The global economic earthquake that rocked the world in 2008 made many companies realize the need for revolutionary changes in the way they do business.

In the Philippines, the recession’s impact is most apparent in the changing employment landscape where, according to a survey conducted by JobsDB Phils, Inc., there is now a great divide between employers and job candidates in terms of hiring and selection. “The local employment scene has actually grown by 44 to 50 percent since 2009, but even with all these job openings, the preferences of companies and job-seekers do not match,” shares JayJay Viray, managing director of JobsDB Phils, Inc. “At any given day, we have about 7,000 new jobs. But applicants are choosier now—they look for location and they look at the benefits. A job-seeker who is offered a high-paying job here in Manila, for example, would rather wait it out until he gets another offer from Singapore or any country abroad, sometimes even for lesser pay. That’s how much the industry has changed.”

The Preferential Mismatch

With most local companies still transfixed on traditional employment practices, it’s no wonder the younger generation of job seekers looks toward other countries for career fulfillment. “That’s what I keep telling traditional companies—it is not an employer’s market anymore. The power is in the job seekers,” asserts Viray. “The world has become too small, the number of freelance jobs online is growing, and the employment industry has become so fluid that a local company needs to address two things: preferential mismatch and retention.”

While more progressive countries have long since eliminated the need to see the basic personal information of a job candidate to eliminate bias, the Philippines is still among those who persist to hire based on age. “That’s among the mindsets we want to change,” shares Viray. “At the end of the day, what an employer really wants is productivity. And that doesn’t depend on a candidate’s age. Bureaucracy is another thing. It turns off employees. If you look at how low the turnover is at Google, it’s because employees are given the freedom to be productive in their own way. Yes, rules should be set, but it shouldn’t be restrictive. Some companies who persist on tradition actually end up with more expensive recruitment costs.”

More than just breaking away from convention, it would do employers well to understand how the minds of today’s younger job seekers work. “A conversation in school is usually about the latest gadgets and trends. When in my day new TV models would come out every two years, it’s much faster now. And that’s how it is with today’s job candidates. It’s the iPad generation. They want instant gratification,” says Viray. “The preferential mismatch is something a business—and the government—needs to acknowledge to target the job candidates they want.”

A ‘Menu’ of Benefits

An advertising effort to promote the local employment landscape is the order of the day, shares Viray. “The reason Singapore has a thriving employment industry is because it has a good image—maganda ang marketing. It’s really a business of projection and that’s something I think our government should work on. If we start marketing our employment landscape effectively, maybe our local workers would not have to leave the country for better opportunities.”

One strategy JobsDB Phils has been promoting among its partners is the practice of giving flexible benefits. “Come up with a menu,” suggests Viray. “In the States, they give a list of benefits where employees choose five they like—annual medical checkup, transportation allowance, gym memberships, etc. That’s a really great idea because it’s tailored according to what your employee needs. One employee’s needs are different from another’s. Younger employees might prefer a car or something more immediate, while older employees choose medical benefits or insurance. It’s a creative, out-of-the-box solution.”

When Viray introduced the concept to a recent convention, she shared that while it was welcomed by most in attendance, “there was still that one person who reacted negatively to it. Meron pa rin traditional, but there are others who are beginning to embrace it. You can’t just stick to what you know. It’s what makes Apple and Steve Jobs successful. There’s always innovation. And that’s how it should be with today’s employers, too.”

Published in the October 18, 2010 issue of the Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda section.