Life in the fast lane: Mastering the logistics of HR

Managing a workforce of more than 340,000 employees in 220 countries across the globe has its challenges. Linda Clinch, regional HR leader at DHL Express, provides five tips to help propel your organisation to the checkered flag

Life in the fast lane: Mastering the logistics of HR
Managing a workforce of more than 340,000 employees in 220 countries across the globe has its challenges. Linda Clinch, regional HR leader at DHL Express, provides five tips to help propel your organisation to the checkered flag

You’re trackside at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne and the atmosphere is electrifying. The first racing car screams around the corner, others close on its tail. It has barely stopped in the pits when its crew springs into action, refuelling the car and replacing worn tyres. Two of the team run through diagnostics and countdowns with barely a word spoken, while another stands by to direct the car out as  soon as the way’s clear. Within seconds the car punches out of the pits – back in the running for the Formula 1 championship.

Working in HR may not always feel as exciting as F1 racing, but it does require similar skills: planning, coordination, and responsiveness to any situation.

At DHL Express Oceania, we run a pit crew of 15 people from four countries with responsibility for almost 2,000 employees. We may not be going at 300km/h like Formula 1 cars – most of which DHL transports, along with equipment and crew, for the entirety of their global race schedule – but as an express delivery service we do have to be fast: the livelihoods of thousands of businesses depend on it. Getting goods across the world, at exceptional speed and immense scale, is an extremely complex task. The only way to succeed is if every member on the team – each with their own unique cultural and professional heritage – is on the same page of how to get the job done.

The team at DHL has had to rewrite that page a couple of times, but the process has been worth it. In February 2016, the Top Employers Institute named us a Global Top Employer for the second year running – making us the only company to receive the accolade in all regions of the world.

For the most part, the efforts of the real HR heroes go on behind the scenes, just like those of the pit crews at any motorsports event. While it’s great to pick up awards along the track, what’s more important is sustaining the culture that lets us compete and outmanoeuvre logistics challenges without making a wrong turn.

Here are five winning tips from our DHL playbook that any company with international reach or aspirations can use:
  1. Be strict on standards but flexible on execution
Global standards maintain quality at a consistently high benchmark, but achieving those standards may take different approaches in different places. Giving local teams the flexibility to adapt to local practices and norms, while remaining true to the spirit of the law, is the best way to empower and motivate them to take pole position. In Oceania, we do this with our annual Appreciation Week. By putting a local spin on the global program, we can better engage with employees in a manner that they can relate to.
  1. Train to engage 
In 2010, we invested millions to launch a bespoke training and development program called Certified

International Specialist (CIS), involving everyone from couriers to our board of directors. CIS is focused on engaging staff and getting them united around DHL’s values and goals. For those doing the training – managers, directors, board members – it’s also a constant reminder of the fundamentals of how to operate and why. It works, too; since we put CIS in place, engagement levels among our staff have risen by 16% overall and the program has been honoured with accolades such as the Stevie Awards. We recently opened an Oceania CIS Centre of Excellence in Brisbane to reinforce our commitment to staff.
  1. Stay local, learn global
Let local teams use their market knowledge and cultural insights to solve challenges for customers, but don’t keep top-performers confined to a single market. Putting your best specialists in overseas postings or secondments prepares them for leadership and supplements local teams with cross-cultural expertise. Deutsche Post DHL Group, which DHL Express is a part of, uses an online Job Watch to connect talent to overseas roles precisely for this purpose. We also send out a weekly job vacancies bulletin to all DHL employees in Oceania so that the team is aware of new opportunities in the region and are actively encouraged to pursue them.
  1. Share the prize
Recognition goes a long way to cultivating the spark of a winning team. At DHL Express, we have a range of initiatives designed to appreciate the everyday heroes of the business, such as our Employee of the Year awards (the 2015 winners travelled to Uluru as a reward) to ongoing team building and site events where employees bond over cooking classes, family picnics and other community activities. That sense of community shouldn’t only exist within office hours. We also offer maternity/paternity leave entitlements to support our people as they grow their families.

We also believe in empowering the less privileged in our community. Through our annual Global Volunteer Day program and activities throughout the year, our employees actively give back by donating their resources, time and knowledge.
  1. Let your teams have a say
If you don’t create an open workplace culture, you’ll miss the issues and warnings that eventually cause your well-oiled machine to fall apart under race-day pressure. At DHL Express, we survey our employees formally on an annual basis and augment this with pulse surveys throughout the year to find out from all staff what’s working and what isn’t, then acting to remedy those issues before they overheat. These surveys and the follow-up actions implemented have helped us take employee engagement and learning levels to record highs in the business.

The stronger the bonds of your workplace culture, the faster and smoother you’ll perform in whatever ‘pits’ you face in your business. It may not be as exciting to watch, but the logistics of HR have the same winning formula as those of any professional racing team: communication, camaraderie, and candidness about what needs to be fixed. Embrace it and your business will have the best chance possible of success on any international circuit.

 Linda Clinch
is the vice president, human resources at DHL Express Oceania.


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