Across countries and industries, often the key to building a successful company is also building great culture.
Culture is the one element that allows the organisation to pivot, move quickly, be healthy, stay resilient, and respond to market moves ahead of competitors. Building an environment that is supportive of the team, generating high levels of engagement, and inspiring employees to deliver their best is one of the most important — and most difficult — tasks any HR professional faces.
And in tough times like the COVID-19 pandemic, having a great culture is the glue that binds a company together. Shared values like empathy and care enable organisations to thrive despite the trying conditions.
Hence, for startups and young organisations, it is even more crucial to get culture off on the right foot. Founded in 2013, Lalamove has made waves in Asia’s logistics industry, but Vice President of the People team and HR veteran, Patrick Yu has been hard at work strengthening Lalamove’s culture as it grows across borders and into bigger shoes.
HR Asia: What would you describe as the key planks of Lalamove’s working culture?
Patrick Yu: We are proud to have built a diverse and multicultural team that is composed of people from many different backgrounds and nationalities as well as different skills and strengths. This characterises the global ambitions that the company has as we have never seen ourselves as only existing just in Hong Kong or in Asia. Our mission is to become globally synonymous with on-demand local delivery.
What binds us together as a team and builds the foundation of our working culture are our four values; passion, grit, humility and execution. This is the common language we have despite being from diverse backgrounds, and what we hope our teams will embody as we work together everyday.
HRA: How was this culture initially built in a young company like Lalamove?
PY: As with any startup and business that is built from the ground up, there are times during the early stages when people might have to wear many different hats and take on roles that are beyond their comfort zone or experience level. This is where the values of passion and grit became so important. Acting like founders and believing in our vision and mission, and never giving up even when times were tough ensured we not only survived but thrived during those early years. As the company grows and we serve more customers than ever before, the values of humility and execution become just as important – never being complacent with our progress, believing we can always improve and mission accomplished, no matter what – as we provide the best possible service that we can.
HRA: Could you elaborate further on the values of passion, grit, humility and execution? Could you also give some examples of these values in action?
PY: The four values of passion, grit, humility and execution were established early on during the growth of the company. We believe that if every employee can approach each project with these four key values in mind then the end result will be of value, not just for the company, but for themselves. Passion speaks of our enthusiasm that we bring to the table; grit demonstrates our determination to do the job well even under pressure; humility is always remembering that everything we do is for a cause greater than our own; and execution is the spirit we encourage to always see a task through to the end and to do it well.
HRA: What steps has HR taken to influence the way the culture has evolved?
PY: As we continue to scale our business and our teams, one of the most important missions of the People team is to safeguard our DNA and ensure teams continue to align to our missions. Another important task is to help our teams navigate change while at the same time listening to the feedback. As a company that’s evolved from a startup with just a few founding members to a global team of now nearly 1,500 employees, it’s very important that as an organisation we are open to change and adapt our People practices appropriately. In a way this attitude of growth and honing our best practices is wired into our DNA as the nature of our business is very fast-paced.
We always have our employees in mind – we create value for them by providing opportunities to grow, a stage to shine if they’re willing to and a future as we believe the internet will continue to transform logistics. The People team continues to iterate our processes and frameworks to enable our employees to achieve our business objectives. We believe we are on a virtuous cycle where we are able to continue to attract and retain those who are like-minded and believe in our vision.
HRA: How does your hiring strategy fit into this culture?
PY: People are our most important asset and we do have a rather stringent hiring process and every step is a closer look into the candidate’s fit with our core values. We take our four company values into consideration when considering candidates. It does not matter if they are the most talented candidate, or have the strongest technical skills. It is always about aligning to our values.
HRA: How has Lalamove preserved this culture across borders?
PY: The only way to preserve our culture in all markets we have a presence is to walk our talk day-in-day-out. For many of us in Lalamove, the most rewarding part of working here is seeing the impact we create for our local communities. A great demonstration of how our Lalamove teams embodied our company culture was during the launch of our very first Corporate Social Responsibility initiative – Deliver Care – which sprung into action amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Our teams across Asia realised the significant role that an on-demand delivery service could have to help keep local supply chains moving. We quickly partnered with local NGOs to provide free delivery for the transportation of essential goods like food and medical supplies.
This was an amazing example of our people joining forces and working together to provide solutions even during those difficult times. We hope that all of our employees will take pride in our Deliver Care CSR initiatives so that we can really make a difference in our communities.
HRA: With the COVID-19 pandemic upending business for a lot of companies, how is Lalamove caring for its employees?
PY: The safety of our employees is our highest priority and ensuring that everyone stays healthy is extremely important. We’ve implemented a number of measures including work from home policies, flexible working hours and the distribution of free sanitation supplies like face masks and hand sanitizer to our colleagues around the world. We’re following the health and safety guidelines closely in every location that we operate so that we’re always following best practices and ensuring that we put the wellbeing of our staff first.
We understand that the effects of this health crisis are not always just physical and so that’s why we’re encouraging everyone to look out for each other and prioritize their own mental wellbeing at the same time. We’re continuing to monitor the situation and support all our teams during these challenging times.
HRA: How do you ensure a candidate aligns closely with Lalamove’s values during the hiring process?
PY: Although we are quite confident in our hiring process, it is indeed difficult to ‘ensure’ 100% alignment during the hiring process. What I usually do is to ask for real-life examples, at work or in their personal lives, to support a candidate’s claim about their belief in our values. That gives me a much better insight in understanding if a candidate is really in line with our values.
HRA: What do you see as the long-term effects of Lalamove’s CSR efforts?
PY: Lalamove’s CSR efforts have been conceived with three outcomes at their core – to empower our local communities, our driver-partners and our own employees. It’s our intention that as our CSR efforts develop, we will be able to enrich more and more lives through impactful projects and community-driven activities.
It’s important that employees are stakeholders in these CSR efforts, and so in the future we foresee our own employees devising new initiatives and finding new ways to make a difference in our communities.
HRA: Do you see the CSR efforts affecting Lalamove’s employer branding?
PY: I think many companies are realizing the important role that we as organisations can play in improving the communities that we live and work in. More and more professionals desire to work with companies that align with their personal values and they want to take pride in the work that they do. The most important thing we can do is to continue to work closely with our communities and grow alongside them. If we’re recognised positively by those outside of our organisation for these initiatives, then that’s a welcome reaction.