Why sharing your humanity matters in business

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Stephen Ong, Manulife Philippines Chief Distribution Officer. Photo from Manulife.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Among the many changes it brought, the pandemic forced us to challenge our traditional ideas, attitudes, and behaviors about work. Organizations are now more open to leverage remote or hybrid setups and flexi-work arrangements to help improve their workforce's health and well-being, while also increasing productivity, engagement, and overall job satisfaction.

While we are steadily re-emerging from COVID-19, Filipinos continue to deal with physical and mental health concerns, financial struggles, and a stronger desire to live freer, more well-balanced lives.

At Manulife, we learned that the best way to navigate today's shifting business landscape is to share our humanity. Empowering people to be their authentic self at work makes a huge difference to the business. Creating an environment where diversity is embraced and integral to our culture and business practices shows that the company values respect, integrity, and doing the right thing all the time.

As head of Manulife's thousands-strong agency force, I've realized that my role as a father of three girls has also been instrumental in helping me support my team and make their everyday better. Both roles require the same set of skills, leadership and compassion that allow us to be smarter, adaptable, and more strategic with our personal and professional duties, to support both our families and our teams.

Cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture

At Manulife, we foster a work environment where all our team members feel accepted, valued, and included. We believe that strength lies in embracing our differences, and that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) play a key role in driving innovation and professional growth. Sharing your humanity helps build an inclusive culture. Through our employee-led resource groups like our Global Women's Alliance (GWA), where I serve as an Executive Sponsor for the Philippines chapter, and Professionals Reaching Out for Diversity (PROUD), we continue to help our people navigate and advance their careers in ways sensitive to their unique situations.

For instance, as a father who works to give my family a comfortable life, I can relate to our financial advisors and agency leaders who work hard to support their families, while also achieving their professional goals. I encourage those who have children or plan to build a family to use their time-off regularly, and spend time with their loved ones. As a former financial advisor myself, I always ensure that they are motivated to be at their best. I also want them to feel that I am here to support them in their evolving life stages, because no one's dreams should ever be put on hold.

Building and fostering a #winningteam

Sharing our humanity also means exercising great care in eliminating bias in our recruitment processes, as we focus on a person's attitude, capabilities, competencies, potential and character when hiring, regardless of their background. At Manulife, we view DEI as a key differentiator and driver of our future business success. By making it safe for employees and financial advisors to express who they are, they can bring their unique backgrounds, skills, experiences, and knowledge to help accelerate our growth. When DEI is at the heart of everything we do, we also gain a deeper level of empathy and understanding, allowing us to meet our customers' fragmented, complex, and ever-shifting needs.

To build a winning team in our agency force, we empower people by allowing them to celebrate and trust one another, learn from each other and work well together, despite their differences. We consider them our Life Champions, as they are at the front and center of securing the lives, health, and well-being of our customers and their loved ones. Their level of commitment to our customers is incomparable, so it is important to show that you also celebrate them, especially for their courage and resilience to give more families the security and financial peace of mind they deserve.

Hope for the younger generations

As today's pandemic graduates and young professionals face an aggressive and challenging job market, we at Manulife offer career opportunities viable for people of various backgrounds, talents and competencies. Being a financial advisor enables them to earn unlimited income while leading purpose-filled careers by serving others, while also having flexibility with their time and workload.

Manulife also offers supportive Career Agency Programs (CAP) that train candidates to become full-time and highly productive financial advisors. Recruits receive top-notch training, along with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed, plus a monthly allowance, and regular advisor compensation. We also offer sales management training through our Leader Recruitment Program (LRP), which provides monthly stipends on top of standard salary. At Manulife, learning never stops.

While the Philippines' insurance penetration remains low, I am optimistic that we will continue to welcome fresh batches of financial advisors who have what it takes to financially secure the future of many Filipinos. As our recent research studies have shown, many Filipino millennials and Gen Zs realize the importance of life insurance, and they are seeking more ways to support their financial transformation. I anticipate that their interest in availing insurance and investment plans will continue to increase as we face constant volatility and uncertainty. In the same manner, I look forward to welcoming younger generations of financial advisors who can help strengthen financial education in the country and help Filipinos secure a better future so they can live every day better.