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Spotlight on Global I-O

Lori Foster Thompson, Alexander E. Gloss, and M.K. Ward1
North Carolina State University

Greetings TIP readers and welcome to the October edition of the Spotlight on Global I-O column. In this issue, we continue our exploration of I-O psychology in the “majority” world.2 We began that exploration last July by looking at I-O psychology in Croatia, a country that recently experienced an important upward shift in its level of human development. In this edition of the Spotlight column, we look at the political, social, and economic change that constitutes “development” by focusing on the Republic of the Philippines. We are very fortunate to have a distinguished guest author, Regina Hechanova, assist with this endeavor. On the following pages, Regina describes I-O psychology in the Philippines today, offering insights on how it has changed over the course of the past decade, and how it compares with I-O psychology in the U.S. We hope you enjoy this unique longitudinal and cross-cultural perspective on I-O psychology in the Philippines!


1 As always, your comments and suggestions regarding this column are most welcome. Please feel free to e-mail us: lfthompson@ncsu.edu
2 The "majority world" consists of countries that have traditionally been characterized as "developing" and that house the vast majority of the world's population.

Developing I-O in a Developing Country:
The Philippine Experience
Ma. Regina M. Hechanova
Department of Psychology3
Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines


3 Regina (Gina) Hechanova is a graduate of the Central Michigan University and is now an associate professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is currently the executive director of the Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development and the vice president of Psychological Association of the Philippines. She was named one of the Outstanding Young Scientists by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 2005 and in 2010 received The Outstanding Women in Nation's Service (TOWNS) award for her work as an I-O psychologist. She can be reached at rhechanova@ateneo.edu.

More than a decade ago, I coauthored an article in TIP about I-O psychology in the Philippines and its evolution in a developing nation with a colonial past (Hechanova-Alampay & Samonte, 1999). Then, the country was still reeling from the 1997 Asian crisis; and issues of organizational competitiveness, poverty, and the exodus of migrant workers were very much top-of-mind. The article described the fledgling status of I-O psychology in the country. At that time, only 5% of local research in psychology was done in I-O, and there was not a critical mass of I-O psychologists and researchers (Bernardo, 1997).

More than a decade hence, much has happened. Politically, the impact of the years under the Marcos dictatorship is still evident in the country’s fledgling democracy. The Philippine’s current president, Benigno Aquino III, is the son of Ninoy Aquino (whose assassination sparked the People Power revolution that ousted Marcos) and Corazon Aquino, Ninoy’s widow, who became the country’s first president after the ouster of Marcos.
The Asian crisis has now been eclipsed by the current economic crisis in the U.S. and Europe. Paradoxically, Asia’s economies have proved robust, and China and India have become emerging economic powers. With everyone wanting a piece of the Asian economic pie, competition in the region is even fiercer than before.

As in 1999, an exodus of Filipino workers continues. Today, this exodus is increasingly towards Asia rather than the Middle East and includes a large number of women and young workers (Olchondra, 2012). On the other hand, another type of migration has emerged because of the boom in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. America’s influence on the educational system, the use of the English language, and a culture of hospitality and service orientation has allowed the Philippines to overtake India as the world’s leader in BPO (Bajaj, 2011). However, the difference in time zones means that there are almost half a million Filipino workers whose hours, holidays, language, and even accents are adapted to that of the West—in many ways a form of virtual migration.

The Growth of I-O Psychology

The Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP; http://www.pap. org.ph) is the country’s national organization for psychologists. It has grown tremendously from when it was founded 50 years ago. From an attendance of about 200 in 2000, conference attendance is now at almost a thousand. Its student convention is now attended by almost 5,000 students from all over the country. The PAP now has eight divisions, one of which is the I-O division. Under its current leadership, the I-O division is one of the more active divisions, organizing continuing education workshops and outreach activities such as the facilitation of strategic planning for public schools. 

The rise in the number of I-O psychologists has been made possible by the increasing number of institutions offering I-O psychology at the graduate level. Today, there are eight universities that offer a master’s degree in I-O psychology. In addition, the University of Santo Tomas has a PhD in industrial psychology and a PhD in human resource management. Ateneo de Manila University also offers two PhD programs: a PhD in social organizational psychology and a PhD in leadership studies with a major in organization development.

A review of I-O psychology research in the Philippines noted that 80% could be classified as unpublished student work (Hechanova, 2005). There has since been an increase in published work marked by a landmark 2005 Philippine Journal of Psychology (PJP) issue that was specifically dedicated to I-O psychology. Since then, there have been more I-O articles (which tend to be more “O” than “I”) that focus on areas such as: leadership, conflict management, work–life balance, organizational commitment, work attitudes, team development, organization culture, change management, and organization transformation. I-O research has also become more sophisticated. From mere descriptive studies, articles have begun to evolve to build and test theory.

In terms of practice, a 2005 study by the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) and the Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development (Ateneo CORD) showed that only about half of HR practitioners in the country have psychology or behavioral science backgrounds (Lanuza & Hechanova, 2005). In terms of those practitioners’ roles in their organizations, a recent study by Ateneo CORD demonstrated that Filipino HR practitioners defined themselves more as administrative experts and employee champions rather than strategic partners and change agents (Villaluz, Fernandez, Salvosa, & Ilac, 2011).

The Ateneo CORD study revealed the issues that had the greatest impact on Philippine organizations were economic concerns; increasing employee expectations and demands; technological innovations; globalization, mergers and acquisitions; changing business directions; and environmental concerns. Although the issues mentioned in the study may not necessarily be unique to the Philippines, there are two additional issues that appear to be particularly relevant to developing economies: poverty and brain drain (Villaluz et al., 2011). 

In response to all of these issues, Philippine organizations are responding in various ways with more organizations devolving HR to the line, outsourcing, sharing services, and self-servicing their HR functions. In terms of organizational development (OD), current initiatives tend to focus on performance management systems, strategic planning, organization restructuring, team building, leadership development, culture change, organization diagnosis, employee wellness, rewards management, training and development, and coaching. In addition, Filipino HR and OD practitioners recognize the need to play a more strategic role in shaping their organization’s capability and future (Villaluz et al., 2011). 
The Ateneo CORD study notes that the competencies of I-O practitioners in the future need to change. The authors suggest that in addition to the more traditional competencies of personal clarity, interpersonal competence, organizational behavior, and HR technical expertise, there is a need for new competencies in partnering, business and organization sense, technological literacy, and a global perspective (Villaluz et al., 2011).

Current Issues and Challenges

As the fledgling field continues to develop, there are still a number of issues that I-O psychologists in the Philippines grapple with. As in other countries, there is still a divide between academe and industry. Those in academe tend to be part of PAP whereas practitioners tend to be part of PMAP. Trying to bridge such a divide, Ateneo CORD (which is the extension arm of the Department of Psychology of the Ateneo de Manila University) has forged partnerships with PMAP, PAP, and other professional associations for joint research projects and training programs.

Licensure is another issue under debate. In 2011, the Philippine Psychology Bill was passed requiring the licensure of clinical, counseling, and assessment psychologists. Although the bill does not cover I-O psychologists, it covers some parts of I-O practice such as psychological testing and industrial counseling. Thus, parallel to its efforts towards licensure, PAP began the process of certifying specialists with at least a master’s degree and work experience related to I-O psychology in 2010. Currently, there are 37 certified I-O psychologists. Unfortunately, the move to professionalize I-O psychology and to assure professional quality is not always supported by Philippine organizations. There is also still a lack of appreciation for basic research on the part of organizations that often prefer quick solutions and following best practices rather than investing in diagnosis and program evaluation.

Reflections of an I-O Psychologist: From East to West to East

When I cowrote the first article in 1999, I was ending my PhD studies and was employed in a global organization in the U.S. By then, I had already adjusted to differences between East and West. For example, I learned not to talk about religion in the U.S.—a sharp contrast to the Philippines where 8 out of 10 people are Catholic and religion’s imprint is visible in psychology and organization management (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012).

I had also learned to keep professional relationships impersonal whereas in a relational culture such as the Philippines, a personal relationship with one’s colleagues and subordinates is a requisite to facilitate performance.
In 2001, I moved back to the Philippines to give back and help grow the field. I had to reorient myself because some of the issues that were salient in the West were less relevant (such as questions of racial equality). Rather, the country was grappling with issues of poverty, unemployment, corruption, exploitation, human rights, peace and order, and governance. 

I discovered the need to rethink Western theories and practices in the context of the Filipino culture. For example, employee participation is a fundamental principle in change management. Yet our research revealed a negative relationship between participation and workers’ attitudes towards change. In addition, our experience in doing OD in the Philippines was that leaders who are too participatory are viewed as weak (Hechanova & Franco, in press). This makes sense because the Philippine culture has been characterized as having a high power distance, and subordinates expect their leaders to provide direction (Hofstede, 2003). Yet, at the same time, leaders in the Philippines are expected to know and care about their subordinates and their families and cultivate a family-like atmosphere in organizations, a reflection of the country’s paternalistic and familial culture.

The influence of culture is also evident in a number of HR practices. For example, even as Philippine organizations recognize the importance of performance and rewards management, there is a sense that the emphasis on individual goals and rewards run counter to the country’s collectivist culture. Moreover, in the U.S., it is not acceptable for organizations to sponsor religious activities whereas in the Philippines, these are embedded, even expected, in employee relations programs.

Another Philippine phenomenon that is unique from an I-O lens is the call center industry. Although a boon to the economy, the night and 24/7 work schedule has created conflict with social norms. Workers find themselves isolated from their normal lives and support groups, often unable to attend social, religious, and family gatherings because their work schedules need to coincide with those of their clients (Hechanova, 2010). 
The uniqueness of the I-O issues in the Philippines suggests that there is an urgent need to build theory informed by an Asian and developing country perspective. However, the positivist orientation of many journals requires building on existing theory and focusing on issues that others (i.e., editors and reviewers in the West) care about. Unfortunately, psychologists from developing countries struggle with a lack of theories given their unique contexts, a lack of resources needed to do research that will build and test theory, a handicap with the English language, and a lack of appreciation among academics in developed economies that the issues they deem important might not matter to those in developing countries. Not surprisingly, the dream of developing I-O psychology in a poor country often feels like a herculean task. Yet a look back at the past decade makes me hopeful. The steps may be small, but there has been progress. Maybe the dream is not quixotic after all.

Concluding Editorial

So there you have it—a fascinating overview, and a compelling personal look at I-O psychology in the Philippines. To our esteemed guest author, Gina Hechanova, we say maraming salamat po (“many thanks” in Filipino) for offering an insightful, cross-cultural, and longitudinal perspective that helps to highlight the dynamism and complexity of I-O psychology in the majority world. In our next issue, we continue with our ongoing consideration of that world. Stay tuned.


Bajaj, V. (2011, November 25). A new capital of call centers. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
Bernardo, A. B. I. (1997). Psychology research in the Philippines: Observations and prospects. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 30, 39–58.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2012, July 5). Philippines. The World Factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rp.html
Hechanova, M. R. (2005). State of industrial/organizational psychology in the Philippines. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 38, 1–24.
Hechanova, M. R. (2010). 1-800-Philippines: Understanding and managing call center workers. Quezon City, Philippines: Institute of Philippine Culture.
Hechanova, M. R., & Franco, E. P. (Eds). (in press). Rebirth and reinvention: Transforming Philippine organizations. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Hechanova-Alampay, M. R., & Samonte, E. (1999). I-O psychology in the Philippines. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 37(2), 76–79.
Hofstede, G. H. (2003). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Lanuza, G. A., & Hechanova, M. R. (2005). Job-fit: Its drivers and outcomes among HR practitioners. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 38, 138–158.
Olchondra, R. T. (2012, May 18). OFWs mostly young but getting ‘older,’ says NSCB. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://globalnation.inquirer.net
Ulrich, D. (1997). Human Resource Champions. Cambridge, MA, Harvard Business Press
Villaluz, V., Fernandez, P., Salvosa, H., & Ilac, E. (2011) HR & OD trends and practices: 2011 and beyond (Ateneo CORD Trendwatcher  Monograph No. 20). Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University.