Cielto "Pinky" Romero Alvarado DioknoFor Cielito “Pinky” Romero Alvarado Diokno, who recently retired from Lopez Holdings Corporation as its Human Resources head, performance has always been her basis for gauging workplace standards.
“Let your performance speak for you,” says Diokno, a high school graduate of St. Theresa’s College, a school known for its tough standards of excellence. “You don’t have to ‘suck’ it up with the boss,” adds this holder of a Bachelor of Science degree major in Psychology from the University of the Philippines.
Before joining the Lopez Group, Diokno was exposed to the global practices of human resources. She was with Standard Chartered Bank as its country head. She was the first to set up the HR department of Maynilad when it was privatized as the government-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to a company belonging to the Lopez Group. This transition proved to be a difficult period for Diokno, who did not want to deal with union issues anymore. Besides, she found Maynilad quite far from her house in Parañaque. She was just not interested in staying at the Quezon Citybased water company any longer.
Interviewed by Kapitan
After more than a month, in May 1997, she was invited by a Lopez Group executive and was later interviewed by the late Eugenio “Kapitan” Lopez Jr.
Diokno recalls: “He gave me his blessing. I was interested in joining because I considered Benpres (the former name of Lopez Holdings) a blue-chip company. Working with the Lopezes, I felt more nationalistic and I could help in implementing social justice as we were into providing electricity, water and communications.”
She joined Benpres HR where she worked on the employees’ compensation package. After a few months, she was asked to help out the HR department of BayanTel.
“BayanTel was one of the progressive companies I worked with,” says Diokno, “and the company was nominated for the People Management Association of the Philippines’ Employer of the Year award. We were way ahead in building a service-oriented culture.”
Diokno, a mother of one boy, also recalls the time when the Lopez Group companies were in due stress.
“It’s not always been about money,” she says. “When we had a financial crisis, all the vice presidents opted not to have a salary increase for three years.”
Another obstacle that she had to hurdle as HR was the shifting mind-set from a strong sense of entitlement to one of meritocracy wherein she encountered a lot of resistance.
“We had to shift to performance- based culture. We introduced salary structure according to market standards. If you don’t meet your performance objective, you do not get any increase.”
Diokno considers setting up the Lopez Group HR Council with Beth Canlas of First Philippine Holdings Corporation and Mabelle Ramos of Lopez Inc. as one of the highlights of her career with the Lopez Group.
Growing the HR Council
“We grew it. We encouraged companies to join. They saw how our HR Council head Cedie Vargas supported it, and her being a Lopez was a big advantage for the growth of the council. The HRs of the different Lopez companies also saw how long we have been here at our companies and this established and strengthened our credibility. We were able to exercise influence over our peers. We would go out of our way to help.”
This was quite easy for Diokno to do as she is a service- oriented person and, being a Virgo, is concerned with details, organization and perfection.
“Being in HR, our focus was our customers—the employees. It is a two-way thing so that they help when asked.” Diokno takes pride in putting into practice the values she herself has always believed in.
Setting a good example
“My values are aligned with the Lopezes’ and I take pride in these. In HR, you have to set a good example. First and foremost, you must have integrity. We help achieve business excellence and, of course, we are into employee welfare. I try my best to be the best that I can be and to help others to be the best that they can be, starting with my staff. I point out areas for development. I help them convert their weaknessesinto strengths. I take pride in seeing those who worked with me become heads of their respective HR departments. I feel fulfilled when I see this.”
For Diokno, her only heartache, as she puts it, is “you take care of everybody, but no one takes care of you when you are in HR. And I just want to have a low profile at all times and I feel u n c o m - f o r t a b l e with recognition and awards. Most of all, I just want to be fair when it comes to formulating policies for employees.
“I have been working for 37 years and I am ambivalent about retirement,” she adds. “Now, I just want to have time for myself. All this time, I have always been concerned about other people. When I look back, you can only think there really is a higher being. From where I was before to where I am now, I had the right breaks. And again, my piece of advice: let your performance speak for itself.” (Photos/Story by: Dulce Festin-Baybay)