Throughout the global pandemic, DHL Express Sri Lanka pledges its commitment to its people and customers
Dimithri Perera, Country Manager, DHL Express Sri Lanka, takes us through the company’s people-first, customer-centric strategy as it focuses on ‘Delivering Excellence in a Digital World’ amidst an unprecedented global crisis.
Can you tell us how Covid-19 has impacted the business and how the company is moving forward despite the unfolding global economic crisis and how have you created a safety net for employees?
The Covid-19 crisis revealed our company’s true strength! The pandemic presented us with new challenges that required us to change frequently and on a daily basis. In order to really move the needle forward, we had to make changes to processes and practices which we were used to whilst optimizing our resources. These adaptations enabled us to keep global trade flows moving and thereby strengthening the supply chains for our customers.
Despite the pandemic, our growth underlines the resilience of our business model. We have proven that we can deliver reliably and securely, even in a tempestuous market environment. We are able to respond to changing circumstances with agility and master extreme logistics challenges. Our Strategy 2025: Delivering Excellence in a Digital World sets exactly the right priorities for us to continue with our operations.
More importantly, we have a commitment beyond the physical safety of our employees. We have taken actions to help employees with their mental well-being and to provide a sense of financial security. People around the world were experiencing anxiety about the continuity of their jobs during the pandemic, that’s why we decided to keep our employees engaged and to continue paying them their full salaries despite the odds. In fact, in appreciation of the remarkable efforts of our staff during the pandemic, we paid all employees an extra one-off bonus of 300 euros globally. In effect, we used the crisis to deepen our commitment to the community of employees, customers and humanity overall by aligning to our purpose; Connecting People, Improving Lives. As a global organization, we are now helping to ship Covid-19 vaccines to people all over the world.
Under the circumstances where part of the employees are working from home, how do you ensure that service quality is not compromised?
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly turned out to be a leap into cold water and everyone had to learn how to swim. One principle is fundamental in this context: working virtually did not mean operating through the chaos without rules. We understood the need to make clearly defined rules and assign responsibilities in a planned approach in order to make the concept of productivity more effective.
Moreover, trust and solidarity now have a completely new meaning. We provided digital connectivity into the homes of our employees as they made the transition into their new place of work. Previously, we could hardly imagine how some roles would work in remote conditions, but with flexibility and trust it did work out nicely. Under the pandemic conditions, all staff working in frontline roles including the senior management never missed a moment to fully engage our customers. In fact, we were more connected than ever before.
What are the top challenges confronting DHL in attracting the right talent and retaining them in such a crisis?
It is during extraordinary times like these that the foundation set by having a ‘Respect and Results’ culture truly bears fruit. Conventional approaches to all aspects of HR were turned upside down as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. We had to adjust both our recruitment and our internal talent development practices as well as our performance management systems and metrics to help future-proof our business and workforce. I’m happy to say, that it worked well for us and we have had very little attrition during this period.
Engagement is one of the great intangible measures we use in order to attract and retain employees. We retain our staff through a culture of setting values, which is built around qualities such as providing purpose, being results-oriented, and having a positive attitude to change. At DHL we call this; leading with “Head, Heart, and Guts”. This approach reflects our commitment towards diversity and inclusion at every level and supplemented in becoming a key ingredient in retaining talent.
What does the future of work mean for you?
Automation, the rise of the millennial workforce, and the Covid19 pandemic are significantly transforming the way we work. For instance; many employees don’t want to miss the freedom that comes with working from home or the office. Hence, the reason I believe the future belongs to hybrid working models in which every employee can decide on which workplace suits them best. Additionally, humans working collaboratively with robots, continuous learning, and upskilling will help any business to stay competitive, and attract and retain talent in the future.
To comprehend how virtual work can best integrate into a company’s long-term plans, and how it can boost productivity and innovation, is best decided when you take feedback from your employees. As part of the DHL Express Future of Work initiative, we receive feedback from our employees to gauge remote work preferences and expectations. We also conducted a brainstorming session with the local management to obtain input for maximum success. By reaching out directly to our employees and engaging them in a real dialogue, we now have a better understanding of how to balance virtual work experiences with in-person touchpoints.
Employee experience is a critical component of any successful organization. Can you tell us how DHL is enhancing employee engagement during the pandemic? What makes DHL the best place to work?
We have been listed as a Great Place to Work® in Sri Lanka for the seventh consecutive year. Our objective is to be a Great Place to Work for all, in other words embracing the diversity of our people and offering equal opportunities to everyone. Annually, we invest in various HR initiatives to continuously improve the working conditions of our teams. For instance; ‘DHL4her’- a program dedicated to supporting and developing women, DHL’s Got Heart – to support the causes that our people are passionate about, the ‘Certified International Specialist’ – learning program offering employees with the knowledge that they need to be motivated to deliver the best quality of service for our customers each day.
The pandemic has tested the level of employee engagement in various ways. I am proud to say that our HR teams rose to these challenges successfully. For example, the team implemented the company’s first virtual Employee Appreciation Week with a variety of daily themed activities. We had to temporarily halt our annual soccer and cheerleading championship – Asia Cup in Singapore. However, to replace this we launched “Festiv-ALL” – a concept that combines virtual and live aspects, giving employees the opportunity to compete against each other in gaming, cooking, music, dance and CSR efforts, thereby introducing employees with an exciting new way to “Get in the Game.” We have also organized a virtual award ceremony for the Employee of the Year and Sales Person of the Year as well.
Finally, I can say that we have a passionate group of people who are led by purpose-driven leaders which helps drive engagement in the organization. This was true before Covid19, it is true now, and will be true in the future.
How do you give back to the community especially in this pandemic ridden phase?
Every day we accept the challenge of delighting our customers, redefining diversity among employees and decreasing the negative impact we impose as a logistics company on the environment whilst embracing our purpose of ‘Connecting People, Improving Lives’ into our three bottom lines.
Our sustainable strategy guides us in three key areas: Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG). By pursuing clear objectives in each area, we strive to run clean operations that protect the climate, provide a great place to work for all, and be a highly trusted company and partner. Additionally, we want to leave a lasting impact in the communities we operate through our Go Programs; GoGreen, GoTeach, GoHelp and GoTrade. For instance; under the pillar of GoTeach, we recently renewed our partnership with SOS Children’s Villages in Sri Lanka to foster empowerment and employability of young people from challenged socio-economic backgrounds. With numerous job insecurities among youth especially with the current situation, these initiatives will certainly help in terms of finding the right job opportunity.
Put simply, DHL’s got heart and the world is better because of it. We understand the tremendous responsibility that lies with us to be a sustainability leader and we want to achieve this by simply delivering excellence in a sustainable way.