Government recruitment turns to technology

- Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

PALO ALTO, California – One big bright hope for the new year is the decision of the Civil Service Commission and a number of government agencies to utilize technology for recruitment of staff. Does this signal the end of the political padrino system? I sure hope so, but it is too early to tell.

Just before the Christmas break, five more government agencies signed a job-matching MOA with Kalibrr, a local tech start-up, to harness technology for government recruitment.

They have received 38,000 applications for 3,800 job vacancies since May 2015, making government job vacancies more than 10 times oversubscribed. It was Cesar Purisima’s DOF, in cooperation with the Civil Service Commission, that spearheaded the move to professionalize government recruitment. If this works, it will be one really monumental accomplishment of the Aquino administration. This is a true Daang Matuwid project that’s tangible, not imaginary.

Last month, five new government agencies partnered with job matching startup Kalibrr to democratize hiring by widening their recruitment net and marketing reach. The five new agencies--DepEd, DOF-BLGF, DOTC, DSWD, and PPPC--are the second batch of agencies to sign agreements with Kalibrr.

The first batch of five agencies signed last Aug. 27, 2015: the Department of Finance (DOF), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Civil Service Commission (CSC). This makes a total of 10 agencies that have signed up for the partnership.

According to Maria Luisa Salonga Agamata of the CSC, the initiative to integrate technology into the recruitment process aims to make the process of searching and screening applicants more efficient. Ultimately, it also seeks to uphold the constitutional principle of merit and fitness with regard to appointments and other HR actions in the civil service.

In an e-mail to me, Dr. Agamata said: “As the central HR agency of the Philippine government, the CSC agrees with you that everyone should have a fair chance at employment, and that recruitment should be free from political connections.”

The good news according to Dr. Agamata, is that they are now introducing competency-based HR, similar to what is being done in the private sector. I am told they already have this in place in the CSC and will cascade this system to the entire bureaucracy.

Serendipitously, there is now available technology to help the CSC professionalize the recruitment process with the entry of a tech startup called Kalibrr. Established in Manila by balikbayan technopreneurs from Silicon Valley, Kalibrr seeks to transform the way candidates find jobs and the way companies hire talent.

Kalibrr claims it delivers a faster, smarter, and more sophisticated way of job matching. It uses a cloud-based platform, enhanced with a series of assessments to transform the way candidates find jobs and companies hire talent.

Kalibrr claims to be the first-ever Filipino startup to join the elite roster of venture capital-funded companies including AirBnb, Reddit, Scribd, and Dropbox.

“Apart from Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator, Kalibrr is also backed by several big guns in the industry, in and out of the country, including Globe Telecom’s own accelerator-incubator Kickstart Ventures, and no less than eBay’s Pierre Omidyar. Kalibrr’s first round of fundraising has generated $2 million—one of the largest among local startups.”

Team Kalibrr was founded by Paul Rivera, currently the company’s chief executive officer, and Dexter Ligot Gordon, chief operating officer. From just the two of them, the company has now grown to more than 42 people handling front- and back- end, content, sales, and marketing.

Kalibrr uses technology to match jobseekers and companies based on demonstrated skills. Kalibrr also empowers jobseekers to demonstrate their skills through its assessments platform.

“To do this, jobseekers use Kalibrr to create a free, professional profile so companies can discover them in our database. Kalibrr then matches them with jobs based on location, skills, and experience.”

Jobseekers can take online assessments to pre-qualify for job interviews from home. Currently, they have provided solutions to over 5,000 companies in Metro Manila, including Ayala, San Miguel Corp., Teleperformance, and Coca-Cola Philippines.

Kalibrr claims they now have more than 200,000 jobseekers in their database, and at least 600 applications are being submitted through their platform every day.

This seems like a good combination of a pioneering tech start up and government to help move the job of ensuring good public sector governance notches higher. I doubt if the political padrino will be totally eliminated soon, but at least the CSC is not sleeping on its job.

It is interesting that even the DOTC is among the 10 initial agencies that signed up. I remember how DBM Sec Butch Abad responded when I asked him why DOTC is failing on its job of rolling out vital infra projects. Butch said, the problem is technical deficit.

As he explained it to me, technical deficit is the lack of qualified personnel to evaluate technical projects like railroads and airports and properly supervise implementation. I remember we laughed when I pointed out DOTC is top heavy with lawyers who cannot be expected to build and run railroads.

I think it is also urgent for government to start an honest evaluation of current staff as to competency and relevance to the agency. Technical agencies like DOTC, NTC, and the soon to be created Department of Information and Communication Technology, must also be staffed by technocrats who are up to date in their knowledge of their fast evolving fields.

DOTC currently tries to augment its technical deficiencies by hiring consultants. But I am told by sources that often enough, foreign contractors send field consultants who do not have the proper experience or training. That’s one reason why their airport building programs are as good as stalled.

I realize introducing change in the bureaucracy is a time consuming endeavor that demands utmost patience. That CSC has managed to sign up with Kalibrr and to dramatically attempting to change the whole system of recruitment to take advantage of cutting edge technology is quite an accomplishment in itself.

I hope the new administration will carry on with the initiatives started last year to de-politicize and professionalize government recruitment. We need a competent bureaucracy. If we had a competent bureaucracy at DOTC, it may hardly matter if we had someone like Jun Abaya at the helm. The trains will still run on schedule.

I suspect that in the case of DOTC as it is with many other government agencies, the bureaucracy does not have the competence required with many getting their positions through political intervention. It is a case of the blind being led by the blind. This has to change and hopefully, if the CSC exercises its constitutional prerogatives, it can use its power to clean up and improve the quality of the bureaucracy.

It is a long road ahead, but at least we have a start.

 Faux pas

 A serious diplomatic faux pas was committed by Malacañang by prematurely announcing the appointment of a new Philippine Ambassador to Spain. The irony is that it involves the chief of the Presidential Protocol who should know better.

According to newspaper accounts, the appointment of the Protocol Chief to head the Embassy in Spain was made by P-Noy Dec. 29, 2015 and transmitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs. In olden and more civilized days when I was covering the DFA, they kept such appointments confidential until the entire process is completed. As reporters, we respected that diplomatic practice.

To begin with, the appointment does not take effect until approved by the Commission on Appointments. It is to be recalled, for example, that P-Noy appointed an old family friend as ambassador to China, but after grilling by the Commission on Appointments, he was rejected.

Only after getting the Commission on Appointments to approve the appointment can the Philippine government work to get the “agreement” or the concurrence of the receiving government. Out of diplomatic courtesy, our government should not make an announcement before getting that “agreement”. Otherwise, it is like putting that government on the spot.

The worse part of that Malacañang faux pas is that we still have an ambassador in Spain and he just lost his standing, even if the new appointment takes effect in July. He might just as well go home after being stabbed in the back by his own government.

And what happens if the new administration has another person in mind? P-Noy is doing to them what Ate Glue did to him. No moral high ground.

This is a good example of incompetence by this administration so late in its watch. Or maybe they were trying to make a midnight appointment because the ban on appointments prior to an election will soon take effect.

Horrible! Embarrassing because it involves another government.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.












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