What if loving one’s job was the norm? For employees at Zomato, that is becoming a reality. In February 2019, Zomato took one of the top slots in LinkedIn’s fourth edition of 25 most amazing places to work in India. The list reveals companies where Indian professionals want to work and stay, based on ‘LinkedIn insights,’ which include the job seeker’s interest in the company, engagement with employees, job demand, and employee retention.
Launched in 2008 with the mission, “Better food for more people”, Gurgaon-headquartered restaurant aggregator Zomato now claims to connect 55 million users to restaurants in 24 countries. The business currently employs a team of more than 5,000 “Zomans,” representing more than 32 nationalities. Zomato has grown from a home project to one of the largest food aggregators in the world. They not only connect people to food in every context but also work closely with restaurants to enable a sustainable ecosystem.
In this candid conversation with our Editor-in-Chief, Ekta Capoor, Steven Murray, Global Head Recruitment and People Development at Zomato, shares details about what separates Zomato from the rest and how it is successfully living its mission of better food for more people.
Q: How does it feel to be number eight on LinkedIn’s list of top 25 companies to work for in 2019 and how does it impact a prospective employee?
A: It definitely feels great. It allows us to dispel some of the myths related to the work environment in a hyper-growth start-up. It feels good to be one of the companies people are looking at in terms of employment opportunities, but I think we are focussing on validating internal people more than attracting external prospects.
Q: What do you feel are the key elements that brought you this position?
A: I believe we’ve always taken up disruptive initiatives that have helped people develop and grow. Now we’re just taking steps to actively talk about it online, which is the major change that’s happened for us in the last four to five months. And that’s made a big difference to our brand image.
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Q: What are the activities undertaken by you for increased employee engagement?
A: We’re working very hard to get closer to understanding what people want and what makes them happy.
A simple yet effective initiative to assess happiness and plan engagement is our happiness survey. Our happiness survey is run once every quarter with our staff asking employees important questions like- what would make them happier in the workplace? or what’s really working for them and what’s not? and what does growth actually mean to them as an individual. The survey is non-anonymous and we make sure immediate changes are made to what people are unhappy about. By taking fast action on the input we receive our teams feel the surveys are worth their time and it has led to over 80% response rate to our survey, across the organisation.
A number of initiative revolves around development. We run a few initiatives, like our Bootcamps. We identify key people in the organization in a given role and put them through a development training camps for 3 days without disturbing the momentum of work. A very successful bootcamp was our product bootcamp.
Another initiative for development was the Yoda program, where top sales people develop content relating to sales, train the area sales managers and monitor impact at the frontline sales level. We give these salespeople a tangible feel of development by comparing their results from before and after training.
We’re also championing things like entrepreneurship. One of our entrepreneurship programs was to launch a hundred cities across India for online food ordering. We opened up an opportunity for everyone in the company, regardless of designation or tenure, to apply and launch a city.
After taking leadership training and continuous mentorship, they went out and launched a hundred cities. We’re very happy to announce that we’ve launched more than 500 cities since then.
Through such initiatives, we want to champion great ideas and try to create platforms to help employees implement them. One thing that we make sure is that the feedback is transparent, honest, constructive and not personal. It is important not to have anonymous feedback, as we want people to stand behind their words. We have built a trust that the feedback won’t hinder them in terms of their career which allows them to be completely honest.
So, feedback is a big piece and we’ve worked very hard at and overall development and communication is something that we are working on at the moment.
Q: With growth comes job demand. What is the demand like in terms of the kind of vacancies that you have?
A: The challenge is always quality. Driving a better employer brand helps bring more quality to the table. People believing that working with Zomato is a viable long-term career opportunity for them, it will attract better quality employees to the organization. Things like top 25 on LinkedIn, great campus engagement, etc, really help bring more quality or make people consider us ahead of our competitors.
Q: What is your take on Employee Retention?
A: We believe that acknowledging and appreciating what people are doing is critical. Letting them know that their work has a significant impact and is changing the world, is important in terms of connecting and reaffirming them to the vision. Making employees realise that they are growing and doing more complicated things now compared to before, is also vital.
Q: Can you throw some light on the Culture at Zomato ?
A: It starts really at the hiring process. When we hire people, we try and look for who they really are, because, who they are, is what they will bring to the organization.
In today’s unambiguous environments that are constantly changing, we need passionate people that can take hold of things with a mindset of grabbing every learning opportunity for self-development. Having a great sense of humour and the ability to laugh and enjoy work is also an attribute we look for.
Zomato has quite a young feel to the company. Here, you can feel that youthful energy coming through and it’s got nothing to do with age. I think that we’re in an intellectually honest and energetic culture with a passion for change. People at Zomato are very comfortable in accepting their failures and successes. This allows us to give them constructive and open feedback.
Q: What are your Initiatives towards creating a Seamless Employee Experience?
A: Communication holds the most important place. We try and help our employees understand and create a work-life balance by conducting happiness surveys, mental health workshops and motivational talks. We conduct leadership surveys. We also create interest groups or clubs where employees are able to drive some of the things they are passionate about outside of work. So, when we talk about work life integration, we are trying to bring life into work. The moment they disconnect from the job and feel meaning in every day, we’re on the right track. So, we’re doing a lot these additional things for our employees.
Q: What is that one single differentiator that distinguishes Zomato from its other counterparts in terms of employee experience?
A: Opportunity for development. The kind of exposure and on the job development you get at Zomato is difficult to find anywhere else.
Q: Why would an employee love to come to work at Zomato?
A: Apart from the relaxed and comfortable culture that I’ve mentioned, our vision- better food for more people, has such a deep meaning to it, which I believe, drives people to come and work every single day.
Q: Can you give us a relevant case study on how you enhanced an employee experience by making relevant changes in your policies?
I wouldn’t refer to this as a change in policy, although we do this often to improve the lives of people we work with, but something significant to me is our relentless defense and curation of our culture. It has had a tremendous impact on our company.
In 2015, we had to reduce our workforce by 30 to 40% due to a volatile situation in the food tech space. We were left with about 450 to 500 people. Four years later, many of those 500 people are still here with us, doing great things with the same belief, regardless of what we put them through. So, paying attention to cultural hiring and cultural alignment has been crucial for us in surviving a massive turmoil in a typical startup space.
These 500 employees are now managing bigger teams, leading global initiatives and driving our cultural value down into the rest of the organization, which is really pretty impressive. This is why we spend a significant amount of time driving culture and cultural values within our company.
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