If your company operates around the world – or aspires to soon – human resource strategies that align and engage your workforce are essential to success.
At DHL Express, we believe that our experience in cultivating a strong, global organizational culture can offer insights that would be useful to HR professionals working in international companies or small- and mid-sized businesses. The following are some of the approaches that have been central to our success.
Get ‘buy-in’ throughout your organization
Managing a workforce this large – one that could pack the Olympic Stadium during the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio – comes with both challenges and opportunities.
The scale of our workforce makes HR at DHL Express truly unique. We strive to energize and bring out the best in employees based in more countries than will participate in the Olympics, more than the United Nations counts as members, and certainly a greater number than many other ‘multinational’ companies. This poses a major strategic HR question: how do you foster a common organizational culture that brings out the best in everyone across such a broad, diverse workforce, while making sure everyone has their best day, every day?
This question has been particularly crucial to DHL over the last 5 to 6 years, for a number of reasons. We design our business model so customers anywhere in the world can rely on the same high-quality service and uniform international shipping processes. To do this effectively, we have to establish a ‘network mentality’ where every individual feels equally accountable for service and performance.
Secondly, economic challenges prior to 2009 drove us to undertake a major transformation, restructuring some domestic businesses and refocusing on international express delivery. Getting our employees behind this process was critical to turning around the company’s fortunes.
External validation of our HR efforts came in February 2016, when Top Employers Institute named us a Global Top Employer for the second year running. We were the only company to receive Top Employer recognition in all regions of the world – across 43 countries in total.
Remain rigid on standards but flexible on execution
Managing your global standards centrally can ensure that your quality standards meet important benchmarks. At the same time, providing your local team the flexibility to adapt to local practices and norms, while remaining true to the ‘spirit of the law,’ will empower and motivate them to perform to the best of their potential.
Focus on training and engagement
In 2010, we invested millions to launch a single training and development platform, the Certified International Specialist (CIS) program. Importantly, we train our managers and global board to effectively facilitate the program worldwide. CIS not only remains our main source of training, but helped to increase engagement by 16 percent in employee surveys over the last five years.
Train locally and promote globally
In most businesses, local teams bring unrivalled market knowledge and insights into the culture. At the same time, exposing your best specialists to different cultures can boost their expertise, which they can share with the local team. It can also shape them for future leadership. For example, our “Made in Africa” program identifies and cultivates the best talent in Africa. International executives support these employees as they perform different managerial roles within the continent. The very best often get promoted and bring their proven, distinctly African skillset and perspectives to our global organization.
Replace “carrot and stick” with “carrot cake and pogo stick”
Our rigorous performance process sets challenging targets and rates competences and achievements objectively for employees. At the same time, we recognize outstanding work. For example, our top managers show appreciation for the employees during “As One” Appreciation Weeks; some buy pizza, others take the team to the movies. We also make recognition a central and binding theme of our global culture by bringing our top achievers together for Employee of the Year celebrations in exotic locations around the world.
Use cultural diversity to your advantage
When you provide global express business to the world, you need to understand the diverse needs of global customers. The different perspectives and cultural norms of a worldwide workforce can be a fantastic source of ideas and process improvement to meet customer expectations. Develop an open culture that encourages feedback so front-line employees, in even the most remote locations, will know that their opinions are welcome.
When it comes to effective global HR, your employees are your biggest resource. Draw on their common strengths – that is, their professional values, priorities and expertise – while also embracing their differences. This strategy will help to engage your international workforce, develop a winning culture that spans the globe, and ensure you continue to attract world-class talent and new business, now and in the future.