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Narratives of Synergy: Collective Actions and Overcoming Obstacles

August 24, 2023

Armyn (AVP Corporate Affairs at GudangAda) shares about how stories of teamwork can help to achieve goals together and overcoming challenges

Combining industry veterans and emerging innovators, GudangAda’s unique employer brand bridges experience and adaptability

Kitty: Hi Armyn! How would you say Gudangada's employer brand is different or unique? And, what is the number one factor that attracts talent to work with you?

Armyn: As you may notice, GudangAda is a digital ecosystem for B2B. Not many players are actually in this segment compared to B2C. However, I believe there are a couple of significant things that we implement to attract and maintain our talents.

The first one refers to our proposition that we are providing integrated digital solutions to our SMEs business partners. We manage to identify the real problems in the B2B segment and provide digital services to solve those problems. It's like focusing on the back office of how packaged goods are being distributed from the principal to the local store.

In the dynamic tech landscape of Indonesia, the B2B sector is still in its early stages, not yet as mature as its B2C counterparts. That is why, compared to other companies in the B2C segment, we don’t exercise as much stakeholder engagements. Instead, we focus our resources on building reliable digital services to solve our business partner’s problems.

In that sense, that is something that we communicate to attract, maintain, and retain talents. We focus on solving the problems, not just spending budget on something that does not really generate a profit for us. That is the first proposition for GudangAda to attract talents.

The second proposition is that it's no secret that GudangAda is being founded by Stevensang, one of the FMCG supply chain veterans in Indonesia. Along with him, there is a solid management and on ground team with robust background on supply chain and retails.

Thirdly, we have a good ratio of younger talents who are more adaptable to digitalization. Many of our product, engineering, and marketing teams have solid backgrounds from major companies or startups. It's really a good combination of seasoned talents with younger ones. 

These are, I believe, three propositions that placed GudangAda in a better position compared to others in the B2B segment.

A culture in progress: the important steps in defining organisational DNA and fostering a purpose-driven identity

Kitty: If I can summarise, you have a strong impact narrative because you're solving real problems that have a big impact on the supply chain. The second and third point is the diversity in the culture and the talent of the people who work there.

Armyn: Correct. However, I may not use the term "culture" because it's too early for us at GudangAda to actually use that. We're only four years old and when discussing culture, we're still in a journey of finding the best pattern in defining our culture. 

Kitty: It's interesting that you say that because I would think four years is quite a long time in a startup, such as in the startup space. However, GudangAda is very intentional and careful before saying that something is part of the culture. What's behind that? Or, why are you being intentional about this?

Armyn: I tend to describe the term “culture” in a very careful and thoughtful manner. Even in large companies, the definition of culture can sometimes be lost. When I say "lost" I am referring to two elements. First, is the company's talent acquisition team really able to recruit “talented individuals” using the culture that outlined in the company's guidance book?

Second, is the company's talent performance team really able to evaluate and review talents based on such culture? Are your company’s performance reviews truly based on the culture that is written in your communications guide book? This is something that I find still very challenging, whether it's in major companies or even startups. These are two things that I refer to that are very hard to achieve in just four years.

You need to go through a thorough process to be able to figure it out. Four years is too early to have a solid answer on what our culture is. Because you need to go through trial and error to find what are the values that inspire your talents to join your company and try to stay as long as possible, and not just for bigger money or fancier job titles. 

Kitty: I appreciate the respect for the process of defining the culture. Essentially, it comes down to two principles: will you use this for performance reviews, and will you use this for hiring and recruiting? I believe that actions speak louder than words, and that's where you've got it.

Armyn: That is true.

How HR and comms can work together to strengthen the employer brand using shared OKRs

Kitty: Next, how are you collaborating with HR to amplify the employer brand? From your perspective of marketing or corporate communications, how can HR work better together with marketing on employer brand?

Armyn: Well, the short answer would be to have a shared OKR. That's it.

In any company, including startups, you work based on OKRs or KPIs. If you do not have shared OKRs, shared targets, and shared goals with other teams, why should you collaborate?

Of course, in the early phase when a problem emerges, you as a team may encounter a situation where you observe that, "Oh, we have a problem! But we don't have the OKR. But, still, let's solve it together." However, on the later stage of a problem, if you see those problems persist, you realise the need to form a collaborative effort by formalising it into the form of OKRs. 

Why? So that you can allocate resources accordingly, implement a specific approach, measure your progress, and build a solid report to the Management.

When it comes to the practice at GudangAda, our collaboration is based on the OKRs. As for Corporate Communication and HR (we called it PAC team here) we have shared OKR and regular cadence, where we discuss issues, daily challenges, and so on. And when we first encounter a problem, we try to solve it with small initiatives first. And later, perhaps, we build it as a shared OKRs between PAC and Corporate Communication. 

Usually, it will be more effective if the PAC and Corporate Communication team work together from early on in a campaign. The intention is to generate a stronger buy-in rate from the employees towards such campaigns.

It will be more effective if the PAC and Corporate Communication team work together from early on in a campaign. The intention is to generate a stronger buy-in rate from the employees towards such campaigns.

Kitty: Then you help with the internal comms to make the buy-in process faster and easier.

Armyn: I would rather use the term "collaborate", rather than help, in the context of the buying process. Because there are many methods, channels, and types of services that Corporate Communication can provide to the HR team to ensure that employees are more likely to buy into the HR initiatives.

Creating engaging employee narratives and improving internal experiences by breaking down silos

Kitty: That's quite unique. I think I've seen it before because I've spoken with a lot of HR professionals about change management. I believe many of them bear the burden of communicating about the change only within the HR team. It seems much more effective to partner with the communications team for internal communications.

Armyn: A collaboration doesn't necessarily need to happen at the end of the phase. Let's say, as a HR person you come up with an idea and then you go to the Comms team to find out how to best communicate it. It's not just that, you can (and should) actually, work on it from early on, like what kind of ideas we can inject to the employees at this very specific time. It's like working together with a creative agency.

So, when you work with a creative agency, it is important to start early, and thoroughly. To identify the right problems and address the root causes. So I guess, instead of using the term “internal communications” try to picture it as having a creative agency as your partner campaign.

Because, based on my experiences, when people hear “internal communications”, the mindset is always simple. Send an email to convey the message. But, actually, it’s not that simple.Importantly, you need to come up with a creative idea on how to communicate the campaigns. So, in my opinion, the term “creative communication” would best describe that complexity rather than “internal communication”.

Kitty: That is a really good point. That is definitely a learning experience for me from this chat. It has totally reframed how I think about it. It is quite funny because HR is trying to change the organisation's mindset that they are an internal resource. Please involve HR earlier; they are a partner to the business.

They are a partner and a strategic thought partner in the process. Everyone needs to involve each other earlier on in the process and not work in silos.

Armyn: As we move further into the realm of digital transformation, work functions will get blurier, transcending the conventional responsibilities border. In the near future, there will be no “black and white”. In the early days, you heard about HR functions, but over time there was HRBP, and then now PAC. That is a new paradigm that we all need to prepare, not only for the HR team.

Maybe in 5 to 10 years' time from now, there will be no HR or Corporate Communication. Instead, there will be a new function that serves the needs of employees in creative and digital ways. Perhaps there will be a new term or department name for it. This is just my perspective on how things may evolve.

Always be prepared, not just to see it as a problem for one team or another, but as a shared problem. That is why you need to have it formalised in a shared OKRs.

Always be prepared, not just to see it as a problem for one team or another, but as a shared problem. That is why you need to have it formalised in a shared OKRs. You cannot just sit and say, "Let's collaborate between teams." You need to put it in writing so that management can see the actual results.

By having it in writing, the management can analyse how many resources are being invested and whether they are truly successful in terms of retaining and maintaining employees.

Kitty: It's so inspiring. It's almost as if everything that we as startups have learned about product design and user experience, all the lessons from customers, is highly transferable to employees. So we apply some of the tools and methodology for crafting a great course experience.

Armyn: Consumers and employees are all human, they are pretty much the same. So why not use the same approach and allocate the same amount of resources for both? After all, you will be working with your coworkers for years, typically longer compared to your consumers. Consumers can change every day, but your coworkers are more likely to remain constant over time.

Learning from the collaborative efforts of cross-functional teams and their impact on society during challenging times

Kitty: On how you collaborate with HR, do you have any stories or examples of initiatives that you feel went well to share?

Armyn: It was the time when I was still working in a ride hailing startup at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic hit. At that time Jakarta was hit by massive floods. As it was on the 2nd January, everyone was still in a holiday mood. 

I had just returned from my holiday in Jakarta when I received the news. Suddenly, my boss called me and said, "I think we need to do something about this flood on a company-wide scale. What do you have in mind?". I replied. "Well, of course, meeting up with the government and then gathering our employees for a company volunteering," she answered. "Gather for what?" I asked. "To do something for society and also for the drivers.”

At that time, I was still in the holiday mood and I thought that the majority of employees would feel the same way. You just got back from holiday, why would you put yourself in a different mode?

The second issue is that I was still using the same framework when I worked at my previous company. Hosting and organising employee volunteering were very challenging back then. That's why I mentioned my lack of openness to new things and new culture.

I'm arguing with my boss about this very same issue. People have just returned from holiday, so it's not a good time to organise employee volunteering. It won't have an impact. That's what I was saying.

That was 2020, which means it has been almost ten years since the ride-hailing app was established. This is the time frame that I was referring to in terms of culture. But then she said, "This is different, believe me. Just send out the forms for employees and they will register. I was very sceptical at the moment, but then I thought, "why not" and just made a form and sent it through email. Let's see how it goes.

As you guessed, I was wrong. Even the CEO registered himself. The CEO registers himself and gets down to the field during rainy days. And for your information, he uses a crutch to walk because his foot is broken.

During rainy days on the street, he uses those crutches to help drivers and society by handing out goods, among other things. There are many activities planned for one full week in Jakarta, with hundreds of employees volunteering, including the CEO himself.

Why did I choose to showcase this? To share this experience with you. Sometimes you need to look inward and try to be more open towards any kind of change, possibility, or even different views on some matters, because you may not always be right.

Sometimes you need to look inward and try to be more open towards any kind of change, possibility, or even different views on some matters, because you may not always be right.

Whether you are in HR or Corporate Communications, there is no such thing as being 100% right. If you aim for perfection, you need to seek input from other people and teams to achieve righteousness.

That ride hailing company has these Ten Principles as their DNA and the culture that really speaks out there. For me and the majority of my colleagues, those are actually the things that attract us to join that ride-hailing company. And those are the same Ten Principles that the HR management uses to review our performance.

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