The firm prides itself on building bonds and uniting teams to spur innovation, Agatha Soh, Regional Head of People, Shopee, tells Jerene Ang. She shares how this drives not just engagement at Shopee, but the learning culture as well.

- with inputs from Priya Sunil

Q How has your learning strategy today evolved from what you’d planned out last year?

Learning is best done through collaboration and mutual interaction. With the pandemic altering the way we work, we relied more on technology to stay connected. While we’ve retained our core learning and employee engagement strategies, we’ve adopted a stronger focus on digital learning and have developed more online learning and training programmes for employees across the region, utilising various online tools to facilitate and enrich our training sessions.

We also encourage all employees to learn at their own time, based on their own learning styles and are empowered to pursue their own interests through external programmes that they may find beneficial to personal growth.

Q I understand Shopee’s learning and engagement strategy also focuses on building closer bonds between employees, and uniting teams to spur innovation. Please share more about how this works.

Shopee’s working culture is built around open communication, collaboration and community. We envision our workplace to be a place where employees can come together to create meaningful connections with one another.

As our work requires a high level of intra- and inter-departmental interaction, we are focused on creating a vibrant and open workplace that facilitates ease of communication. This guiding principle is reflected through our employee engagement activities, strong feedback culture, and office features that facilitate conducive collaboration.

Even as we strictly adhere to social distancing and health measures, the spirit of togetherness is something we continue to amplify. We do this in several ways - this includes brown bag lunches that provide employees with casual and comfortable environments to learn from leaders and build camaraderie. We also run mentorship programmes and employee-led training sessions to give employees the opportunity to engage in cross-functional learning and work on personal development under the guidance of more experienced team members.

Q How are you helping employees accelerate their learning (especially when it comes to soft skills)?

Our people are the foundation of our progress, and we believe by honing their growth, they can help drive the industry forward. We pride ourselves on providing the relevant programmes to develop our staff and empower them - both with technical and soft skills.

  • Shopee’s L&D team organises training workshops for all employees through Shopee Academy, Shopee’s in-house training programme. These workshops are conducted by Shopee managers and in-house trainers, and are available at beginner to advanced levels. These range from a variety of sessions that cover both technical skills such as basic coding and soft-skills such as effective written communication.
  • To stay updated on employees’ feedback and sentiments, we do our best to cultivate a strong feedback culture at Shopee. Soft skills are often best learned via consistent learning and feedback provided by leaders and peers. As such, we provide our employees with guidelines on how to give feedback constructively and effectively to one another, to help create a nurturing environment where we help one another grow.

Q With a strategy focused on building bonds and uniting teams, can it be said that ensuring a culture fit during recruitment plays a large part in this? If so, what are some key things Shopee looks out for when recruiting new talent?

It’s essential to find candidates who are both a technical fit and a cultural fit. At Shopee, we look for talent who can help us advance our goal of connecting millions of shoppers, sellers, and brands daily. In the technical aspect, prospective candidates must possess the necessary skills to do the job they’re applying for competently. In the cultural aspect, we value and welcome people of different experiences and backgrounds as we strongly believe in the power of diversity to drive innovation. At the same time, they must work well with the team they will be joining.

We look for talent with the following characteristics, based on Shopee’s core values (We Serve, We Run, We Adapt, We Commit, and We Stay Humble):

  • Desire to learn and serve people better - The current working environment is fast-paced and constantly changing; employees need to be hungry for knowledge and have the drive to go above and beyond to take charge of their personal development.
  • Adaptability and versatility - The new economy is built on finding new solutions to existing problems. We are searching for people who are solutions-driven and action-oriented. E-commerce is fast-moving and ever-changing, and we need candidates to adapt quickly and anticipate challenges.
  • Team players - As the saying goes, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. That's a core philosophy for us here at Shopee.

Q Recruiting in the new normal is pretty different from pre-COVID times. How is Shopee’s People team adapting talent recruitment strategies to attract candidates?

In current times, it has become imperative to reshape the recruitment process with more emphasis on technology. We are utilising more digital channels to recruit talent, such as digital job boards, virtual job fairs, and even social media platforms such as LinkedIn which are fast-becoming a key avenue for finding suitable candidates.

Online resume screening and virtual interviews facilitated via video conferencing platforms such as Zoom also prove to be powerful enablers during the assessment phase of the recruitment process.

Q On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very important, when it comes to priming, retaining, and developing staff, how important do you think addressing local needs is during such turbulent times? Why? And how does Shopee approach this?

I would rate it a 10. As a homegrown tech company headquartered in Singapore, Shopee is committed to upskilling and developing local talents’ capabilities so that they can succeed and thrive in the rapidly growing digital economy.

Shopee adopts a localised hiring approach by establishing offices in each of our markets. The region that we operate in comprises diverse groups of people, each with different preferences and habits. As such, we hire and nurture homegrown talents who possess a deep understanding of market-specific needs and cultural nuances. To achieve this, we also work closely with local governments in order to uplift the local workforce.

In Singapore, we have several initiatives and partnerships that do this:

  • Last year, Sea Limited collaborated with IMDA on the TechSkills Accelerator Company-Led Training (CLT) programme, committing to create 500 tech job opportunities amidst a challenging job landscape. The programme aims to boost the skills sets of our full-time employees through six months of on-the-job training at Shopee in areas such as user experience, product management, and data/business analytics.
  • Earlier this year, we held Shopee Code League, designed to equip undergraduates and professionals across the region with essential tech skills and expertise to prepare them for the needs of the digital economy. We also strive to create and sustain a wider pool of talents across the region by gathering tech communities to solve problems and share knowledge. Participants will have the opportunity to work with real data sets to solve pertinent industry challenges.

Q On the HR front - what are the top thee critical skills for HR to have in and beyond 2021? 

In the ever-changing e-commerce space, these are some of the skills I believe are most important:

  • Strong understanding of the business - As Shopee continues to scale across our markets, I believe in the importance of possessing a deep understanding of the business - its needs, challenges, and opportunities alike. This understanding allows me to effectively partner with business leaders and stakeholders at Shopee as we strive towards achieving closely-aligned goals and objectives. Moving forward as a team is critical in the tech industry and having joint accountability for our success, forged by a common understanding of what the business needs in order to grow, is key.
  • Active listening - Clear communication is vital to help build trust and maintain strong working relationships at all levels of an organisation. Communication is a two-way street; it is important to not only be able to provide constructive feedback, but to also be able to listen actively and internalise invaluable insights and feedback. When this is done effectively, it allows for greater levels of collaboration, teamwork, and ultimately moves the organisation forward on a united front.
  • Adaptability - As e-commerce becomes increasingly intertwined in many different aspects of our lives, the industry will continue to move and grow at a rapid pace. As a company, we have to be very agile to stay ahead of trends, and employees need to be able to adapt, prioritise, and manage constantly changing timelines, new challenges, and uncertainties.

I have always believed that the most important quality for success in the tech industry lies within one’s character. These skills are something I consistently work to sharpen myself on and strongly encourage the teams I work with to cultivate too.

Q Lastly, if there was a magic wand and you could do anything within your power to build a future-fit workforce, what action would you take?

I want to instil a hunger for learning in everyone. Having that 'fire in the belly' is what propels employees to greater heights.

Possessing the passion and intrinsic motivation to succeed in both e-commerce and the tech industry will give them the desire to take up enrichment and training courses and take it upon themselves to upskill with the necessary tech capabilities.

Additionally, I would want to make all essential resources and training programmes as readily accessible as possible in every way! This will enable employees to remain adaptive and hone the relevant skills that builds the foundation of a future-fit workforce.


Photo / Provided 

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