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At foodpanda Malaysia, diversity, equity and inclusion are key drivers of its employee initiatives. In this joint interview, we learn:
- How the firm takes an equal approach to pay, opportunities, and to job roles, regardless of gender.
- How women employees are empowered to act as change agents to advocate the change they want for themselves.
- What is being done to support its delivery riders, amid high demands for food delivery.
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Food delivery company foodpanda Malaysia is on a mission to grow its workforce, while continuing to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of its culture.
As of July this year, the firm has approximately 500 full-time employees, and is constantly on the lookout for new talent to join the team. "We believe each and every team member does bring something unique to the table and hope to continue honing their strengths and talents by creating a thriving workplace culture," shares Ajay, Head of People and Culture, foodpanda Malaysia (pictured above, left).
Of these full-time numbers, just over two in five (45.8%) are women employees.
"We at foodpanda are geared with the mindset that all employees must be treated fairly, equally and with equity. We believe that these are the fundamental building blocks that are pertinent to create a harmonious and safe working space for all genders. Bearing that in mind, the most important aspect to evaluate when employees are being considered for opportunities are their skill sets and expertise in a given discipline," Ajay shares.
As such, he points out:
No role in foodpanda has been tailored to be gender specific, nor has there been disparity in terms of their salary, regardless of whether the position is held by a man or a woman. The amount earned by all team members within the organisation is commensurate with their roles and responsibilities.
"Aside from that, we are in constant demand for great talents to help the organisation evolve and continue to prosper. We love that we have been receiving a surge in interest from females from all walks of life - either their first job, career progression and even re-entering the workforce after a brief hiatus."
On that note, the firm has in place a series of initiatives to support its women employees - from training programmes, to benefits initiatives.
Ajay explains: "Whilst foodpanda promotes all forms of training, which cater to the entire workforce, there are also plans in the pipeline for exclusively curated programmes targeted to our female employees. We believe that this will further empower them in their professional capacities to grow their career with us while building their personal persona.
"It is important that we have all employees abreast with what is relevant and useful for their development (and challenges that they are set to face)."
In line with that, the firm's primary learning platform, MyAcademy, offers thousands of resources from Udemy, Harvard Business Review, Get Abstract, Spark that focus on women. These learning resources range from articles, podcasts, discussions on current issues and challenges faced by women all over the world, recorded dialogues, woman life coach certification courses, and courses that empower women to act as change agents to advocate the change they want for themselves.
"We find these programmes very fitting for our female counterparts as it gears them up to learn, understand, and prepare themselves for what’s in store in the coming years, as they play an absolutely vital role in the future of any industry – big or small, local and international."
On the benefits front, besides maternity leave and new parent benefits (which are extendable to both mothers and fathers including adoptive parents), and the occasional care packages on days like Mother’s Day, foodpanda "chooses to practise chivalry at work" for its female employees by creating an all-female group for them all to interact with each other openly within a comfortable, safe space.
foodpanda also had planned activities for International Women’s Day, where the team arranged care packages to be sent to all female employees.
Ajay adds: "Our plans for our female employees are constantly being planned and worked on – within and outside our infrastructure. To accommodate nursing mothers, we have a comfortable nursing room equipped with key amenities. In the near future, we would like to ease the burden even further by setting up a nursery for our baby Pandas to receive daycare while their parents are in the office, worry-free.
At foodpanda, we do not take the discriminatory approach. We appreciate all our mothers and fathers in the workforce. While not necessarily still true, we perceive mothers as primary caregivers and to accommodate, we allow them flexible work arrangements to manage their work schedule to attend to family priorities.
Apart from the above, Ajay delves into other ways foodpanda is committing to DEI, where he believes Asia stands in embracing diversity at the workplace, and more.
Q In what other ways is foodpanda showing its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture in terms of gender, ethnicity, and talent? What specifically is HR’s role as a driver of such initiatives?
We are working to promote our DEI initiative widely across the company. We believe that to inculcate this culture and awareness amongst our employees, we must first emulate it by diversifying our talent pool and our management team, which we have been continuously doing. Moving forward, we would also like to have the DEI campaigns and initiatives on a continuous basis to further drive this culture and awareness within the company.
Furthermore, we are an organisation that is driven by both employee engagement and employee satisfaction. We would normally conduct regular surveys with our employees to find out more about their needs and expectations before kick-starting new initiatives. While we do have plans of keeping our present initiatives running, we also do have more exciting plans in the pipeline that will be rolling out in the months to come.
Q Where do we, in Asia, stand in embracing diversity at the workplace, and what can we do better?
Personally, I feel that there is still much room for improvement when it comes to embracing diversity at the workplace in Asia. At foodpanda, we remain humble and aware that we did not pioneer the creation of a level playing field in this side of the world but we can vouch that this is definitely the direction we are consciously heading towards.
We are very much aware of other key players who have and continue to do an exceptional job in this area both locally and internationally and we look up to them as inspiration. As an organisation, we aim to maintain these good practices and inculcate it as part of our culture.
I believe all organisations in Malaysia should be ready to take on this challenge and learn from each other’s practices to attain the common goal in ensuring that employment should be fair for all and free of biases.
Assuming the food delivery industry, or any industry for that matter, has been construed or labelled as a male dominated industry, it is time to break that bias!
Q Overall, what’s in store for your workforce in the next two to three years?
We will be focusing our efforts on expanding the team at foodpanda in the next two to three years, which includes introducing new departments that would require individuals with different set of skills. This would also mean an increase in our full-time employee headcount here at foodpanda.
Looking at the business as a whole, we hope to diversify the skill sets that we have at the moment through training and other upskilling initiatives. We also want to improve our current processes and how we operate to be able to meet the needs and demands of our employees more efficiently.
On a regional level, we want to place a greater emphasis on inter-entity collaborations. What this means for the team is to prepare them to not just learn and apply initiatives or concepts locally but to be able to learn new things and localise them to suit each individual market. This way, our team would also have the opportunity to work together with both the regional and local team.
Besides that, as an organisation that firmly believes in sustainability, we hope to continue supporting and advocating initiatives as well as efforts that are aligned with our goals. One of the initiatives that we have at foodpanda is the Sustainability Champion that is being practised at both the regional and local level.
These are just some of the key focus areas for the next two to three years but we do have other activities in the pipeline that will be revealed in due time.
The leadership team at foodpanda Malaysia is not just focused on its full-time employees, but it also pays close attention to another important segment of its workforce - its delivery riders, who have no doubt played an even bigger role in the past 12 to 18 months.
In terms of numbers, whilst the demographic of riders is currently "skewed towards male riders", the firm is seeing more women signing up for the job, shares Kelvin Chan, Director of Operations, foodpanda Malaysia (pictured above, right). These sign-ups, he notes, are driven by the flexibility of timing and schedules offered to riders.
"At foodpanda, we always welcome Malaysians, both female and male to be our riders. The nature of the role allows people irrespective of gender to tailor their shift hours to what suits them best. Besides that, we find it encouraging that stories shared by women riders are celebrated and supported by the greater sphere of riders and netizens. We certainly hope their enthusiasm compels others to consider riding for us."
But in an industry that is indeed often perceived as male-dominated, how exactly is foodpanda ensuring that more women are recruited and given equal job opportunities?
Chan shares: "At foodpanda, we are committed to ensuring that all women within our organisation, including riders are treated equally. We are also constantly striving to depart from the archaic and conservative mindset that women are construed to be 'weaker' compared to men leading to the notion that they are unable to step into leadership or more serious or critical roles.
"The concept of women on top should be taken very seriously. In today’s day and age, women are just as professionally capable and strong willed as men.
Women deserve to be given an equal stage as their male counterparts. We strongly believe that daily mindset and verbiage has to change – to depart from 'may the best man win' to 'may the best person win'.
"Having said that, we are happy to report that all the women within our organisation are strong role models who are not afraid to shine, speak their minds and spearhead amazing initiatives whether business driven or CSR related. Besides that, keeping up with our nature as an organisation which is progressive, a lot of focus is placed on our succession plans through which we are able to identify female riders with potential to step into leadership roles once they have been groomed through relevant programmes."
Chan further reveals how the firm is ensuring the wellbeing of its delivery riders amid a time of high demands, how the firm is ensuring their protection where needed, as well as what else is in store for them in the coming years.
Q No doubt, the demand for food deliveries saw a sharp increase during the lockdowns/movement control, resulting in a higher demand for delivery riders. Yet on the people front, it was a time where employers had to take quicker steps to ensure the wellbeing of their workforce. How did you ensure they were taken care of while meeting these demands? How are you continuing to do so?
We understood very early on from the early onset of the pandemic that riders would play a key role in the economy and quickly tailored our insurance scheme (all riders are automatically enrolled) to include compensation if a rider is unable to work due to COVID-19. Additionally, all riders are also automatically enrolled with PERKESO to allow for some income compensation in the event of the rider not being able to work.
We also recognise that our riders come from a variety of backgrounds and some have fallen on hard times. For this, we are constantly introducing new and improved rider benefits every quarter to be able to provide them with greater savings and benefits. Our riders are essential to our business and through all that we do, we want to remind them that their health, safety and well-being is of utmost importance to us.
Additionally, we are always open to partner with service providers to be able to offer market-beating deals and help riders get onboard as soon as possible. These offers range from phone deals all the way to micro loans.
Aside from that, when a rider chooses to deliver with foodpanda, they also gain access to our pandashop which offers gear and other vehicle care products that are of good quality and at a very reasonable price.
Moving forward, the team at foodpanda will continue to look at more ways and opportunities to be able to provide more perks for our riders.
Q What other forms of support do you have in place for them, not just to ensure their wellbeing, but in other aspects (e.g. training, compensation & benefits, etc.)?
We are always looking for opportunities to upskill our riders and to give them the opportunities to learn and improve. Most recently, we had also collaborated with Yayasan Belia Malaysia, Taylor’s and CIMB on the CIMB Islamic Rider Entrepreneur Program to upskill determined B40 participants.
We also believe that high performing riders ought to be recognised by their fellow riders and the organisation as well. As such we have introduced Panda League where riders get points for showing up, being responsible, and are rated for their good performance. The top performers are then rewarded. Through this, we hope to encourage all our riders to deliver their best at all times.
Q Given the gig environment is one that is not as stable as the employment scene (i.e. employee rights, insurance, job stability), what support is given to assure they remain protected in the event it is needed?
We believe that rider insurance and PERKESO are essential, thus we have made it a priority to provide insurance coverage for riders since 2019 and have automatically enrolled them with PERKESO.
We have also have given riders the flexibility to choose their working times and have provided the option for our Muslim riders to opt to deliver goods from halal certified vendors only.
As a team, we have been paying attention to the needs of our riders and are continuously trying to innovate our offerings. More rider benefits will be revealed in due time and as the year progresses.
Q Finally, what’s in store for gig workers in the next 2-3 years?
While we foresee that the demand for gig workers will continue to be a part of society, the landscape of the industry is moving at a rapid pace and we want to play our role in shaping it. We would like to be able to continue offering potential riders the flexibility that they want and at the same time ensure that they are being compensated fairly and are sufficiently protected.
Photos / Provided
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