Filipinos expect to work a rotating roster including some odd hours, and for them it’s just part of the job. A good offshore provider will roster your team to work whichever hours will give you the best value.
If you want your offshore team to work your local business hours:
On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to use the time difference to your advantage. For example, an American business could employ a Filipino team to take customer service calls outside of their US business hours. That allows a 24-hour service at a fraction of the cost of employing night staff in America. Or an Australian manager can head home at 5pm having sent a list of tasks to their Filipino team, to find the tasks completed and back in their inbox before the next day.
No matter what kind of solution you need, your flexible and accommodating Filipino staff can help you achieve it.
Another benefit of the close-knit family living arrangement is that many Filipinos are able to work flexible hours in offshore customer service roles. Because grandparents are at home to take care of young children, it becomes possible for the employees to match Australian or other countries’ business hours with night shift or early shift starts.
Now that you know what to expect of Filipino work culture, here are some ideas for getting the best business outcomes from these traits.
If you have the chance to visit your offshore team’s workplace, you’ll get to experience the warm and friendly culture of the Filipino people. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about your team and their culture when you’re immersed in it.
For the best outcome, work from their office for a few days or a week, at least once each year. In that short amount of time, you’ll build strong connections with your team. You’ll solve any niggling little problems and come away with brilliant ideas for how to make your offshore operations run like clockwork.
And don’t make it all about work. A shared meal is the best way to get to know your team better as people, not just as staff. Take your team out for lunch so they can introduce you to their favorite national dishes. By the end of lunch you’ll all be laughing together like old friends.
And if you’re really lucky? One of your team members might invite you home to meet their family and experience a traditional home-cooked meal. That’s a genuine show of respect and Filipino hospitality, so be sure to accept the opportunity to get to know them better.
After your visit to the Philippines, you’ll feel a different level of energy every time you talk to your offshore team. It’s that spark of personal connection that you reach in just a few days of working in the same place. And it’s priceless.
Dedicate one of your home-town staff to be your ‘onshore champion’, to manage and communicate with your offshore team. They’ll be the bridge in your business, allowing the offshore team access to information within your business.
Your onshore champion is also the dedicated person the Filipino team can go to for questions and help and advice. To make this process smooth, set up a team chat platform such as Slack, or use frequent Skype catch ups for any questions they have.
Either as a temporary or permanent placement, you can appoint a manager from your home office to oversee your offshore team. The manager brings all their prior knowledge of the company’s main operations, and acts as the bridge between the home office and offshore teams.
Good offshore providers can make the transition easy by helping the manager and their family settle into their new home in the Philippines. Offshore providers can help find suitable accommodation, schools and even share local knowledge about where to find the best coffee! Whatever the person needs to feel at home.
Rather than send an onshore manager to Manila to manage the team, you can appoint a permanent Filipino offshore ‘local champion’.
If a sensitive issue arises, your local champion can help discuss the problem with the employee. The local champion can help in two important ways:
Your local champion can speak to the employee in Tagalog, their first language. While most Filipinos speak English fluently, it’s always best to discuss complex topics in your first language. The employee might describe speaking English as “taking more brain power” or “being more exhausting”. So when an emotional or sensitive workplace performance issue comes up, Filipino staff feel more comfortable speaking to a local manager in their main language.
Your local champion has the same cultural background as the employee, so they can help to determine if the problem is a work performance issue or a cultural misunderstanding. And if it turns out to be a cultural misunderstanding, your local champion can help you and your employees to understand each other better; a ‘cultural translator’ of sorts.
Even with onshore and offshore champions in place, offshoring isn’t a ‘set and forget’ solution; it’s a critical part of your business and needs to be nurtured the same way an onshore department does.
Check in regularly for the first three to six months, in person where possible, to show that you value them as part of your business. Then, as the offshore team grows more capable and knowledgeable about their roles, you can scale back your visits. But never stop checking in on them altogether.
Cultural differences can seem like a challenge to a successful offshore team. But there are so many lovely cultural traits of the Filipino people that far outweigh any challenges.
Treat your offshore team as a valued part of your business, take the time to learn about their culture, and visit them often. You’ll soon find yourself with a thriving offshore team.
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