Boosting morale: How fostering the kampung spirit makes staff feel valued

Through networking platforms, community impact initiatives and generous benefits, digital payment giant PayPal connects employees to the company and one another

PayPal employees volunteer for a Back to School packing event in November 2022 in support of TOUCH Community Services, a beneficiary of PayPal's 2022 Community Impact Grant. PHOTO: PAYPAL

A platform that pairs employees for one-on-one conversations based on common interests was one of the ways Ms Chua Ying Jia made friends within the multinational firm when she joined PayPal in 2021.

At that time, remote working arrangements were still in place, and she had few opportunities to get to know her colleagues on a more personal basis. 

Through the platform RandomConnect, Ms Chua, bonded with a web engineer over a shared interest in computer console games as well as a software engineer trainee who had joined the company under the same training programme as she did. Ms Chua is a project manager with the PayPal Innovation Lab, the tech company’s unit that fosters innovation through fintech research, development and capacity-building initiatives.

“It was a great way for me to get to know someone beyond their job scope while also finding my own community at work,” she says. “It helped to boost my morale too, especially since I was new to the company.”

Ms Chua, who previously held a communications and marketing role in a real estate company prior to joining PayPal, had never worked in a tech company. 

“I’d always thought that working in a tech company meant that people would be glued to their screens and not talking to one another, so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this was not the case here at all,” she says.

Humans behind the tech

In an industry that is defined by the latest technologies to drive automation and digitalisation, PayPal has not forgotten what makes these technologies possible in the first place: its people. Humanising the workplace is, therefore, top priority.

“PayPal’s mission is to ensure that all people and all businesses have the ability to fully and fairly participate in the global economy,” explains PayPal Singapore’s chief executive officer Aaron Wong.

“We believe this mission starts from the inside, by building a global team of employees who respect and support each other.”

In PayPal’s international headquarters in Singapore, Mr Wong says a lot of emphasis is placed on fostering a sense of community – or the kampung spirit – to help employees feel connected to the company.

PayPal, which is ranked among the Fortune 500 companies (the largest American corporations by revenue per fiscal year), also ensures their employees feel valued. Staff get access to learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, O’Reilly and Udemy for Business, and can take courses to pursue their interests, all in their own time.

Employee development programmes with mentorship and rotation opportunities also pave the way for high performers to grow with the company.

The employee benefit package – anchored on the approach of “total wellness” – not only offers employees generous health benefits, but also resources for crisis care support, which covers confidential counselling and time off for recovery. 

Additionally, the Employee Financial Wellness Initiative, which was introduced at the end of 2019 as part of the company’s efforts to improve the financial well-being of employees, offers all employees a one-time PayPal stock grant as well as access to regular financial education and planning programmes. 

“The stock option gives employees a stake in the company and an opportunity to benefit from the company’s growth, which motivates them to excel,” says Mr Wong.

Building connections and purpose

Employee motivation also stems from a sense of community that is often rooted in meaningful workplace connections. For PayPal, which is listed among the top employers in Singapore based on findings by global research firm Statista in collaboration with The Straits Times, it is why the company also prioritises striking a balance between remote work flexibility and in-person interactions.

“While we continue to offer hybrid work arrangements, we want to rebuild and strengthen some of the kampung spirit that was lost when we had to work remotely during the pandemic,” explains Mr Wong.

Besides its RandomConnect initiative, which has since facilitated over 31,000 employee connections globally, PayPal has also added an offline edition of the initiative to facilitate in-person networking. There are also monthly Collaboration Days, when staff are encouraged to go into their respective offices to strengthen connections across teams, enable in-person collaboration and support professional development.

“I believe we learn best by watching and listening to colleagues, which is what our Collaboration Days are for,” says Mr Wong, adding that office attendance increases on these occasions.

Employees are also engaged through PayPal’s various giving initiatives under its Community Impact Programme. By letting them take the lead in selecting and supporting local non-profit organisations, whether through donations, grant-making and skills-based volunteerism, these activities foster a sense of purpose and connectedness among employees.

(From left) PayPal’s Community Impact Team members in Singapore: Mr Rahul Mallan, business programme manager; Ms Margaret William, executive assistant; Ms Eugenia Toteva, governance analyst; Ms Shre Tan, office manager for the Singapore Development Centre; and Ms Hannah Angsana, AML policy and programme manager. PHOTO: PAYPAL

They are also empowered to design and run charity initiatives of their own. Those who feel strongly for certain causes can also volunteer with the various Employee Resource Groups. In the Singapore office, they can support causes that include championing the rights of women, LGBTQIA+ individuals and persons with disabilities.

Despite having joined PayPal for less than two years, Ms Chua has already had multiple opportunities to organise some of these charity initiatives, including an employee fund-raising activity in conjunction with an internal showcase of a pilot payment platform as well as a charity run for reforestation efforts. It has also inspired her to do more to give back. 

This year, she hopes to participate more actively in the “Unity” Employee Resource Group (which champions gender equality in the workplace) and find volunteering opportunities where she can encourage girls to consider a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Mr Wong says employees go above and beyond their job functions because they feel valued, engaged and motivated.

“What makes a person want to stay on with a company? Beyond the work, it is the culture and kampung spirit that unite the team here,” he says.

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