Taste of Instacart
Meet Lydia Kung, Senior Director, HRBP at Instacart
Lydia Kung joined Instacart in 2018 as one of its first Human Resources Business Partners (HRBP). The HRBP team at Instacart sits within the People organization and are strategic thought partners who drive people strategy and initiatives to support the company’s business priorities. They are the connective tissue for leaders, managers, and employees on focus areas such as organizational design, coaching and talent development, performance management, and team engagement, with a heightened lens for inclusion and diversity.
We sat down with Lydia to learn more about her journey at the company, the HRBP team and People org, and what’s next this year.
What has your career path looked like?
I started my career in the People space 15 years ago and have diverse leadership experience in both human resources and recruiting, working with companies of various sizes and industries. Over the last decade in particular, I’ve focused on HR Business Partnership. Prior to joining Instacart, I supported the self-driving car division at Uber and prior to that supported clients such as Strategy, Finance, and Commercial Marketing at Mattel.
What drew me to Instacart was the company’s mission and culture that I instantly connected with, along with the chance to join a startup environment where I could dive in to help the business and HR function grow. Over the last 4.5 years, I’ve been fortunate to partner with our leaders and teams across almost every function in the company, as well as help build and scale our HRBP team and broader People org. It’s been an incredible adventure being a part of our company’s transformation so far, and I’m excited for what’s still to come!
Tell us more about the role of an HRBP and how your team is set up.
HRBPs are strategic advisors — we work with leaders to align their people, organizational, and company goals. I believe a company’s greatest asset is their talent, and HRBPs help unlock and optimize our representative workforce’s capabilities to drive business objectives forward. In my role, I partner with our Chief Operating Officer and lead the HR Business Partners for teams such as Product, Design, Marketing, Data Science, Operations, Customer Experience, and Instacart Health.
Our terrific Instacart HRBP team is made up of complementary skills and diverse backgrounds. We value collaboration, operating with a growth mindset, leveraging data for decision-making, and creatively solving complex problems. We also look forward to regular offsites and “team jams” — a company-wide program designed to provide opportunities for teams to gather in person. These events are always a highlight for our team to have fun as a group and develop connections while brainstorming and planning together.
We’re also closely integrated with our Centers of Excellence (eg. Total Rewards, People Technology, Recruiting, and Diversity, Equity and Belonging) to ensure we’re building a strong People Team culture and staying in lock step to collectively support the evolving needs of the business. Examples include scaling our programs and processes, driving operational efficiencies and automation, and elevating our company talent — all while staying true to Instacart’s unique culture and values.
You’ve helped grow and scale the HRBP team at Instacart, what are the qualities you look for when interviewing candidates?
While we’re always looking for new profiles and experiences to enhance the team, there are some qualities I’ve seen naturally work well at Instacart. A few that come to mind:
- Adaptability — comfort embracing change and navigating ambiguity
- Intellectual curiosity — openness to learn new things and understand different perspectives; asks questions and actively listens
- Scrappiness — “one team” mindset to roll up your sleeves to tackle challenges of all sizes together
How would you describe your leadership style and how do you think about development for your teams?
Leading with trust, transparency, and empathy is my priority. I strive to create an inclusive environment where the team feels they can be their authentic selves and do their best work — part of this is leading with vulnerability by example and encouraging the team to share honest feedback and different points of view. I anchor on adapting my communication style to individual needs as well to understand each person’s strengths, motivations, and career goals.
I believe striking the right balance between autonomy and clear ownership while also providing a safe support system is key for development. My goal is for the team to feel empowered and challenged in their work, and also know they have someone in their corner as a sounding board and advocate. I’m a big proponent that managers should be invested coaches because even though we can offer solutions and remove roadblocks, it’s even more impactful to help the team build the skills and muscle to problem solve.
I recommend HRBPs strengthen their toolkit by rotating client groups and tapping into cross-functional stretch projects outside their business units. Gaining exposure to these broader experiences can expand business acumen and critical thinking, develop a more holistic company perspective, and enable the team to be better strategic advisors and more effective operators.
What would someone be surprised to learn about Instacart?
People are often surprised by our four-sided marketplace — beyond a need for grocery delivery, we see an exciting opportunity to serve the varied needs of our community including consumers, shoppers, retailers, and brands. In turn, this creates many opportunities for our teams to help shape the company and build innovative solutions to complex challenges. Our multi-faceted business and culture are great for anyone who wants to learn a ton and make hands-on impact.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about in the upcoming year?
Even though we just kicked off the new year, we’ve already hit the ground running to fulfill our mission to create a world where everyone has access to the food they love and more time to enjoy it together. In particular, I love the momentum that Instacart Health is gaining with its new offerings, including Fresh Funds and Care Carts. Enabling more access and affordability to fresh food is one step to unlocking healthier diets and preventative nutrition. Early in my career I worked at the American Heart Association to raise awareness for cardiovascular disease — a cause that is personal to my family. The impact that Instacart Health can make in our communities is inspiring and significant, and I’m excited to be a part of the mission.
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