An Insight into the HR Leadership of DHL Express MENA

Renowned for its focus and commitment to its human resource, DHL Express continues to lead the way as an Employer of Choice in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Recognised by the industry leaders as determined and visionary, Henry Fares, the Vice President for Human Resources DHL Express, will cover in the following interview some management insights that made the company an outstanding Employer of Choice in the region.

  1. How did you choose the profession of HR or was it a coincidence?

If you want to be in HR the areas of development are indefinite as a successful HR professional requires social skills combined with sharp business acumen. Initially, I did my bachelor degree in Hospitality Management and my Masters in Business Administration. Upon graduation, I worked for 4 years in sales and marketing; yet, my continuous education focused on subjects such as organisational behavioral and industrial psychology. At one point, I found myself at a crossroad where I had to choose between my passion and my current profession. I learned that succeeding without great level of passion will never lead me to excellence.  Hence, I decided to move to HR.

  1. What do Employer of Choice companies have in common?

In his book “Anna Karenina”, Tolstoy mentioned that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Similarly, most of the successful organisations are more or less alike; however, each fails on a different dimension. Some companies face challenges in setting the right culture; some have an unfocused strategy and lack of skilled workforce; others have weak leadership, and the list can go on and on.

In DHL the company culture plays a vital role. Leaders are visible and accessible at all time. The “Respect and Results” focused behavior instill among employees a sense of trust and appreciation. Caring about individual team members helps employees feel valued and appreciated. The fair yet firm management practices builds trust and respect among colleagues.

Continuous improvement and growth are key drivers. Whether it is talent development, the desire to grow, or revenue and profitability growth, employees want to be part of a successful, growing organisation. DHL leaders continuously communicate to the employees the company’s vision, business strategy, different performance indicators, and the progress.  In terms of talent growth, we provide opportunities for employees to develop professionally and personally. Our coaching culture inspires them to achieve their performance goals.

DHL

  1. Can you share with us some of the people initiatives that had a significant impact on the operations or bottom-line?

In DHL we have a concept called “As One” which promotes solidarity and reinforce employee recognition. We operate in 220 countries yet all our employees have means to connect at any point of time and celebrate and share their success. In terms of training programmes and organisation culture, DHL Express has currently 100,000 Certified International Specialists (CIS) who are trained to understand the global dynamics yet respond to local needs.

CIS is not a traditional training platform. It was designed first and foremost as an engagement tool. To underscore its importance, it has been delivered not only by professional trainers, but by our own management, to every one of our 100 000 employees. The content of the programme was focused on revisiting the history and entrepreneurial roots of the company, introducing employees to the fundamentals of international shipping. Our business is still operated and managed by people, and the benefits of multi-million dollar investments in transportation infrastructure and technology will be rendered meaningless if a courier who’s delivering a shipment decides to take a bad day at home out on a customer.

Under the motto “Living Responsibly”, our GoGreen, GoHelp and GoTeach programs, and many local community projects, help to deliver our CR strategy by protecting the environment, delivering help and championing education. This is closely linked to reducing our other emissions and our use of fossil fuels. Through GoHelp, we deliver targeted and sustainable support to the international humanitarian community. This is achieved through a global partnership with the United Nations in the field of disaster response and disaster preparedness. GoTeach reflects our commitment to a better quality of education and educational equality. We are promoting and developing initiatives across the globe that support individuals in their development and help them expand their skills.

  1. Do these initiatives require big budgets?

Some do and some don’t.

  1. So what would you say to companies who have the “budget constraint” as their excuse not to implement a reward & recognition system?

I would simply say focus on your goals, not on your obstacles. Our beliefs drive our behavior and our attitude towards results. I am not saying that you don’t need a budget, of course you do because employee development and employee engagement initiatives require money like any other investment. However, once you imbed these concepts into your company culture and make it a part of your business plan, you will surely reap their benefits.

Henry Fares

  1. What are some of the key lessons that you learnt from this journey?

To start with, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about the whole, not the parts. Execution is the tough, difficult, daily grind of making sure we are constantly improving our customer intimacy, service quality, people motivation and bottom line. It is the daily review of performance and our commitment to having the right people and the right processes in place to lead the way.

  1. What do you anticipate for the future of employee engagement?

The real essence of being a great company is when your customers and your employees become your biggest promoters. To do this we need to have a great quality product, a great price and great engaged people supporting the customer when s/he needs advice or help. The level of expectations is definitely getting higher. I can’t predict the future by telling you what will be commoditised; nonetheless, I believe that the new generation is more and more motivated by achievements and by their desire to improve their skills and prove their competency to themselves first and others second. They strive for personal accomplishments and continuously search for constructive feedback and recognition. The desire for personal growth and change is and will remain a great drive. Of course the old reinforcement techniques remain effective. Equitable and fair Incentive programmes can make the day to day work more exciting. Perhaps the incentives will change a long vacation, flexible work timings. In DHL we continuously strive to develop leaders at all levels not just at the top; hence, employee engagement is embedded in our day to day culture.

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