INTERVIEW: His “journey of a thousand miles” did not begin with a single step. It all began (and almost ended) with a walking tour at a heavily unionised bottling factory.
On the first day of an HR internship, Sunil Setlur was taken aside by a union representative who mistakenly took him for a new HR manager. The representative explained that some workers may not turn up for shifts but should still be paid, and the HR team should simply look the other way.
Setlur says the traumatic exchange made him second guess his career choice back in his university days. But after swapping out of that particular internship, he rekindled his love for HR, learning and development, and organisational culture.
As the Chief People Officer for multi-service tech platform Gojek, he brings a reinvented workplace culture that stays true to the company’s tagline: “Solving life's daily frictions.”
In this exclusive interview with Chief of Staff Asia, Setlur explains why Gojek is an employer of choice not just in its regional headquarters of Indonesia but also in Singapore and across Southeast Asia. He highlights the purpose-driven culture that he is driving across the company’s workforce.
Reconnecting with the mission
COS Asia: What are your big priorities as an HR team?
Setlur: We're coming off the tail-end of the pandemic, with the ways of working now fundamentally changed.
We have a vast swath of people who haven't yet experienced Gojek in its traditional form — they haven't come into the office. Their primary interactions have been with immediate team members. So, we're focusing a lot on helping them “reconnect to purpose”.
We're a very mission- and purpose-oriented organisation. Everything that we do immediately has a very visible and tangible social impact. I think that's an exciting part about why people stay at Gojek.
The new folks need to get that energy again through the social interactions in the offices, but we also find creative ways of reaching people in their homes. Hybrid working is here to stay, and we are an online business as much as we are an offline business. Not everything can be done remotely or needs to be done in the office.
Also, we are doubling down on learning. We want people to feel like this is a place where they can experience professional development; partly, in response to not having those tacit organic learning moments with senior peers (over the last two years).
The last piece is, maybe, a Gojek-specific thing. We're in transition from being a startup to a scale-up, more mature business, with a continuous drive on making work delightful. We want to solve customer or product problems by digitalisation and re-looking at our policies.
COS Asia: When you mentioned those priorities, what would a program there might look like?
Setlur: We're doing a couple of things. One is, we have this unique opportunity in the gig space so people can experience our product as a customer, a driver, or a merchant. We are introducing a driver-for-a-day programme. So, if you want to be a Gojek driver for a day and you work in a country where that product is available, you can take part. The programme meaningfully connects people to the ecosystem that these folks operate in.
I think a lot of our employees use our product very devoutly and take big bets, such as ordering special anniversary dinners on GoFood. So, we encourage people to take those big bets, create stories around them, and share those stories within the organisation.
The second way is big and old-fashioned. This is our culture; our values are embedded a little more explicitly in existing processes like recognition, performance management, hiring rubrics, and making it more visible and tactile, effectively. The challenge is doing that for someone at home, whose only connection to the company is via a computer screen.
We have many different things, such as gamified online modules with a little avatar that goes through experiences. We talked about hybrid working. Most employees at Gojek will (now) work from home most of the time. Our offices are going to look more like coworking spaces. So, you can just book a meeting room or a desk, show up, and use the facility.
COS Asia: Is that every office throughout the region and, potentially, the world?
Setlur: Yes. That's for all our offices. Some of this is role-dependent. If you're required to meet customers or drivers or run field operations, then you can't work from home. But for roles where you can, that option is now available.
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: