eBay: Scaling amazing heights
Klaus Duetoft, Senior Director of eBay’s shared HR services platform, MyHR, in Asia-Pacific, has a fun, go-to anecdote when he wants to highlight the lightning-quick evolution of the internet scene.
“I tell people that one year in the internet sector is almost four years in traditional businesses because of the speed of change,” he says. “If you follow that principle, I’ve been at eBay for nearly 56 years.”
A 14 (real)-year veteran of eBay, Duetoft has seen technologies in the internet sphere arrive, change, and evaporate in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
“The internet sector is the type of place where you can’t stand still. You need to constantly evolve, innovate, and fine-tune your competitiveness,” he says.
“It is a fast-paced, highly-competitive, and growing environment.”
Driving this rapid technological evolution is a level of competition from both large and small organisations that shows no signs of abating.
Despite eBay’s stature as one of the globe’s most recognisable internet brands – it has 157 million active users and 800 million listings worldwide – Duetoft says the company would be vulnerable if it ever stood still.
“There are players that we’re facing both globally and in Asia-Pacific. There are domestic start-ups, deep and vertical players, as well as bricks-and-mortar firms that are moving their operations onto e-commerce platforms or using them as a vehicle to drive additional growth,” he explains.
Understanding, forecasting, and building specific HR capabilities, in part through the MyHR platform, is vital in such an environment.
“Things like talent identification, talent retention, ensuring you optimise the leverage of your talent, engagement, and capability growth: these are the key drivers for internet-based businesses,” says Duetoft.
While it commands a significant global footprint, Duetoft says eBay remains nimble enough to tailor its HR strategies and adapt to the latest technology trends.
“eBay has a solid understanding of what is really unique at the company, and what the value propositions, strengths, qualities, and requirements that we need to target are,” he elaborates.
“Putting these two together allows us to make sure that we develop HR strategies and programmes in the context of what’s being driven externally and the competitive landscape.”
eBay also leverages on its own unique business model and culture to stay ahead of the pack.
“Some aspects that stand out for me about eBay is that it’s a results-oriented business, and a highly relationship and network-driven organisation,” Duetoft shares.
“It’s also inclusive, and we really believe in an egalitarian approach. All our staff have a view and we believe in them sharing that view.
“We operate in a very flat, non-hierarchical and non-political environment.”
Duetoft says the staff culture is evident right from the moment a candidate begins the battery of interviews required to secure a job there.
“It can typically take anywhere from eight to nine interviews for most people to get into the company,” he says.
“What that does is create a process whereby an individual meets the people who are interviewing them and gets calibrated into the eBay environment where they can succeed and flourish.”
Duetoft says this structure serves in part as a self-selection process.
“Typically, the people that make it through that process are highly-engaged, exceptionally passionate about the brand, and really feel they can make a difference,” he explains.
Prospective employees can also assess if their own values are aligned with the organisation, and how they can add value to the firm. “It allows the organisation to review that as well.”
Duetoft says this, along with eBay’s inclusive culture, means that when new employees join the ranks, they do not have to spend the early stages of their careers proving themselves to their colleagues.
“In a lot of organisations, employees have to build that credibility before people bring them into the fold,” he says.
“You must be talented if you’ve made it through the interview process at eBay. It’s a lovely situation because it means that people really trust you immediately, and are more than willing to support you to help you perform and succeed.”
Being a global internet player does not mean that eBay is spared from the recruitment roadblocks facing other companies and industries, and Duetoft identifies three key challenges.
One, he says, is being able to source and maintain the standard of talent being brought into the organisation.
“In a lot of our markets, the e-commerce sector is really a fledgling environment; there’s more growth to come. So, getting the depth of talent that we really need is often a challenge because a lot of the roles that we hire for don’t necessarily exist in the markets where we need them,” he explains. This is particularly true for skills in search engine optimisation, internet marketing, and product management roles in Asia.
“When they do exist, there’s often a lot of competition for them,” Duetoft shares.
On top of requiring candidates to be proficient in their job functions, eBay also makes it a point to hire those who can seamlessly blend in with its culture.
“What we look for is not only the technical capability but also a cultural fit and that ability to thrive,” says Duetoft.
“Hiring people who bring both functional capabilities and the value-based style component of the brand is incredibly difficult.”
Just as how the internet industry is continuously evolving, “eBayers” must also be able to adapt to that ever-changing landscape.
“Hence, the third recruitment challenge is being able to hire people who can flex, mould and adjust to a constantly changing environment,” Duetoft elaborates.
“It really means that people must have a strong level of resilience and a strong level of conceptual flexibility.”
With eBay now having engaged in deeper partnerships with retailers, Duetoft says the organisation is casting a much broader hiring net.
“Today, we get people from commerce and consumer companies, and retailers. We also get them from consulting, internet and technological companies,” he reveals.
This broader talent search has also extended to the graduate front, something Duetoft acknowledges was not traditionally on eBay’s radar.
“The concept of talent pipelining is an essential practice for us now,” he says. “We’re now much more focused on bringing graduates into the organisation as interns, and we’re much more focused on really getting a breadth of experience-based talent.”
Breadth, not depth
The disruptive nature of the internet world is also reflected in the career development pathways of employees at technology firms.
Duetoft says most traditional organisations have clearly defined progression paths, but firms emanating from the internet sector, including eBay, do not necessarily provide the same depth of hierarchical employee growth.
“What we do provide is an incredible breadth of experience growth,” he explains.
The organisation’s performance management process has also undergone a major revamp to help plot the career pathways of staff at every level.
Duetoft says the company has done away with its annual ratings-driven process, and has now shifted to a framework that does not incorporate any quantitative ratings.
“We’ve done that to really emphasise on contribution, readiness, potential and the conversations a manager would have with individuals around how they want to develop,” he elaborates.
Duetoft says eBay does not specifically articulate a career trajectory for employees early in their careers.
“The people that we hire are typically highly motivated, highly engaged and self-directed individuals. That really enables them to pursue their own careers,” he says.
With eBay placing a huge focus on the functional capability of employees, skills training is an inevitable focus of the organisation’s learning and development blueprint.
“Especially in skills like paid search, internet marketing and search engine optimisation, there is a heavy focus on developing them internally.”
eBay also aims to develop what Duetoft terms “sustainability of intensity” within its workforce.
“It’s about knowing how to develop skills in your staff for them to be intense when they need to be intense, and rejuvenating them when they need to be rejuvenated,” he explains.
“For instance, we’ve focused on concepts such as mindfulness training and work-life balance.”
eBay also recognises that developing future leaders is an important strategy and the company has developed a blended, four-pronged approach towards leadership development.
“Firstly, we have to ensure our employees have meaningful and challenging roles and secondly, we have to give those individuals timely and constructive feedback,” he explains.
“The third aspect is access to rotational and development opportunities, whether they’re leading projects or being put on challenging assignments; and fourthly, it’s really about ensuring the visibility of that talent across the organisation.”
Having carefully cultivated its own unique culture, eBay is also a firm believer in employee engagement; Duetoft says the organisation conducts quarterly engagement surveys.
He cites that eBay has an “outstanding response rate”.
“90% of our employees provide feedback in those surveys. Based on those quarterly surveys, I think we have a very deep and intrinsic understanding of our organisation, culture and people,” Duetoft explains.
eBay also rigorously ensures that its compensation and benefits programmes are competitive, robust and holistic.
“We regularly benchmark our base salaries and packages to make sure they are competitive and appropriate,” he says.
Every staff member, regardless of rank, can also participate in an annual bonus scheme.
One non-monetary way of recognising employees is an electronic card scheme, based on eBay’s values.
“When a ‘You’ve Made My Day’ card gets issued to a staff member, not only does their manager get notified, but their manager’s manager also gets notified,” Duetoft shares.
“We did that very consciously because part of recognition is being able to share the contribution.”
At a glance
Total number of employees at eBay (Asia-Pacific): More than 2,300
Size of the HR Team (Asia-Pacific): 31
Key HR Focus Areas:
– Talent engagement
– Talent development
– Talent pipelining
What is MyHR?
In 2012, the eBay leadership team sought to find a sustainable solution on building a world-class, scalable HR organisation with the flexibility and expertise to match the growing company. Four years later, the MyHR organisation continues to evolve, thrive and grow at eBay.
MyHR provides direct contact to answer both routine and complex HR questions and inquiries for all eBay employees.
Klaus Duetoft, Senior Director of MyHR in Asia-Pacific says the platform is a brand in itself, with a clear mandate for empowering eBay staff, helping managers to keep their staff on track, and delivering real business results.
“MyHR focuses on the entire employee lifecycle, from hiring, enabling, performing, developing, and retaining,” he says. Among its wide-ranging services are:
Duetoft says MyHR is also focused on building advanced self-service through the MyHR Online portal. “This serves as the primary self-service access point for HR-related information and personal career management,” he adds.
Who’s Who in HR
Senior Director, MyHR, eBay Asia-Pacific
Manager, MyHR Singapore Centre
MyHR Senior Advisor
MyHR Senior Advisor