Managing Talent in Startup Mode
HQ Asia speaks with Junjie Zhou of Shopee about talent development for both emerging and mid- to senior-level talent. Zhou also shares how they have scaled from 10 employees to over 2,000 in less than three years.
How does Shopee effectively manage millennial talent?
Shopee also encourages employee growth and development. Millennials heavily prioritise personal growth, and we want to be able to provide them with ample opportunities to do so. Under our Shopee Academy (our training institute), we offer general training workshops to all employees at beginner and intermediate levels. Some of our past sessions include “Writing Effective Business Emails” and “Developing Positive Mindsets”. Typically up to six sessions are organised in Singapore each month, and the reception has been wildly encouraging thus far.
We also see the importance of supporting our employees’ personal interests–- employees are encouraged to take part in the interest clubs chaired and run by our own staff. Groups such as a football club, and activities like an in-office Game of Thrones viewing session and pool competitions have been started organically. Daily shuttle services that take employees to a gym which offers corporate discount rates have also been made available.
On the last Friday of each month, the entire Shopee office in each market gather together for Orange Day. Orange Day promotes cross-department interaction through teambuilding games, new hire performances and bonding over food. A Town Hall session is regularly conducted to share business updates.
How has Shopee successfully scaled HR at a rapid pace? Given that the workforce has grown from 10 to 2,000 in 2+ years.
One way we have managed to scale well is by building proper development structures to support our rapidly growing workforce. We provide each new hire with structured onboarding which exposes them to the full spectrum of Shopee functions. This gives them a comprehensive understanding of where their work fits in at Shopee and its team culture.
Much like how we prioritise user needs for Shopee customers, we do the same for our staff by recognising the importance of localisation and addressing local needs across all of our offices.
We achieve this by adopting a culturally-sensitive and consultative approach to identifying the needs of each local team before aligning objectives across each office. We support and encourage people services that are tailored to local norms, such as providing free rice for our Philippines office and complimentary halal meals for our Indonesian staff.
On top of that, the regional HR team establishes support systems with local teams through fortnightly calls that address challenges, support initiatives, and to guide execution. This helps the HR teams across all markets to successfully identify areas of improvement by regularly observing feedback trends. These have been some of the key processes integral to Shopee’s rapid growth.
What setbacks or difficulties has Shopee had to overcome during this period of rapid growth?
We had to overcome several key challenges during this period. We had a young workforce that averaged 26 years of age, a hierarchy that grew at an extreme pace thereby pushing some employees into a leadership position at an early stage, as well as an inexperienced workforce given that eCommerce was still a nascent industry in SEA. From a training perspective, another challenge we faced was time— the fast-paced environment in Shopee made it difficult for some employees to attend training sessions applicable to them.
The HR team works very closely with managers of the various functions to identify new skills that their team needs so that the appropriate trainings can be organised. This ensures that relevant skills are being taught to each employee, resulting in their personal growth and job readiness. Some training modules we have organised include User Research training for our customer experience team, Social Media Advertising training for our relationship management team, and Search Engine Optimisation training for our Marketing team.
As a means of keeping up with Shopee’s rapid growth, we implemented Pulse Check, which is an internal survey issued every other month to gather ground sentiments on topics like impact and sustainability. This gives us direct and real insight into the changing needs of our employees.
We noted that several employees were unable to attend long training workshops due to their schedules. As such, we came up with shorter classes and offered two- to three-hour long bite-sized training programmes. This increased the popularity of the programmes, and we often had 30 to 40 people on the waitlist for every session. By continuously gathering feedback on our training sessions, it allowed us to address our employees’ pain points and improve. We also encourage staff to learn on their own time by providing a wide variety of online learning resources on our intranet.
How does Shopee develop talent? Can you share some examples for first-time managers?
At Shopee, talent development is core to our people strategy and we strongly believe in supporting the growth and development of our employees. We have invested heavily in building our learning and development approach across the region through the founding of Shopee Academy, our training institute.
Under Shopee Academy, new leaders attend foundational modules, while experienced leaders gain access to more advanced topics. These leadership training modules are meant to be an introduction to leadership and cover a wide variety of topics from self development to communication. We also run more advanced regional leadership training courses where we bring the leaders from all markets together for leadership modules and team-building. Each leader attends two modules a year on topics like Leading with Emotional Intelligence, Critical and Strategic Thinking, and Team Development.
The training is provided by highly qualified external training partners and our leaders craft three-month action plans which our learning team follows up on monthly. They are also given access to post-training coaching to support them along their leadership journey. New hire leaders in Shopee are also brought to our Singapore headquarters for a quarterly onboarding where they learn more about the business, get training, and shadow a buddy to accelerate their learning.
How does Shopee develop its mid-level and senior talent? What processes work for Shopee?
For mid-level and senior talent, we place heavy focus on helping them develop people management skills. The regional leadership onboarding program was launched to accelerate our managers’ acclimatisation into Shopee’s culture by providing a clear map into our leadership DNA, practical case studies, and a deep-dive into different teams. We also recently transitioned from specific country leadership training to a structured regional leadership development programme. Not only do mid-level new hires from all markets get flown into Singapore headquarters for on-boarding, but also to gain the regional exposure and networks needed for their jobs.
Our training approach is divided into three pillars: functional, general and leadership. Under functional and general training, we assess local needs and staff development goals to provide training that ranges from soft skills in customer service to Excel, giving feedback effectively, and building powerful presentation decks.
That said, our mid-level and senior talents also go through other modules to help them develop their general skills and professional effectiveness, as well as their soft and technical skills required to perform the tasks expected of them. We strongly believe that learning is a lifelong process and that it is important for one to be proactive to identify areas of improvement.