Lim Teck Yong, Shopee's Head of Regional Operations and People Team, speaks to Priya Sunil on the online marketplace's competency-based, systematic and holistic approach towards leadership development for both new and experienced leaders.

With Southeast Asia becoming the hotspot for many eCommerce and tech ventures, one of the most pressing challenges for most companies is the talent gap, says Lim Teck Yong, Head of Regional Operations and People Team at Shopee.

Hence, the online shopping platform believes in grooming its leaders from within. According to Lim, while many of Shopee's young leaders are "exceptional in their own domain", they are also first-time managers who have faced steep learning curves.

He says: "Even for experienced managers who have led teams before, our rapid growth means that they have had to adapt and manage bigger teams."

The solution? A competency-based, systematic and holistic approach towards leadership development, shares Lim. This approach integrates programmes for new and aspiring managers to align on practices of developing high-performing teams, as well as tailored programmes for five levels of leadership experience.

Additional programmes and resources are also available, which include coaching and mentoring programmes; organisation-wide feedback tools to identify leadership development needs; regular sharing sessions by senior leaders; and dedicated in-house leadership trainers and training partners.

"Our approach necessitates heavy involvement from top management."

Together, with the dedication of our talented professionals within the learning and development team, we are able to build a learning culture.
To facilitate this culture, the company's Shopee Academy provides foundational modules that introduce first-time leaders to leadership, as well as more advanced modules for experienced leaders.

The first step into Shopee's learning and development modules takes place through an intensive regional onboarding programme for managers, where experiential activities highlight the importance of the leadership culture and competencies. These managers also attend deep-dive sessions to improve their understanding of Shopee's key business functions. Over 350 leaders have been involved in this programme since its inception in 2018.

Second, the academy offers five tiers of leadership development programmes designed to meet the needs of Shopee's leaders at different stages. Every leader in the organisation is invited to participate in the tailored, two-day training programmes each year.

The range of programmes include leadership masterclasses (conducted externally); two-hour training courses; brown-bag sessions by senior leaders; panel discussions; learning networking sessions; and subsidies for online or external training.

Within the first quarter of 2019, more than 450 leaders across the region have participated in these programmes.

In addition to the above, Shopee also chose to integrate its current coaching programme with its leadership programme so as to ensure continuity in its staff learning while emphasising on the application of learning.

Like in every implementation, the team at Shopee has faced some challenges along the way in implementing this gamut of programmes. Lim explains: "One of our challenges in implementing our coaching and mentoring programmes was the limited numbers of coaches and mentors we had, in relation to the number of employees interested in the programmes."

In fact, he admits that the mentoring programme is widely popular, with more than 100 mentors and 300 mentees benefitting from the programme.

To address this, he shares: "We learned that senior management support, role-modelling from senior leaders, sharing of success stories, and proper training by Shopee's learning and development team, helped to motivate coaches and mentors in investing their time and effort."

"Many have commented that they have learnt a lot through the programmes themselves!"

Looking towards 2020: What’s on the agenda?

Currently, Lim believes there is a shortage of talent, especially leaders with specialised tech experience and skills suitable for the eCommerce industry.

Further, he says: "Transitioning from tech professionals to leadership positions can be rather challenging.

"Therefore, a formalised, progressive development programme for tech leaders could focus on building critical tech leadership skills, based on the specific challenges faced within tech teams."


This case study was part of a feature on leadership development, which appeared in the June-July edition of Human Resources magazine (Singapore). Read the full feature in the special Learning & Development edition out now, or in our online version!


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