Manila Water Wins Asian Human Capital Award

Manila Water Company has been given the prestigious Asian Human Capital Award (AHCA) by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, INSEAD, and CNBC Asia. It is the first Filipino company to win the award

The award, given to companies for their innovative and impactful human resource practices, recognized Manila Water’s transformation from a struggling, underperforming water utility, to a world-class water service provider.

The AHCA is considered a prime honor for its stringent standards. Its exhaustive selection process includes personal visits and research on all operational aspects of each nominee. In winning the award, Manila Water joins a select group of companies including Procter and Gamble, Ritz Carlton Singapore and Accenture Services India.

“We are deeply honored by this singular distinction which the Asian Human Capital Award has bestowed on us. It is an affirmation of the efforts that our people have invested in Manila Water in the last 14 years,” said Manila Water president and CEO Gerardo C. Ablaza, Jr. in accepting the award today at the Singapore Human Capital Summit 2011.

A Mission to Fulfill

“Manila Water’s experience of transformation is a unique one,” Ablaza shared. “It is a story about how providing a supportive environment that is conducive to productivity and openness while remodeling the system can pave the way to maximizing people’s full potential.”

Prior to Manila Water’s entry as a water service provider in 1997, the water situation in Metro Manila’s east zone faced serious challenges. Only 67% of the households then had piped water connections, with erratic water availability. Moreover, 63% or about 700 million liters of water per day was being lost to leaks and illegal connections.

As Manila Water began its operations in 1997, it saw an opportunity to enhance Filipinos’ quality of life. And as it created a long-term masterplan to renovate the water network, an organizational transformation was set in place.

Enabling and Empowering

The key lay in the hands of the new Manila Water organization. Absorbing over 2,000 former government employees or about 90% of the total workforce in 1997, the employees were found to be good, skilled workers, but lacked empowerment, being highly dependent on a centralized headquarters hierarchy then. Manila Water enabled these employees through training and in-house technical schools to maximize their productivity and potential. Equal opportunity for career advancement, even at the rank-and-file level, was given. A culture of merit based on performance and integrity was fostered, as well as the promotion of an entrepreneurial mindset, where managers were encouraged to run their assigned units as if these were their own business, looking for more innovative, efficient solutions with the customer’s needs in mind.

As people transformed, so did the organization through a decentralized setup that created better focus, productivity and accountability. Employees were transformed from mere followers to decision makers.

Manila Water also supplemented these changes with a robust and methodical Cadetship Program, an intensive six-month immersion for young graduates in all aspects of the business.

Transforming Into a World-Class Company

AHCA noted that Manila Water’s human capital programs and innovations have allowed the company to achieve remarkable improvements in all areas of performance, making the Ayala-led firm a leader in its industry.

Today, Manila Water is recognized as one of the world’s best in water efficiency. It is now branching out of Manila’s east zone, in markets such as the industrially advanced province of Laguna and the top tourist destination, Boracay; as well as other areas in the Asian region such as Vietnam and India.

Said Ablaza: “By believing in our people’s innate talents while complementing this with the proper training, support and rewards, Manila Water was able to transform not only its people but also the entire business. It is a partnership and a compact that have become instrumental in improving lives, building communities and contributing to nation building.”