Gojek: Purpose-driven culture for the New Normal

Updated: Feb 17

INTERVIEW: In the second part of Chief of Staff Asia’s interview with Gojek Chief People Officer Sunil Setlur, the passionate leader explains the values and strategy behind its purpose-driven work culture.

COS Asia: What is the “intentional purpose-driven work culture?” Is that something that existed before the pandemic and is now being adapted to these new ways of working?

Setlur: The company grew very rapidly. As we added more people, locations, product areas, and senior leadership from outside, the foundational culture still exists, but it became organic. You have to be more intentional with asynchronous and remote working, where different people engage in different formats and time zones. It goes back to talking about our values more intentionally, being more explicit in the way we do things.

If you asked anyone in Gojek in 2018 about the one thing the company does, they’ll say it makes the world a better place. For our product users, Gojek makes life more convenient. For our service providers, merchants, and drivers, Gojek gives them access to economic and social mobility and financial inclusion.

We've done things like the monthly town hall with the CEO. We have “Impact Spotlight” featuring showcases, case studies, and people on board. We got a driver to talk about how Gojek has made his life better. We do a lot of that stuff that’s helping build momentum and a sense of connectedness to something greater.

COS Asia: What makes Gojek an employer of choice?

Setlur: Here, people have authorship over what they do. We give people a voice that's heard and taken seriously. People have a very real sense of changing the environment they work in and have a say in the decisions that influence how products are shaped and developed.

COS Asia: What would you say has been the crowning achievement or a progression? If it's a progression, what's the end goal at the end of your term?

Setlur: It's a few things. When I joined Gojek, acquisitions drove part of our growth. Over the last two and a half years or so, the big achievements have been the universal standards, moving to common jobs and career architecture, a common performance management system, and a common compensation and benefit system.

Professionalising management is another. We are bringing in people who operated technology organisations at scale, helping them to succeed and take the company to the next level.

I think the third piece is around the pandemic being rough on our business, micro-mobility, and on-demand services. Keeping our core workforce engaged and intact can be tough when the business faces challenges, but our engagement rate didn’t fall, staying the same two and a half years in a row. It has gotten better every year in key areas that we’re tracking. Maintaining and sustaining that momentum successfully, switching into pandemic-induced creativity, is how we work. Gojek has a very inclusive culture, and the pandemic has a very democratising effect in the workplace that has played to our strengths. People felt Gojek in its total glory during the pandemic.

At the end of this, I would love to have done something attributable and measurable. We have a few of those things baking in the oven, helping to showcase the direct impact of how our product manifested in the real world and how millions of people experienced life. That's, sort of, the end game. We constantly build towards that in a very real sense of the word.

COS Asia: Can you share about those programs that are in the works?

Setlur: It's around creating a product empathy-oriented culture, how to build empathy at scale. And the second is, just taking Conway's law to its logical evolution. Say, if you ship your org structure, what are you shipping? Are you proud of it? (Conway's Law: “Organizations, who design systems, are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” Fred Brooks popularized it in the iconic book, The Mythical Man Month.)

This feature was extracted from Chief of Staff Asia's exclusive interview with Sunil Setlur, Gojek’s Chief People Officer based in Singapore. For further coverage please see any of the below links:

The “intentional” culture driving Gojek and its CHRO

Gojek: Purpose-driven culture for the New Normal

Sunil Setlur’s HR lessons from a bottling plant internship

Getting to know: Sunil Setlur

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