"AT THE end of the day, people work for money. But the younger generation now work for more than that - they work for fulfilment."
Ms Cheryl Goh, vice-president of marketing at the taxi-app company that changed the way cab bookings are made, feels that the philosophy is at the core of the company's human resource strategy.
The 35-year-old is based in Malaysia and oversees marketing across all countries, a role she has held since she joined the company in 2013. She takes pride in the firm's culture and unique business of assigning taxi drivers to waiting customers, both of which serve as key selling points for its employees.
How does GrabTaxi attract and retain manpower?
We have a fairly competitive employment package which is the basic thing for talent attraction. But more importantly, beyond that, we attract talent with our goal of solving a problem that impacts many people.
We also have a unique South-east Asian start-up culture as compared with Google and Facebook, which have start-up cultures from (Silicon) Valley.
We've grown from having 16 employees, when I first joined less than two years ago, to 600 today.
Our people have seen the impact they've had on the business, which is very interesting. When you spend so much time in the office, you have to enjoy what you do and find it challenging. You need to be in a conducive environment where you work with people and feel happy. These are what we have at GrabTaxi.
Does GrabTaxi have any policies or activities that promote that culture?
We grew from a small company to our current size, so there's always the threat of losing the culture built by the founding team. We valued the culture enough to let everybody know about it and we did that by writing down exactly what made us GrabTaxi.
One key thing may sound a bit fluffy, but it really defines us: "Your problem is my problem."
This is important because when you're small, it's easy for everyone to help each other as a family and a team. But when the team grows, it's easy for that baton to drop because everybody has their own department. So, for example, when we have a technical problem like server maintenance, we involve everyone.
We get the customer service team to tell the customers, and marketing team to take care of social media.
One good thing about the company is that we want this to resonate in the company, no matter how big we get. We evaluate each employee that we recruit to see if he or she can fit in with our core values.
Can the drivers also be considered a part of your staff? What do you do then to attract and retain them?
Our drivers are our customers because they have many options and every right to decide whether they want to use us. They don't belong to us and that's an important distinction to make.
A salaried employee can, to a certain extent, be told what to do and be guided by certain scopes.
Drivers, on the other hand, need to be provided with value. We make sure that there are enough jobs in the system because the drivers go around to collect fares. If we are the largest source of fares, then they will obviously use us. At the beginning, we gave incentives to motivate the drivers to pick up jobs.
We do still have incentives, but they are focused on certain situations, such as rainy days.
When it rains, it seems like the taxis disappear and that is because there's a higher chance of car accidents when it rains. Drivers subscribe to that and they prefer not to drive in the rain because they say that the insurance claiming process in the event of an accident is very tedious.
So we need to incentivise them to make the customer experience better, because once customers have a better experience, they will choose to use our app and it's a whole cycle.
If you can't control the drivers, then how can you ensure that they provide a good and safe service for your customers?
If drivers have ratings that are too low or cheat our passengers, we deactivate their accounts.
We are strict on some things like safe driving and the use of the meter, which we enforce by hard methods like account deactivation. We track these by complaints as well as a rating system. If a driver always has low ratings, we bring him in for "re-skilling" programmes.
We also have the "soft" method like benefit systems, such as our provident fund. The $3.5 million welfare fund was set up in January and rewards active drivers who provide consistently good service. This is what we do to motivate drivers and ensure a certain level of service.
How do you ensure that your office staff are qualified?
It varies from role to role. Some roles require paper qualifications, such as our lawyers. However, some jobs like design do not require a degree and we just look at portfolios.
We come up with benchmarks and requirements but, as a start-up, we always look at star performers and don't follow benchmarks strictly. For example, some of our interning engineers are star performers and have moved on to full-time careers with us. We don't always just look at the minimum requirements.
Do you have training programmes?
We do a lot of self-learning. For example, our tech teams do hackathons. The engineers are locked in the office with good food for 48 hours and they're split into teams to solve exciting problems unrelated to work.
It's a good bonding method that also puts people who have different skills together to work on a project. We are planning to include our business and design people.
Beyond that, we do industry-level training and supervisors decide on relevant courses for staff.
What we do is unique, however, so a lot of what we need to do requires self-learning. Sometimes, we send people to certain countries where the taxi industry is thriving. We also have exchange programmes where our staff exchange positions with those who have the same role in another company.
What manpower challenges has the company faced?
The biggest challenge is finding top engineering talent. There are not many companies with our kind of large scale.
There are many tech start-ups here, but while Google, for example, has more than 1,000 employees in Singapore, it has only about four engineers. Most of the employees are involved in marketing, customer service or operations.
If you want to build a great product, you must have the best engineering team. GrabTaxi is a tech-driven start-up, so our engineers play a central role, from backend services to mobile-app development.
They're the ones who keep us ahead of the game with their knowledge of the latest tech know-how and innovation. Without them, there wouldn't be GrabTaxi.
It's hard to find engineers who have experience dealing with a large scale.
A lot of people send us their resumes, and we do hire raw and potential talent, but we still need top-tier experienced people. We are trying to overcome this by hiring foreigners.