Growing a Young and Dynamic Workforce

The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by  Monica Padillo,this chapter is titled, “Growing a Young and Dynamic Workforce.” In it, Wanlu Li, the People Team Manager at Shopee, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in . 

Human resource managers today are faced with a new generation of workers to oversee: the millennials and Gen Zs, both of which have different sets of needs and wants in life compared to the older generation. Some may find the work and life preferences of these young employees strange, which is possibly one of the reasons why they have been stereotyped as entitled and narcissistic over the years. However, some companies came to value this new generation of workers. One of these companies is the e-commerce platform Shopee.


As a business that runs mainly on the power of the internet and social media, Shopee prides itself on its vibrant workforce. This was something that Wanlu Li is proud of as well, as the company’s People Team Manager since their establishment in 2015. Prior to joining Shopee, Li has had experience with talent acquisition in different companies in Singapore, but it is perhaps in Shopee where she had truly faced working and coordinating such a young employee base.


She shared that Shopee’s employees were energetic and dynamic people who came from different fields and backgrounds. She added that such a diverse workforce helps bring a fresh perspective in their work, which is pretty much required for their fast-paced and creative business environment.


Despite perceptions of young workers being lazy, demanding, or even unloyal job hoppers, Shopee’s workforce portrayed the opposite—they had good work ethics and strong teamwork, all thanks to their efficient engagement and training programs.


“I’m very proud to say that in Shopee, we take a proactive approach in developing our employees,” Li said, “I mean this in terms of the variety of opportunities and training that we give. They are not only for the certain types or departments of employees, but they are for everyone in the organization.”


Some of the ways that the company was maintaining its young and hip employee culture were by religiously checking their workers’ growth, comfortability in the workplace, and the ability for innovation. When it comes to growth, Li said Shopee encouraged its employees to outgrow themselves by challenging them to their fullest potential. The company does this through a wide range of career opportunities and learning programs. 


For example, Shopee has local and regional leadership training programs for its aspiring leaders. For their regional program, regional leaders were sent to one of Shopee’s offices in other countries and asked to share their experiences with apprentices through discussion-based training. Li found this strategy to be successful as apprentices were able to apply their learnings immediately after their learning session with regional leaders.


“We found the leadership training to be of high priority because we found that we have a lot of young leaders and we want to help them become good leaders as they progress in their careers,” she said.


Aside from these leadership training sessions, the company has a mentorship program where employees have more private and personal conversations with leaders to talk about what they're doing in the position that they’re in. 


As for their employees’ comfortability in the workplace, Shopee implemented three channels: quarterly pulse checks, mid-year performance and year-end appraisal dialogues, and outward feedback.


The quarterly pulse check is a satisfaction survey that is handed out to each employee of the organization. Through this process, Shopee is able to understand how satisfied employees are with their impact on the company, as well as how sustainable they think their job is to them.


Meanwhile, for their mid-year performance and year-end appraisal dialogues, Shopee employees were given the chance to casually give and receive feedback from their line managers, track their performance, and seek for more guidance. The dialogues have also become an avenue for them to gain recognition from their managers for all the contributions that they’ve done for the organization.


Shopee’s outward feedback initiative is concurrently linked to the two dialogues. This time, employees can anonymously give feedback to other line managers as a way of helping them grow as effective leaders as well. This is where employees help identify their leaders’ strengths and areas to improve on. Li said that these different engagement channels help sustain the good relationship that employees would have with their managers.


As for their ability for innovation, Shopee purposely cultivated a work culture where employees were encouraged to be creative and collaborate across different teams. It is through this way where employees can find a community where they’ll highly belong and be taken care of.


The company also provided a training subsidy to their employees to encourage them to continue learning and developing themselves in their own free time. Martin Yu, associate director of Shopee Philippines, can attest to this. 


As the head of one of Shopee’s regional hubs, Yu is in charge of data analytics, strategic planning, and budgeting, among other things. He’s been with the company for three years and has already become accustomed to their fast-paced environment. Because of this, he believes that Shopee is a company that likes to work hard and play hard but also values wellness and limitless creativity.


It is through this creative freedom that allowed Shopee to be the e-commerce platform of choice for many consumers due to its reliable platform and credibility. Under Yu’s leadership, Shopee Philippines was able to fix and improve operations and hire remarkable brand ambassadors such as Filipino celebrities Anne Curtis and Sarah Geronimo, as well as Filipino singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan who has somehow become one of the many symbols of Filipino Christmas.


Yu is a millennial, which is a great advantage considering that Shopee’s customer base is mostly composed of tech-savvy young individuals. By having someone like him at the helm of the company, Shopee Philippines can better cater to both consumers and online sellers reliant on technology for goods and services.


Since much of their employees are young and fresh graduates, Shopee admits that there are common areas where employees need to be trained on, such as business skills and acumen. For those things, Yu said the company continues to do hands-on training until today.


It seems that learning doesn’t stop for an organization such as Shopee. With their employees actively engaged in their training programs and feedback sessions, the company is able to show that millennials and Gen Zs aren’t lazy and narcissistic after all—they just needed the proper guidance and avenues to simultaneously work productively and express themselves creatively.


To get more insights from other HR leaders like Wanlu Li, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


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