With the COVID-19 pandemic heightening the value of solidarity and unity, the importance of placing the needs of people front and center is amplified as well. Whether they be the employees overseeing continued manufacturing operations, or individuals contributing to the COVID-19 fight, ensuring that people are properly cared for in order for them to carry on at their very best truly matters.
With this in mind, Coca-Cola reinforced its 108-year-old commitment to stand together with Filipinos—first, by re-allocating P150M worth of advertising money to COVID-19 relief efforts. Subsequently, Coca-Cola then continued to serve its customers through provisions of essential hydration needs throughout the imposed community quarantines across the country.
These were actions that made manifest the Company’s “People First” approach, in which the needs of the communities they serve as well as those of the people that make up their organization, were prioritized. Since the onset of the pandemic, Coca-Cola has heightened measures to protect the total well-being of its 10,000 employees nationwide, further raising its already strict safety and sanitation standards, alongside efforts aimed at introducing employee-driven healthcare initiatives. These initiatives include programs on mental well-being and health, as well as modules on continuous personal and professional development of all of its associates—whether they are working from home or serving as industry frontliners.
Its new employee program called “Life at Coke” focuses on personal development, healthy interpersonal relationships, and open dialogue between management and the associates. “Companies are responsible for helping their employees thrive in these most challenging times,” says Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI) President and CEO Gareth McGeown. “The world that we live in has changed, and it continues to do so at a fast pace. This requires us to adapt and, more importantly, to demonstrate empathy. We must support our employees to make sure that they can acclimatize to these changes in healthy, accessible ways.”
Through “Life at Coke,” the Company has rolled out programs such as helplines and support groups, webinars on mental health in the workplace, and employee-led fitness sessions. To boost morale and increase motivation, the Company also revamped its organizational development system to allow for more promotions and merit increases.
CCBPI has also set aside almost Php2 billion for its employee assistance fund, ensuring that associates were paid during quarantine. Moreover, those part of the on-site and in-the-field skeletal workforce were even provided with additional allowances. Other monetary and non-monetary employee support has also been provided, such as the deferment of loan payments to cooperatives and the advanced partial pay-out of 13th month pay, along with full HMO coverage in the event any associates or dependents contracted COVID-19.
McGeown adds, “As the leader of an organization of 10,000 people, it is my responsibility to make sure that all our associates know what we are doing—regarding the health of the business, safety initiatives, and people initiatives—so they do not need to worry about their jobs. They can be assured that they can continue providing for their families.”
As the country transitions into the so-called next normal, the Company is also set to enact a gradual phasing of employees returning to workplaces and sites—involving reconfigured workspaces that are compliant with health and safety protocols.
“We’ve been reimagining and reframing what the future will look like as we continue to do our best to protect jobs and retool and upskill people to operate in different ways,” McGeown says. “Our plan is to ease into the ‘new normal,’ and to learn and recalibrate as we go along. We are not in a rush to do it; we want to do it right.”
As the Philippines continues to battle the pandemic, Coca-Cola remains firm in its commitment to continue to invest, create local jobs, and be a good partner to the country. “Our commitment to the Philippines remains stronger than ever,” McGeown says. “We’ve been in the Philippines for over 100 years, rest assured that we aim to be here for at least another 100 more.”
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