Vinz Villeguez, an IT staff for U.S.-based business process outsourcing (BPO) company Afni, was one of those who had to work on the frontlines when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
“Since the pandemic, our team couldn’t work from home,” said Vinz. “We had to ensure work from home (WFH) kits were safely distributed and set up so everyone in the company could continue to work and keep their jobs.”
Despite the challenging responsibilities that came with longer work hours and, sometimes, anxiety about COVID-19 by physically reporting to work, Vinz gave a stellar performance that resulted in successful WFH transitions of more than 70% of Afni’s workforce in the Philippines. Vinz was motivated and continues to be so, and Afni gave him a heartfelt recognition for all his hard work.
Afni knows and practices effective employee recognition. Considering the number of rewards initiatives and employee engagement programs it lines up annually, it is easy to see how Afni puts top importance on what it calls the “Afni family.”
But its signature Philippine recognition program is the Afni Champion Employee (ACE). Every month, it identifies top performers and then holds an annual recognition night to award the best of the best.
The ongoing community quarantine kept the company from holding it at a physical location so, for the first time, the ACE recognition night was held online on April 24. The virtual event was nothing short of inspiring and entertaining and welcomed many guests, including senior leadership and clients, across the U.S. and the Philippines.
“I was very impressed with the planning, organization, coordination, energy, collaboration, and execution of such a big event,” said Vice President for Global Human Resources Cindy Blackburn. “I realize it’s not easy to pull events like this together and doing them virtually adds a component of complexity.”
Employee recognition boosts morale, productivity, retention
According to U.S.-based analytics and advisory company Gallup, “Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment, and makes employees feel valued for their work.”
“The work situation when the pandemic hit was unusual because I had to navigate in an invisible working space,” said Finance Supervisor Kharen Dimayuga, one of the 51 employees awarded during the recognition night. “But this ACE award makes me feel that Afni recognizes and values my performance. I share this with my teammates who have all been supportive of me.”
Recognition makes employees feel good overall. Harvard University psychology researcher and author Shawn Achor said, “People who cultivate a positive mindset perform better in the face of challenge. I call this the ‘happiness advantage’ – every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.”
That appears to be true for ACE awardees.
Recruitment Specialist Chris Familara said that even though work processes were harder during the pandemic, he and his team were still able to hit targets, and part of the reason for that is the uplifting energy they have in their team. Afni’s recruitment team had to completely transition to virtual tools and despite the change, the company saw a 14% increase in applicants last year.
“When I won the ACE award, it didn’t immediately sink in,” said Chris. “But when it did, the first thing I had in mind was that I owed it to my leaders for the trust they gave me, as well as my teammates for their commitment and flexibility in getting the job done even as we adapt to the new situation.”
Speaking to attendees, Senior Director for Philippine Operations Alain Katigbac congratulated not just the awardees but all Afni employees.
“We went through an entirely different environment through the pandemic,” said Alain. “And to get through it and still grow the business and continue to perform, I would tip my hat off to everyone who’s part of Afni because we couldn’t have done it without you.”
Turning roadblocks into opportunities
Afni’s success story even during the pandemic transpires in its foothold in Metro Manila, which continues to grow.
Afni’s also expanding to more locations, the latest is the opening of its newest site at SM City Fairview.
“There’s a lot of growth for Afni lined up for this year and the coming years,” said Vice President for Philippine Operations Khalid Khursheed.
Surely, there are lots of exciting things to look forward to at Afni. But for Vinz, Kharen, and Chris, it’s simply to continue doing their best and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
“Continue supporting your [colleagues]. Do the right thing. Be honest and passionate in what you do, and success will come after,” advised Khalid to the ACE nominees and winners.