Training in the PHILIPPINES: my 3 lessons


What do penguins have in common with the Philippines?

My story with the Philippines started many years ago when I saw a picture of a friend on one of the pristine Filipino beaches. That day Philippines landed on my traveler bucket list.

What I did not expect, though, was the fact that my first trip to the Philippines will not be a holiday but a business trip. And that it will also be a very important learning experience for me as a trainer.

I worked on two different projects when visiting Manila – one was to transition the processes from Manila to Krakow office and my tasks were to map out the processes, build the training curriculum and content. Another project was training related: deliver soft collections/negotiations workshops for staff and project related workshops on root cause analysis for management.

I learned many lessons as a professional working on those projects. Is there anything you can learn from my experience? Allow me to take you on the trip back in time and let’s find out.

Lesson #1: Against your body clock & the super power energizers

When you are travelling to the Philippines from Europe (like I did) you are facing 2 main challenges – to keep you awake and to keep the participants awake. You need to be prepared for 24/5 shifts. This means you can be delivering training sessions during a morning shift, afternoon shift or night-shift. And while afternoon shift is the easiest one to adjust to when traveling from Europe (as it usually starts at 4 pm and finishes at midnight) the night-shift (from 10 pm to 6-7 am) is an exercise.

The big question is how do you stay alive focused on the delivery and with the right level of energy from 10 pm to 7 am? And how to keep the participants awake and engaged through the night in the workshops. It’s an experience like no others. For the time being you eliminate the phrase ‘I’m tired’ from your dictionary not to project your thought onto your body response. You start researching creative ideas for icebreakers and energizers and use every possibility at the start of the training, run additional 2-3 in the middle of the training and at the end of the session.

So here it is when the penguins come into the picture. One of my favorite energizers after lunch (especially if after lunch falls at 2 am) is called ‘The penguin alphabet’ where participants receive a code to decipher the penguin alphabet with lifting their left, right or both arms. It’s super funny but the main benefit is it brings the energy and focus back into the room.

TIP: sweets can be of big help too – best if you can bring some delicacies from your home country. That’s something everybody will be waiting for 🙂

Lesson #2: Getting to know you – fast track

Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have kids? It’s for sure fast track get to know you experience 🙂

When you are new it is good to be introduced properly – I was always looked after by my hosts to get introduced. But from there you don’t really need to worry about small talk being too formal or boring. Personal relations building and socializing is a very important ingredient of the Filipino culture to build trust and familiarity. Are you married will not be of course the very first question you will be asked but be prepared you will get direct questions. They just want to know you better as a person, not only a professional.

Lesson #3: Cheers to the team and teamwork!

It’s the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about the atmosphere in the office. There has to be something – every day – every shift – to cheer about. I found the people to be very hospitable but also cheerful teammates.

Celebrations are properly hosted with lots of hype and vibe. If there is a dancing competition don’t be surprised to find the employees practicing in the corridor. If there is videoke night (yes, videoke) they will be singing out-loud too and boy, they are really good singers!

Why should you remember about it? When designing a training think how much fun you want to bring into the workshop and which activities will allow you to highlight teamwork. A little bit of competition brings variety and lifts the energy levels too. Mind the balance, though, you need to bring in fun and energy but not at the cost of knowledge and skills transfer. This still remains a priority.

Are these all the lessons learnt? Not at all. But these 3 were my biggest takeaways:

  • keeping up the energy levels in a creative way;
  • having a relaxed approach to small talk and getting to know you activities, including being prepared to answer very direct questions about yourself;
  • teamwork, celebrations, success can be a very powerful drive for the effectiveness of your training.

I had this amazing opportunity to visit the country and experience the culture. Sending biggest hugs to all my training participants and colleagues from work! Till next time 🙂

PS. #1 The pristine beaches of the Philippines in reality are even more beautiful than on the pictures or postcards… I hope you will have a chance to visit and experience the beautiful nature and beautiful culture of the country.

PS. #2 There is a reason behind the Corona and San Miguel picture 🙂 When finishing work 7 am go straight into the restaurant and ask for a beer bucket. It’s a must try! Best accompanied with a sizzling sissig 🙂