Record high employment levels in the UK mean that the talent market is continually expanding. To find out more about the ever-evolving war and talent, and the challenges behind managing a large customer-centric workforce. HRD Connect spoke to Lindsay Bridges, Senior Vice President HR, DHL Supply Chain.
As HR Lead for over 40,000 colleagues, Lindsay’s role focuses on delivering operationally focused HR, driving engagement, and culture change.
What are the main challenges in your role?
The world of high employment is a positive thing for our economy, but it’s a real challenge in terms of attracting people into the business. People have a lot more choice, and therefore they expect more from work. At DHL, we’re offering a 24/7 service to our customers, so sometimes meeting people’s needs around the flexibility of work can be quite challenging.
If a customer wants to order a package today and have it delivered tomorrow, then companies like DHL must constantly meet those expectations. A huge challenge that we face is flexibility, and how we manage the dynamic of an employee who wants to work flexibly.
What are the biggest challenges in the talent market today?
Traditional managers, who haven’t grown up in the digital age, can be difficult to manage. These days many employees want a work-life balance. To figure out how to best manage those desires for our workforce is a meticulous challenge.
How has talent and culture changed in the past 10 – 15 years?
Digitalisation has changed everything, from how we recruit, to the way that people look for jobs.
Today people have different expectations of work. They don’t want to come and work the 9 to 5 anymore. They want to work for people who give them more than just a paycheck. They want to work for a company with values, and they want a job that offers flexibility and career progression.
How much will digitalisation impact HR teams?
For us as a function, digitalisation is a real asset, but we must use it properly. Artificial intelligence can be a highly useful tool in onboarding employees. Social media can be used to attract people. The use of situational gamification can be a valuable asset in the recruitment process. We can always be more efficient and effective, and we will always aim to deliver a better candidate experience.
What the DHL approach to flexible working?
In our management and functional areas, we’re good at enforcing flexible working options. We have a high number of homeworkers, and a lot of people working flexibly or working four days a week, as well as offering sabbaticals and job shares to people. Within the functional space, it’s relatively easy to do. It becomes much more challenging in the warehousing space, where our drivers have weekly shift patterns that need to be covered. We’re trying to look at ways that we can adjust that, and offer shorter daytime shifts that might attract working parents. But it still remains a significant challenge, because we will always have customers demanding that products go out of the door every hour of every day.
How important is it to maintain communication throughout such a large organisation?
We’re just in the process of launching a new online communications platform which will be available to all 40,000 employees, and which we’ve been trialling with 5000 people for the last 6 months. We employ 7000 drivers a year who start their shifts at 4 a.m. Having a platform where they can all communicate and collaborate is a huge step in the right direction.
What is the key to attracting talent in today’s age?
Using digital technology to make the application process easy is important. HR teams must also remember that the candidates have a choice to make just as much as us. Once we get people into the business, we continue to develop them, and find out how we can balance their work-life against the demands of our consumers.
The future is exciting, but there’s still a lot to do. Recently, I ran a training program with some of our younger leaders. It’s so good to see the passion that people bring when you can get them in a room and get them engaged.
What is DHL doing to address the mental wellbeing of its employees?
By the end of the year, we will have a much more holistic approach to all employees.
It’s a fine line between being available as an employer and imposing on someone’s personal life. It’s difficult sometimes for managers who have perhaps grown up in a different era of work. Accepting that mental health is something that you can talk about is quite challenging.
It’s also about senior managers being role models. I was with our CEO last week running a training course, and he was talking about some of the mental health challenges that he previously had. Just simply getting senior leaders to openly talk to groups of employees about their personal experiences is so powerful.