Recruitment, Engagement and Retention: Why Tough Industries Require Even Tougher People

The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Patricia Yap, this chapter is titled, “Recruitment, Engagement and Retention: Why Tough Industries Require Even Tougher People.” In it, Judith Tubil, the People and Culture Head of FoodPanda, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in recruitment.

While brick-and-mortar retail still chugged along during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the undeniable fact that online shopping—or e-commerce, rather—was taking over. As more and more brands venture into e-commerce, the competition to remain on top keeps getting tougher. 

As such, there arises the necessity for an equally competitive workforce. Yet with the e-commerce market creating an entirely new set of jobs, recruiting by volume is not necessary. What’s vital is acquiring the right and proper talent and keeping them. In this regard, Foodpanda’s People and Culture Head Judith Tubil is way ahead of the game. 

In August 2019, Tubil joined Foodpanda to spearhead the organization’s development and culture. She specializes in human resources strategy, talent acquisition, performance management and development, rewards strategy, and employee relations and engagement. And up until recently in May 2019, she was the Vice President of Human Resources at Yondu, Inc., a top information technology solutions company in the Philippines.

According to Tubil, Foodpanda’s HR team has three core functions that contribute to the organization’s overall positive performance. These are engagement, learning & development, and talent acquisition, which is the most critical and impactful function. “Companies in the e-commerce industry are very dynamic. You have tough competition like Grab, Shopee, and Lalamove. So, we need to continuously innovate our recruitment strategies,” she said. 

While traditional retail operations require actual sales representatives, the online market places more emphasis on the knowledge workers who toil behind the scenes—those who manage such tasks as product uploading, price management, and marketing. 

To address this challenge, Tubil operates the following recruitment tools and strategies: lead generation, campus recruitment, employee referral programs, social media recruitment, and active LinkedIn and Kalibrr employee searches. On top of these channels, Tubil made sure to have a senior manager head their talent acquisition at Foodpanda. 

“Those are what makes it possible for us to get the right talents to join our company. HR should always be at the forefront of talent acquisition. Even though there’s a huge pool of people without jobs and are seeking one, we don’t just hire because we need an X amount of people. The difficulty in recruitment always lies in getting the right talents,” Tubil added. 

But choosing the most competent person for the job is not enough. With e-commerce brands sprouting left and right, the need to retain talent is also critical. As such, Foodpanda’s cornerstone of recruitment is employee branding. 

“We’re very much particular with character. We’re very particular with the interest of the candidates, apart from the competence of course,” she exclaimed. In order to convince the right people to join their ranks, they ask three very important questions: Are you willing to work and thrive in a chaotic environment?, Would you like to be part of an organization that’s in the process of setting up?, and Would you like to grow with us as we grow? 

Tubil said, “Not everyone will tell you, ‘Yes!’ So your willingness, your ability, your excitement, and your passion—we need to assess if you have what it takes.”

Consequently, Foodpanda’s entire employee population is comprised of about 80% millennials. Given this demographic, Tubil saw the need for more dynamic engagement practices. Some of the things they’ve been practicing in the office are “all hands”, “pandays” (a Filipino term meaning blacksmith),  and “town hall” meetings. During these weekly and quarterly gatherings, each business unit presents their end-of-the-week or end-of-the-quarter highlights and milestones to the rest of the organization. 

One of their most successful and amusing engagement activities is the implementation of ‘Kahoot!’—a mobile app that can host a live trivia game where hundreds of participants can join. The first time they tried it in the Foodpanda office, their employees absolutely loved it, and senior management requested to play the game every Friday beforehand. Foodpanda’s counterparts in other countries also started using Kahoot! after seeing the fun Foodpanda employees were having in the Philippines among other engagements programs like panda clubs, and others.

“We’re trying to create and execute activities differently because of the millennials. They expect more, they expect something different and unique. As a matter of fact, they would even always ask us what the next program for the month will be,” Tubil said. 

For learning and development, Foodpanda provides its employees access to an app called MyAcademy. This is to help develop employee skills and interests. And with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), they’ve also started executing work-from-home activities like vlogging with riders and the work-from-home photo collages. 

The vlogging with riders is both unique and wholesome. Employees are encouraged to order their meals through the Foodpanda app. Once the riders arrive with their food, the employee can opt to spend a few minutes vlogging with them. Some of their employees do quick interviews, kamustahans (checking up on one another), and even appreciation messages for being courageous frontliners during these trying times. 

“This activity not only engages our employees but our riders as well. We want our riders to feel very very important because they are, especially in this situation,” said Tubil. They always want to make their engagement programs relevant and sensitive to whatever the current situation may be. 

Tubil attributes the success and agility of their engagement programs to the backgrounds of their very talented employees, as well as their organization’s high performance standards and management system. She said e-commerce is a relatively “toxic” environment because of the level of competition. It creates unhealthy stress and pressure among the employees, so as an HR leader, she strives to engage and make Foodpanda’s employees happy. 

“For me, HR is a very critical business unit. Not only in Foodpanda but anywhere else, especially in the e-commerce industry. We don’t just hire people—we hire the right ones! After they join us, the next challenge is to develop their talents further and to keep them in the organization. We, at HR, can be as significant and impactful as the rest of the business units in the entire organization. “HR can be as good as its CEO because both should share and drive the same vision. And knowing how much we can create impact makes us feel important and recognized,” she concluded. 

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


The 50 - and other business books about the Philippines and Asia Pacific - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.
 

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