Revolutionising HR with a human touch

Ma. Theresa Llamas, CHRO, Newport World Resorts (NWR), is at the forefront of driving change and fostering innovation for her organisation.
By: | August 25, 2023

Newport World Resorts Chief HR Officer Ma. Theresa Llamas (front right) and President and CEO Kingson Sian (front centre) join Thrillmakers in showcasing their support for the organisation’s integrated sustainability initiative, I LOVE Earth.

Newport World Resorts (NWR) has garnered attention in the HR industry as Ma. Theresa Llamas, the organisation’s Chief Human Resources Officer, was recently honoured with the Best HR Leader award, sponsored by IBM, at HR Fest Awards 2023.

This recognition not only celebrates Llamas’ contributions but also highlights the HR practices and management capabilities of Filipino organisations on a global scale.

“I was truly honoured to receive the award. It means a great deal to me personally and makes me proud as a Thrillmaker and as a Filipino,” she shared with HRM Magazine Asia. The term “Thrillmaker” is how NWR employees are referred to, emphasising their integral role in the organisation’s success. Llamas sees the award as a recognition of the unique culture they have fostered at NWR, while also serving as a motivating force to continue delivering world-class experiences with a distinct Filipino touch.

At the heart of Llamas’ HR leadership at NWR lies a passion for driving change and fostering innovation. She understands that NWR is not simply part of the hospitality, tourism, and leisure and entertainment industry, but rather, in the “people business”.

“Kingson Sian, our President and CEO, would always remind us that we are in the ‘people business’. Because in the industry we’re in, the strength behind our success is our employees. With this, our thrust is to make our approach more personal. Human to human and connecting at a level that mattered the most by maintaining honest and open communications, creating actionable outcomes beyond simply listening, and getting the best out of every person in the organisation,” she explained. “We have removed the traditional perception of and transformed the employees’ view of HR as the ‘office police’ but instead, their allies to succeed in their respective professions.”

To ensure open lines of communication and genuine employee engagement, Llamas and her HR team have implemented various strategies. One approach is conducting regular engagement surveys to stay attuned to employee concerns and sentiments. Additionally, employees are encouraged to voice their suggestions and issues through platforms like the Employee Events Facebook Page, email, and chat groups. Llamas has also facilitated honest and transparent connections between management and employees through initiatives like the Kamustahan Sessions, where small groups of employees can engage in focused discussions with Sian, and the Sama-Salo, NWR’s version of a town hall meeting.

These efforts have resulted in an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas, knowing that their voices truly matter. Llamas further highlighted the positive outcomes that have emerged from this approach, saying, “The management does not shy away from answering their questions and sharing the considerations behind some decisions, and they’ve already seen a number of measures already implemented by the organisation which stemmed from their feedback.”

Effective communication lies at the core of Llamas’ HR leadership. Recognising the diverse nature of its workforce, Llamas employs a range of communication strategies and channels to reach every employee. She elaborated, “In an ideal HR world, it would be much easier for us to just have a single channel of communication or strategy for everything we communicate with employees. But with our type of organisation with almost 5,000 employees, we recognise that doing that will make us lose our purpose as HR which is to connect with them and the management.”

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In addition to traditional communication tools such as email, surveys, and HR helpdesks, Llamas and her team have embraced unconventional methods. They created a Public Facebook Page called NWREmployeeEvents, catering to the visual and social media-savvy millennial employees who constitute 65% of the workforce. This platform, she added, delivers information in a fun and easy-to-digest manner, employing engaging elements like live videos, contests, and posts in a combination of Tagalog and English.

Looking ahead, Llamas remains committed to driving the success and growth of NWR by ensuring that HR remains at the forefront of innovation, creating an environment where employees can thrive. “I would love for NWR to further grow through digitalisation with a human touch. This will help a lot not only to streamline processes but also give more time for the team to focus on strategic programmes and initiatives to further elevate employee experience,” she concluded.