Transforming logistics with digital technology, engaging mentorships with industry gurus, and a deep commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals are a few of the reasons why millennials are drawn to EFL
Managing Director Saif Yusoof explains how EFL, the global freight forwarding arm of listed Expolanka Holdings, is transforming the logistics industry with its investments in technology and commitment to sustainability, a purpose that resonates with millennials.
EFL is one of the Best Workplaces for Millennials in Sri Lanka. As a global logistics company, what makes EFL attractive to millennials?
Fundamentally, we are a company that is committed to significantly improving people’s lives. EFL was incorporated in 1982 to handle shipping for the Expolanka Group. But since then, we have evolved into an innovative, technology-led global logistics company with 70 offices employing more than 2,900 people across 31 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the U.S. Second, we solve logistics problems and bring cost-efficiencies, so everyone benefits. EFL has a reputation for operating in markets with weak infrastructure. For example, we were the first to move goods between Bangladesh and India when everyone thought it was impossible.
Third, we are building technology capabilities to transform a very traditional industry. The founders used an asset-light model to build a forwarding company focused on point-to-point destination cargo. However, over the last few years, we developed digital capabilities to become a digital 3PL company that handles the entire supply chain for some of the largest retail brands in the world. Fourth, sustainability is an integral part of our business model. We are driving solutions that make a real impact. So, for all these reasons, EFL is a place that is committed to improving the world around us. Millennials can relate to that, and they can become a part of that. They can be the solution.
How do you align the goals of the organization with employee expectations? And how do you keep these millennials, the so-called disruptive generation, motivated
It is all about engagement. A large business needs a robust structure to align, manage, motivate, and reward people effectively, and while we have all that in place, we treat people as individuals. And this makes all the difference. Millennials manage most of the business today, but they are not alone. Those who built EFL into what it is today, the godfathers of EFL, our gurus, occupying board and senior leadership positions, are mentoring the next generation of leaders, so the level of engagement is unbelievable. Together, we are achieving great things and shaping the future of the logistics industry. The younger generation, the zoomers, no doubt will find inspiration from our model.
Millennials seem to care deeply about the following needs. How does your company deal with each of these?
Work, Life & Culture: Our flagship facility is called the EFL Logistics Campus. Located on a four-acre property and considered to be one of Sri Lanka’s premier operating facilities, it embodies a work-life culture ahead of its time. This we consider, a proud establishment for our brand as well as our country. We introduced hot-desking and remote working even before Covid-19 made working from home a thing. We have flexible hours so even parents can spend time with their kids daily. At the office, people are encouraged to take breaks and hit the campus’ gym or swimming pool, and we have created spaces for every need and function of a modern office where employee wellbeing is a top priority. We have an in-house therapist and a massage room in the office, and we are investing in improving the emotional and mental wellbeing of our people during the unfolding pandemic. We have invested in training programmes not just to qualify people to do their jobs but mainly to give them the confidence to excel in everything they do. The campus is digitalised and paperless for a seamless, fully engaged work environment. Even the buffet-style canteen is cashless. We have digital tools that allow people to communicate easily with colleagues, managers and even the HR department for click-of-a-button approvals and requests.
Opportunities to Innovate: Existing market conditions, evolving customer needs and industry shifts are some of the key drivers that demand innovation and we strongly consider innovation a core value and belief within our business. As a value that stemmed from our founder’s influence, listening to our clients continues to be a vital component of how innovative we can be. When we listen to understand, we can provide best-in-class solutions which are innovative too. We have separate teams headed by millennials for our long-standing clients considered as leading apparel exporters in Sri Lanka. These millennials make their decisions and function independently to deliver value to our clients. Of course, we have governance, management, and mentorship structures in place, but the way we have structured the business gives these millennials a sense of entrepreneurship. The teams are subdivided, each focusing on specific markets such as imports from China and clothing exports to the U.S. where volumes are massive. And within those teams, the demand for solutions is all customer-driven solutions that drive innovation.
Clear Career Paths & Recognition: One of the core areas we focus on is to encourage employees to ‘find their passion’ or allow them to try different roles/responsibilities that can bring out the best in them. When an employee soars in the best-suited role in alignment with their strengths, recognition and reward is provided accordingly. We also have a general incentive scheme designed to make everyone feel part of the group and its success. When EFL does well, everyone gets a share of the reward, and this creates a belonging. Apart from that, we have performance-based incentives to reward those who directly drive revenue growth and a scheme for those who contribute to success in other ways but are not linked directly with revenue or profitability.
Sustainability and Giving Back: Sustainability is something we all care about at the Expolanka Group. We have ‘EFL Cares’ that focuses on sustainability initiatives such as community outreach and environment-related projects. Apart from several community development projects, we aim to plant 125,000 trees over the next 5 years at the Bundala National Park to revive its ecosystem. We also have a global project to establish carbon-friendly and carbon-neutral operations based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In combination with EFL Cares and our digital technology-led innovations in logistics, I believe that EFL will make a significant contribution towards transforming the industry into a more sustainable model.