Do you need to ‘re-humanise’ HR at your organisation?

Has an HR focus on data come at the expense of the ‘human’ element? The CEO of DHL Express explains how his company maintains equilibrium.

At DHL Express, leadership is defined by commitment and respect towards employees – a result of increased training and having leaders actively involved in their teams’ work processes.

“We’re trying to ensure our staff are engaged with the business,” said Gary Edstein, CEO, Oceania, at DHL Express. “Not just engaged but emotionally engaged. And that doesn’t just come through always meeting hard Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) but also the soft measurements as well; it’s not just reaching the targets but how you reach those targets.”

The company’s employee opinion surveys are encouraging, at around 79%, but Edstein wants to increase this even more using what he refers to as “active leadership”.

“It’s instilling those respect-focused leadership qualities into our management and supervisor level,” he explained. “We’ve got a strong team who are very committed to providing support to their staff, but they get very hands on. And sometimes they need to back away a bit and provide more of those leadership qualities.”

Around four years ago, DHL embarked on a mission to change its company culture, which led to the introduction of two new training programs: Certified International Specialist (CIS) and Certified International Management (CIM).

CIS involved putting all of the company’s 100,000 global employees through a new induction program, while CIM saw all supervisors and managers going through two three-day programs over a two year period.

Consequently, the company’s leaders are more involved than ever in the operating structure – leaders are encouraged to spend 70% of their time in the business, personally attending sales calls and courier runs.

Edstein referred to having a motivated workforce the “first pillar” of DHL’s strategy – to whom HR are the “custodians”.

“[HR] has an opportunity to go into the business along a different dimension than any other that we roll out for our staff in reward and recognition, in training and development, and so on,” said Edstein. “At the same time, I expect my head of HR to be as commercially focused as my CFO or any other executive.”

He added that HR could be considered DHL’s “conscience”.

“They’re making sure we’re not driven totally by numbers and hard KPIs,” he said. “Every company these days talks about their employees being their number one asset. If that’s the case, we’d better look after them and make sure we’ve got that balance between driving versus caring.”

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