First Balfour: Investing in People


Construction giant First Balfour sought to develop something beyond the familiar highway or building: its people. And much like its other massive projects in the Philippines, this undertaking carried monumental challenges.

The company

Began 46 years ago, First Balfour has grown from a spin-off into one of the Philippines’ largest and most reputable construction and engineering companies. It is a Triple A (AAA) contractor in general engineering and building with the highest category in the industry granted by the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

Today, First Balfour takes on massive and a wide range of construction and infrastructure projects in different parts of the country, from commercial buildings in Metro Manila to wind farms in Ilocos. It is part of the Lopez Group of Companies, a Filipino-owned conglomerate with a dossier of investments in several industries, including broadcasting, energy, telecommunications, manufacturing and property development.

The company focuses on its people by investing in their training and adopting best practices to further their development. These efforts were recognized by the UK government who granted First Balfour an Investors in People (IiP) Bronze Certification in 2010 — a first for construction and engineering companies in the country.

What drives them is their commitment to nation-building and improving the quality of Filipino lives. They achieve this by delivering infrastructure and creating businesses that generate sustainable values through innovation and excellence in engineering, construction and project management. First Balfour conducts its business with the Lopez Group of Companies’ core values of social justice and entrepreneurial spirit.

The challenge

With a rapidly growing workforce of 3,000 employees spread across the country, First Balfour’s Human Resources Department (HRD) needed a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) that will replace the old, error-prone application. Ms. Abigail Lavapie, First Balfour’s HR manager, said that it was her “biggest issue” when she came in. First Balfour’s one major issue is that the old system offers a limited number of users in which is not applicable to a fast-growing company. If they are to add a new employee that exceeds the limit of the number of users, old system will automatically be locked and is requiring for an additional payment. As their old system offered limited access, even a task as basic as determining the exact number of employees proved troublesome. Coupled with how fast turnover was for the employees, reports generation became next to impossible.

The service provider–who eventually closed down–attempted to salvage the system, but its new proposal still failed to fulfill the company’s growing needs.

The vision

Expecting as much as 1,000 new employees in two years time, First Balfour needed a system that can keep up with its rapid expansion. Its vision was to adopt a customizable and paperless HRIS that can keep track of and be accessed by an increasing number of users, regardless of location, using the Web. “With 3,000 people, paper transactions would bog us down,” said Ms. Abigail Lavapie.

Customization is paramount as new functions are required to match the construction firm’s distinct structure. The new system should be able to perform an accurate analysis of demographics to allow for faster analytics and generation of reports.

The maximum number of users is another subject of concern. As the company continues to take on new projects from remote regions and take in new people from those areas, it cannot afford to be restricted by an HRIS that only allows a limited number of users.

The future

The implementation of Workwise eliminated the roadblocks brought by First Balfour’s earlier system, allowing its HRD to focus on more productive tasks. HDI Systech put in place a comprehensive and scalable solution that handles payroll, 201 management, recruitment, as well as timekeeping, performance appraisal and training and development for an unbounded number of users.

HR staff members have noted the simplicity of crafting reports owing to Workwise, which gave them more time for strategic tasks and analytics. “Before, whenever someone needs numbers from me, it took me two days to provide such information, but now, I can furnish them the data instantly,” said Ms. Abigail Lavapie. “

201 management works perfectly, according to Ms. Abigail Lavapie. HDI Systech customized Workwise to address First Balfour’s intricate deployment set-up, where employee can be assigned to one project while working on another. Moreover, the system replicated its way of computing taxes for employees that are engaged in multiple assignments to save them from paying a huge amount at the end of the year.

Apart from HR staff members, employees enjoy the benefits of a paperless transaction. In the past, leave credits are manually computed that results on incorrect computations. This is the reason why some employees are prevented from converting them to pay-outs come year’s end. The transparency brought by Workwise enabled them to monitor their usage just by logging in to the system. Users have also remarked on the ease of applying for leaves and overtime minus the paperwork online.

Today, HDI Systech’s Workwise is used across all First Balfour sites.