An employee of the U.S. food distribution company DoorDash sparked headlines and controversy last December after the company uploaded an anonymous message to the WeDash program.
The company’s policies – implemented in 2013 but suspended due to the pandemic since 2020 – require DoorDash executives and C-suites to run a food delivery race at least once a month to assist in the kitchen or customer service department.
This will allow everyone in the company, from its software engineers to its CEOs, to know first-hand the impact of its services. Ultimately, this helps their team better design their products and services for their customers.
Should Singapore food distribution companies also imitate this model?
There were mixed reviews on WeDash
One of the reasons for DoorDash’s resumption of WeDash policy is its dominance in the U.S. food delivery space. According to Bloomberg Second Measure, As of November 2021, it accounted for 57 percent of U.S. food shipments.
Some employees were unhappy with the WeDash model and threatened to leave, while others saw the value.
Of the 2,000 comments below Blind’s anonymous post, some believed it would give them a greater understanding of their role.
Interestingly, DoorDash users also took to social media to express their support for the initiative. Most believed that the move would help improve the user experience of cyclists, restaurants and users.
A common word that kept popping up in this discussion? Empathy.
Efforts to better protect the rights of workers in the gig economy today are largely based on government action.
Last July, China ordered food distribution drivers to be paid more than the minimum wage, to have unionization and access to social security. In addition, the platform banned the placement of “unreasonable requirements” based on algorithms in its drivers.
In particular, the European Union also proposed requirements for gig economy platforms to grant their workers labor rights, such as a minimum wage and sick pay in December 2021.
In Singapore, food delivery drivers are not adequately protected
Singapore is no stranger to the debate over improving the protection of workers in the gig economy.
At last year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted drivers for sending food, “like workers for all intents and purposes,” but they lacked employee benefits.
Despite the growing number of Singaporeans joining the concert economy, it was made up of the self-employed 14.7 percent Singapore’s employment rate for 2020 was 13.5 per cent; they are not entitled to receive a contribution from the Central Fund for Forecasting (CPF).
As they are classified as self-employed, they do not have employment contracts with food distribution suppliers and are therefore outside the scope of the Employment Act. Prime Minister Lee also stressed that they do not have the support of the unions.
The lack of formal staff gives them extra freedom to choose when they want to work, while shipping drivers are often penalized for failing to meet certain quotas.
In addition, they do not need to receive any health benefits. However, a quick search of Grab, foodpanda and Deliveroo websites revealed that they offer insurance coverage for drivers when they are actively delivering.
Managers should walk the floor to better empathize
Grab CEO Anthony Tan has clearly shared his experiences walking the floor – starting in the kitchen and continuing to be a veteran delivery driver for the company.
Over time Wall Street Journal CEO Board Summit Last September, Grab CEO Anthony Tan recounted his experience as a kitchen runner when he realized that some kitchen staff had trouble handling application documents with English instructions.
That’s why he came up with the idea of automatically translating application documents when they were printed.
With first-hand experience on the ground, employees can better understand the impact of their work on others. With help, be it from the point of view of the merchant or the sender, the nuances that would otherwise be lost could be quickly identified and resolved.
While it may be helpful to ask for feedback, the empathy of having first-hand experience can make employees more passionate about their work and lead to improved products.
From a consumer perspective, a company that has empathy for its primary employees is also a good point. In 2020, the Morning Consult intelligence company found 90 percent of consumers said it was important for companies to treat employees well.
For the time being, the change could be for the benefit of shipping drivers, as the Singapore government announced the creation of a advisory committee for platform staff in September 2021.
But beyond government policy, perhaps Singapore food distribution companies should take a page of DoorDash to better protect the backbone of their company.
While it may be difficult to implement from the outset, the company’s policies that require its executives and C-suites to be discussed would serve to better improve their company’s services for its customers, delivery drivers, and merchants.
Featured Image Credit: AirAsia food / GrabFood / foodpanda / Retail News Asia