A Conversation with DHL: DHL’s Journey in Developing its People

DAPHNE LEE

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Daphne Lee

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DHL Express Singapore continues to keep its people focus on the forefront, but the journey in doing so did not happen overnight. Recognized as a leader in the logistics industry, it holds the accolade of ranking top in the Great Place to Work® Singapore’s Best Workplaces™ list in 2020 and 2021. The company also has achieved an employee engagement rate of 99 per cent last year. How did the company weather the storm of Covid-19, remain agile to developing its people while keeping a robust growth figure? DHL Express Managing Director, Mr Christopher Ong shares with Raymond Teo, Senior Consultant for Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ, key steps that the company implemented during the pandemic to ensure its employees remain upbeat and positive about the workplace.

1. A belief that People equals Growth and Quality.

DHL Express believes that employees drive service quality which in turn delivers growth to propel the company forward. It has a Certified International Specialists (CIS) program which was created in the midst of the last crisis the company went through in 2009/2010. This investment of resources into a people program during crisis represents DHL’s commitment to people.

This program was meant as a training program but it transited into a cultural change program that teaches about values and gives employees, especially its frontline team leads and supervisors, technical and soft skills. Leaders themselves facilitate the CIS program which involves teaching employees how to lead and how to engage with their peers and the people that work for them. Mr Ong acknowledged that motivated employees go the extra mile to solve the problems for the customers and when employees are engaged, it brings about engaged customers.

“Once you have this great service quality, the loyal customers will keep coming back … loyal customers will basically drive our profitability. We preach what we call the virtuous cycle, because once we make the money, we commit to reinvesting back into our people so that this cycle keeps going. If our employees are completely disengaged, there is no way our customers will feel engaged with the organization. Motivated people deliver that great service quality,” he shared

2. Placing our people first in everything that we do.

When the Covid-19 pandemic occurred, DHL Express put together a dedicated taskforce to implement Covid-19 safety measures, some of whom were experienced colleagues who dealt with the SARS crisis earlier. They were pre-emptive and involved in securing scarce protective gears and supplies for employees.

“We rolled out things that would support both our employees as well as our customers, be it contactless payments or contactless deliveries to minimize the risk of contact with asymptomatic COVID individuals.”

One of the most important things the company did was to commit to a no-layoff and no pay reductions to give employees the psychological safety and an environment of trust and security.

Another initiative that the company implemented was in response to the Singapore-Malaysia borders closure in March 2020. The company engaged and communicated with 210 of its staff who were Malaysian employees, most of whom were operators on the ground and customer service agents that cross the border daily.

“Because of our swift response, we made sure that they had a roof over their heads by securing accommodation across a few hotels for those who chose to stay in Singapore during the initial period of the borders closure. We set up an alternative worksite in Johor Bahru, Malaysia to cater to a better working environment and to focus on the business growth opportunities. We shipped IT equipment across and did everything we could to allow them to continue to work and to get paid.”

The company also gave a one-time necessities allowance and daily allowance for a period to defray day-to-day expenses.

3. Communicating with clear intent and engaging its people in a time of change and disruption.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, DHL Express transitioned to remote working arrangements for its non-frontline employees. The decision was made to keep the ‘Safety First’ principle in mind. It also communicated with its employees the company’s pro-family stance and acknowledged the challenge of juggling caregiving and working from home, making it clear that family duties come first.

Mr Ong also cited how the company’s 200 seat call centre had to pivot completely to remote work within 24 hours. The managers and supervisors of the company brought the necessary equipment such as desktop computers to the homes of the staff.

“When we realized that there was going to be even more remote work, we converted all the desktops into laptops. It was a small investment that went really deeply into the hearts of the customer service advisors as it meant more flexibility and convenience for them. We equipped them with the best technology so that they could do their work well.”

The company also showed appreciation to its staff through different creative ways such as care packs and bento food appreciation weeks or Grab food vouchers for its employees.

 

4. Encourage open communication, feedback mechanisms and the ability to share concerns.

At the company’s town hall and small team meetings, the company leveraged on technology such as Zoom and Skype which gave employees the ability to ask questions anonymously.

“We commit to be fully transparent. With oil prices going up, people commented: ‘Oh, you know, our transport allowance hasn’t changed. Can we get more money?’ Employees were informed that the transport allowance they received was higher in proportion to what most other companies gave. But when we found that there was a gap in our medical, we made sure that we increased that significantly,” he shared.

Employees appreciated the company’s transparency and consistency in their responses that were guided by company values. When they recognized that the company answered their concerns honestly, it enabled them to trust the company and it made the communication more effective.

 

5. Creating a purpose for the company and its employees.

“To be truly unique as an organization, you need to give your people a purpose.”

Mr Ong affirmed that DHL Express believes that wholeheartedly. DHL Express was the chosen logistics provider of a major vaccine manufacturer and help delivered more than 2.5 billion doses of vaccine around the world and in over 175 countries and in Singapore, over 11 million vaccines were delivered.

“Our purpose as an organization is to connect people and improve lives. And in many of these cases, we’re actually saving lives. Be it the personal protective equipment gear to the vaccines and the sanitizers, the company even sponsored masks together with Temasek foundation.”

He added that employees also worked with the Singapore Red Cross in 2020 to support the delivery of customized care packages to local vulnerable groups.

“Our people were so proud to be able to do this and as an organization because we’re able to do what we do, there is a huge amount of pride in our purpose. I do believe that if our people really believe in that purpose, they will find this to be a great place to work.”

You can access the full webinar: Emerging Stronger in Covid-19 as #1 on the World’s Best Workplaces™ List, here

DAPHNE LEE

Daphne believes in building community-relatable content, telling stories through narratives that add value in today’s workplace and in culture-building. Her idea of a great workplace is one that thrives on openness, support and inclusivity while building trust and working towards a common business growth and purpose. A journalist, she spent 15 years writing for trade publications, lifestyle magazines and broadsheet supplements.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category