Luc Andreani, managing director of foodpanda Singapore shares the importance of HR in an online marketplace as well as what happens behind the scenes of foodpanda’s deliveries, in this conversation with Natasha Ganesan.

Q As the managing director for foodpanda SG, what are your key priorities?

My key priorities fall into two categories - external and internal.

For me, the external priorities are very simple - to keep improving customer experience. On the delivery side, it is to ensure we deliver faster with less delay. Then there is what we call the inventory, which refers to the number of restaurants that we work with and offer to our customers, as well as how far and how much each restaurant can deliver to customers. Besides these, we are also focusing on the other aspect of customer experience, which is customer service.

When it comes to internal priorities, it is to ensure we move progressively from a startup environment to a more mature environment, in particular in the HR perspective. This means to have clear guidelines in place for every aspect of the company life and making sure that we stick to them.

Of course, when you are a young startup, a lot is done on an adhoc basis; but as a five year old startup, we are in the transition period and I am looking to change the way we operate from the ‘start-up way’ to that of a more structured and matured company.

Q Hailing from France, you are no stranger to Asia, having moved to the region with Rocket Internet in 2013. How is your experience working in Singapore so far?

Before arriving in Singapore earlier this year, I was in Vietnam for a year, in Indonesia for a year and a half, and prior to that, I also travelled around while studying in Hong Kong for a year - so indeed I am no stranger to this part of the world.

I find Singapore very different from the other Southeast Asian countries I have lived in - I would say it is much more disciplined. It really is a pleasure to work here. The level of education is significantly higher which results in a bigger talent pool of skilled workers. So finding strong profiles locally is not as big of a challenge despite the intense competition to attract the right people. Another positive aspect is that Singaporeans have a knack for creativity - they have the capability to take initiative, of leading projects end-to-end which is not common in other countries I have worked in.

Q How do you think the factors of discipline and creativity are important, for an online F&B industry?

For any tech company, not just F&B, these are very good qualities. We have approximately 60-70 people in the office. In such an environment, it is very important that you have leaders and a second, or even third line that are autonomous enough both in terms of execution when given clear direction and objectives, as well as coming up with new initiatives and ideas. The aspect of being disciplined and good at execution, and being very creative is crucial in building a strong second and third line.

As an SME, it is very important to have these people who you can rely on, and as a tech company, it is very important to have such a tower of initiative where ideas not only come from top-down, but also from bottom-up.

Q How closely do you work with your HR team/CHRO, and what are the people initiatives

As I said, from an internal standpoint, the priority is really to become a more mature company in terms of HR policies that we have in place. In line with that, I work very closely with the HR team on two key areas - internal rules and guidelines, and people development.

One of the first things we did was to clarify the rules and policies everyone in the company should adhere to and make sure these properties and HR structures are communicated to all the top managers and trickled down to the entire team.

The second thing was people development. We have a very strong team, but like in every company, especially tech companies, there is a tendency to operate in silos. To help each department see how what they do impact other departments and the holistic performance of the company, we implemented in-house training sessions where each department head shares an aspect of what they do with the entire company.

Apart from that, we also engage external parties to provide training and leverage on the global team to organise seminars at a global level for departments such as commercial, operations, and marketing. We will also be launching a leadership  training for our department heads in the near future.

Looking forward, with a continued focus on training and development, we are looking to build clear career paths within the company.

Being a very lean company, we cannot promise employees promotions in one or three years. Hence, another direction we are exploring is cross-department movements as well as cross-country movement.

Q What would you say is the biggest talent challenge you face in the service industry? How can the industry tackle this challenge?

Culture fit is a very important aspect for us since we work in a very fast paced environment which can be quite demanding and those coming in with many years of corporate experience might find it a little unsettling.

Hence, the main complexity for us when it comes to hiring is making sure that each person is carefully vetted and even peer vetted so they match the culture of the company rather than jumping into making a decision. We have more than one head present at interviews to ensure they are a good fit, not only in terms of skills, but also a good cultural fit.

Beyond the initial vetting process, in cases when the employee is not a perfect fit for the company culture, we openly and respectfully talk about it with the employee. If having a conversation doesn’t work, we take compliance measures if necessary. If there was a blatant problem in the employee’s behaviour, we need to part ways. But most of the time we manage to catch the problem, explain the culture and expectations, and make sure the person feels included in the team and is given proper, clear, honest, and transparent feedback.

I believe that as long as you don’t try to hide the problem and are transparent and honest, it works out well. I think this is the cornerstone for any good solid HR department - to be transparent, honest, and have very good feedback.

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