Culture Starts with Intention
Learn about Building Company Culture
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled, “Culture Starts with Intention.” In it, Amielle Ann Receno, the People Operations Manager of Lalamove, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in improving company culture through HR.
Culture is the first line towards a better company
The body of work linking a robust company culture to better company performance is nothing but extensive. Surveys have found that as much as 86 percent of employees believe their company’s culture influences how productive they are, and this is further corroborated by economists at the University of Warwick who found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity.
In the words of celebrated author and businesswoman Ariana Huffington, culture is "a company's immune system."
The knowledge above applies to a vast majority of companies and Hong Kong-established transport company Lalamove is certainly no exception. People Operations Manager Amielle Ann Receno recognizes this and uses it in her management style.
“Real culture is something that showcases each person’s scales, skills, talents, and growth,” she expressed.
If one were to ask Receno what advice she would give companies aiming to have a stronger cultural engagement (especially those with a young workforce akin to Lalamove), it’s to take note of the importance of having to build what she calls an intentional HR. “An intentional HR keeps something like culture at the forefront. They help in all the aspects: recruitment, onboarding, retention, engagement, etc.”
This stands in stark contrast to organizations where culture may not be as much of a priority. Though there’s more than enough literature out there stressing the importance of view, there are still organizations that may view “culture” as fluff that falls second to profits or industry ranking. Even in places where leaders say they have created a good environment, employees themselves may not agree. Looking at Accenture’s "Getting to Equal 2020: The Hidden Value of Culture Makers” report, 68% of leaders say they felt they’ve created empowering environments but only 36% of employees agreed.
Receno would say this is a huge mistake.
Her wealth of experience, of course, plays a pivotal role in her view. Prior to working with Lalamove, Receno had worked at SM affiliate Brownies Unlimited, Inc., retailer Surplus Shop, and a manpower company. Working at traditional and hierarchical organizations like these allowed her to appreciate structured HR, but she also values the fact that Lalamove lets her introduce changes as she sees fit.
“Take for example the fact that it’s a Hong Kong company. While there is a global standard, you can’t discount the fact that we have offices in many different countries,” Receno said, “So it’s a good thing that Lalamove allows us to make small adjustments here and there. Though you have to be careful, it’s easier because we always make sure whoever we hire has the same overarching values as the company.”
One thing that she does is to assign her team members projects related to branding, each pertaining to their particular strengths (more on that below). In a more hierarchical organization, this may mean having to go through a number of bureaucratic hoops and hurdles. Yet Receno’s proactive nature combined with Lalamove’s flexible outlook makes it easier. By taking this dynamic stance towards the practice of HR, she secures a culture that works for everybody.
According to Receno, the hiring process is also a great way to already send a clear message about Lalamove’s culture.
“Here at Lalamove, we have a relatively young population and a very flexible, interactive way of doing things,” she explained, “So we want candidates who will be able to thrive in that sort of environment.”
“What we do then is we have four core values that we look for in a candidate: grit, passion, execution, and humility.”
The first three, she explained, are relatively straightforward to look for. For grit, the best way to find out how much of it a candidate has is to ask how they’ve responded to past challenges. The amount of passion a candidate has can be determined by discussing whether they know where they want to go in life and asking them about their inner goals and motivation. For execution, it pays to ask how a candidate has previously organized and put into action something they’ve planned.
“Humility is a little difficult to identify,” she admitted, “After all, the point of an interview is to sell yourself, right?”
Identifying a candidate’s sense of humility then depends on the position they’re being interviewed for in the first place. If it’s for a top management or senior role, it’s possible to just ask the candidate directly about their sense of humility. For younger applicants who are just starting out however, there needs to be a bit of a workaround.
“The point will be to figure out how they take criticism or resolve mistakes that they’ve made,” she said, “You can ask if they've ever failed at something, how they handled it, who they asked for help, etc.”
Though the criteria may seem quite simple at first, it’s things like this adherence to their core values that enabled Lalamove to be who they are today.
Once a candidate is with Lalamove, Receno asserted that a proactive approach to onboarding is key to seeing they get off on the right foot even if they’re a strong cultural fit. Though this includes basic things like making sure they have a copy of the employee handbook and giving them access to internal files, it also means maintaining frequent engagement.
According to Receno, “Building relationships early on is important, so employees are always asked how they find their first day. We also have what’s called ‘thirty-thirty’ where managers set aside thirty minutes to catch up with said employee every thirty days.”
It’s also important to give them the right platforms to harness their full potential. Not only is this a great way to ensure they get the credit that they deserve, but it’s a great tool for enabling growth.
“In the team I manage, one thing we do is to make sure that they can have projects of their own to lead that pertains to branding,” she explained, “For instance, my recruitment associate has been coordinating with a website (Workbean) that has created a page for Lalamove. They invited us to be a part of their beta test in launching a virtual rolodex of start up companies something like a LinkedIn or Zomato of companies. She’s in charge of updating, editing or making sure all of us would be registered and have access to it and that the project accurately reflects what Lalamove employees do.”
Opportunities like these also kill two birds with one stone by giving employees more opportunities to work together as a team, which goes right back into the building of relationships.
Overall, Receno’s Lalamove experience shows that there’s always something a company can do to improve their culture and that’s really where practicing intentional HR comes in. Whether it’s keeping a definite set of values when it comes to handling talent or encouraging growth through specific assignments, this proactive approach triumphs a passive one any day. Any company worth their salt will certainly take note.
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Amielle Ann Receno, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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