If you step into the office of Voyager Innovations, In Ortigas, you could easily think you are in the heart of Silicon Valley. This effect is intentional. The workplace was designed to put employees in the frame of mind they need to envision, create, and innovate, which is all based on best practices set by some of the most renowned tech companies in the valley, such as Google and Facebook.
Voyager Innovations, a subsidiary of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), is the digital arm of PLDT, so it’s imperative for the unit to exist and thrive on the cutting edge of technology.
To facilitate collaboration, the floorplan is completely open. There is not a single office room – even the executives have only a cubicle, whose walls are deliberately kept low. Managers sit with their team members. There are ping pong tables, multiple lounge areas, and wall art. Many employees avail of the waveboards scattered around the office to travel from one end to the other.
The decorations for the office also have a purpose behind them. Meeting rooms, for instance, are designed and decorated after a particular theme, each coming from the name of a Filipino invention or inventor. The support beams are adorned with framed objects that employees have donated, so as to give the place a feeling of familiarity and home.
The Voyager Innovation team has had an active role in building the entire workplace. The statue in the lobby, which was fashioned from scrap metal, was even designed by Benjie Fernandez, the managing director of Voyager Innovations. He believes that tech companies, particularly those in the Philippines, do not give enough attention to the workspace and how it can affect morale and productivity.
This is not just talk – significant thought goes into every detail of the office, no matter how small. As an example, user experience experts from the product team designed all of the walls, including a freedom wall, where employees are free to write whatever they want, and a photo wall, where some of Voyager’s most significant milestones are documented.
Voyager Innovations does not just stop at the physical environment. The people team also makes it a point to have perks and policies that empower all employees. Breakfast and fruit are served daily. All employees are on flexitime. The dress code is casual. There are quarterly celebrations of Voyager milestones, and more frequent gatherings called iShare in which employees share their passions.
All employees, including executives and managers, take economy when flying to international conferences and meetings. This allows more people to travel per year for training, which is highly encouraged. When they return home to Voyager, they then share their learnings with their team members in a cascade.
One of the cooler employee policies is borrowed from Google’s playbook. All full-time employees get what is called 10% time. For 10% of their work-time, which would be 4 hours a week or a half day of one full workday, employees take on special projects outside of their core responsibilities that they feel are important to do.
The effort it took to develop the workplace and culture of Voyager Innovations is clearly paying off. The accelerator has improved the time to market for all its assets, reducing the industry average time of video asset creation from two months to one week and leave behind marketing collaterals from two months to one week.
Most impressively, Voyager Innovations launches websites in as little as two weeks, which is down from the industry average time of three months. These are not throwaways, either. The company has produced websites, platforms, and apps that are already shining in their respective spaces.
To highlight just a few examples, SafeZone, which provides free data access to mobile subscribers, is now the fourth most frequented mobile website in the Philippines and the number one community site. Online store creator TackThis has more than 30,000 merchants across Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.
Takatack is the largest online ecommerce store in the Philippines, clocking it well over 100,000 SKUs. Smart Padala generated more than 80 billion pesos in annual remittances, making it the number one domestic remittance provider. Soon-to-launch fin-tech platform PayMaya holds the distinction of being the first non-bank in Asia to be awarded a Visa issuing and acquiring principal license.