DHL is the world's leading overnight delivery and land transport company, along with sea transport and logistics. The company has 285,000 employees around the world, including 500 in Israel. DHL has been operating in Israel since 1997, when it purchased Shigur Express.
We spoke with Einat Wolf, vice president of human resources at DHL Israel, about operations and employee management patterns.
What are the primary areas of operation performed by company employees?
DHL provides customers D2D [door-to-door] service. From the moment the customer wants to send a package we make it our job to provide a comprehensive solution until the package reaches its destination. All this with a pledge to provide quality and meet time limits, including immediate availability. As a company committed to providing immediate service and operating around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we have one of the most advanced service and operations apparatuses in the industry. The company has a number of service departments, a service center for general customers and customer portfolio managers who provide personalized service for strategic clients. We also take care of getting the packages cleared from customs. To accomplish this we employ top-notch professionals: licensing clerks, sorters, customs agents, importing experts, etc.
Of course you can't mention DHL without talking about the couriers employed at the company. We have a large staff of couriers around the country who are responsible for conveying the package to and from the customer.
The company's business activity is supported by professional organizations at the headquarters, and by the sales department.
The courier occupies a special position at DHL. What typifies the people who work this job?
We want all of our couriers to be highly service-oriented. From the recruitment stage we place an emphasis on looking for candidates with a basic sense of good service. Later we support the workers and strengthen this proclivity of theirs through a variety of service workshops and courses. To be a courier requires extensive knowledge and a lot of training. All couriers must be able to speak English and be dedicated and committed to their task.
The courier staff includes workers from a variety of backgrounds. Most of them are young – discharged soldiers, either before or after their trip abroad to "see the world." Some of them come to us after already working at a job or two. Some are parents and have families.
Do the couriers remain at this post for a long time?
There are some couriers who regard the job as a long-term profession. They continue to occupy their position for an extended period, are satisfied with their job, enjoy having a vehicle at their disposal and dynamic work out in the field. At a later stage some of them get promoted to other positions at the company.
You can find former couriers occupying management positions at every rank. Our main challenge in human resources is identifying such workers at the recruitment and hiring stage – a stage when they express their desire to work as a courier and are not interesting in pursuing their education or heading off for a big trip, etc. – and providing them with the tools they need to develop at the company.
Which promotion tracks are available to all company employees?
A large portion of our employees who started out in service and operations jobs eventually took up very high-ranking posts at the company. Some were advanced up the rungs of management, while others began working at professional positions. In the courier unit, for instance, almost all of the managers started out as rank-and-file couriers.
About a third of the jobs that open up at the organization are manned by employees from within the company. Of course we make an effort to recruit employees and managers from outside the company as well to create a balance between existing knowledge and new knowledge. For example, here in the Human Resources Department our recruitment manager worked at a large placement company and our training manager came to us from a cellular company. You can find workers of this sort throughout the organization.
How does the company's training program work?
DHL operates an advanced training program. We train and develop our workers from the moment they enter the company and accompany them in their professional development as well. Every new worker who comes to the company goes through a training process that includes a course to familiarize them with the company, professional courses and a mentoring process. To accomplish this we trained veteran employees to serve as mentors, helping new workers adjust to their jobs. At a company like ours every new worker accompanies a courier on a routine workday as part of the integration process.
I experienced this process, too. You spend a whole day driving around with a courier, carrying a few packages and experience what it is to be a courier. You see them in a different light once you understand what they do during the course of the day, i.e. the pressure and dynamism.
We continue to enrich veteran employees within their area of operation and the
know-how they acquire helps them build up their professionalism. We help employees assume different posts in importing, exporting and transporting through a range of professional courses given both inside and outside the company.
Once per quarter we conduct know-how exams for every staff member at the organization in order to maintain high levels of knowledge and proficiency.
Are employees sometimes transferred to other countries?
Yes. We have a number of workers who fill various posts at DHL Worldwide and do so successfully. As would be expected they occupy managerial positions. We're currently building an international skills pool to improve the worldwide company's abilities to locate and transfer skills. We post job tenders and job openings on the company website and every company employee can apply for a position at any location in the world.
The company also advertises around the world job listings for managerial posts, and resumes that are directed to these job listings are screened by the local human resources department. Suitable job candidates are placed in the world job candidate pool and further screened for relevant positions.
This mobility can work in the other direction as well. For instance the program can draw Israelis working at one of the company's branches outside of Israel. We believe the supply of suitable jobs in Israel can induce them to come back to work at the company in Israel.
To what extent is the Human Resources Department in Israel affected by international company policy in this area?
Part of the management processes in human resources are worldwide processes. For instance, employee evaluation and internal processes are identical around the world and assessing employees and managers is done according to set (and variable) indexes. The same is true of the employee satisfaction surveys and other procedures. Nevertheless the parent company's approach to human resources is based on indicators. There is significant managerial flexibility at the level of a single country in order to ensure the policy fits the local culture and dynamics.
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Why does a courier work on a fixed line? Wouldn't it be better to have variety?
We feel the ties the courier forms with company customers are very valuable. He learns about the customers and knows who can get things done at the organization when necessary. He knows the best way to drive to the customers, how to avoid traffic jams, where to find parking. The cumulative familiarity with the line is very valuable.
Most of the day the courier works alone. Who does he coordinate with at the company?
From an operations standpoint he is directed by a special operations center. The courier does not work all alone, but as part of a group. For example, the Dan Region is divided into a number of areas and each area has a group of couriers with its own supervisor. The supervisor is in charge of the couriers' activities and is available to assist and solve problems and glitches.
Is the supervisor a courier who got promoted?
In most cases, yes.
How do you give your employees recognition?
We have several ways of providing recognition in addition to the promotions track. For example, several times a year we make note of the outstanding employees and managers at the company, and even select a Manager of the Year and an Employee of the Year. Workers receive various incentives for outstanding work and achievements.
What kinds of incentives?
Direct financial incentives along with coupons for restaurant meals, movies, weekend vacations, etc. During the course of the year workers also benefit from a variety of activities, parties and company activities.
Another institution we take pride in is the Meisters – veteran employees who have performed their jobs with excellence over the years. This year the new Meisters who were selected are scheduled to go on a study tour at the company's distribution center in Leipzig, Germany.
What kind of atmosphere is there at the company?
We believe that workers are looking for added value along with material compensation. It's important to us to give them a cozy atmosphere and human warmth, including the desire and readiness to invest in and develop the employee. And it's important to us to be attentive to workers on a day-to-day basis, provide for their personal needs and touch base with them on a daily basis. Company management is connected to the field.
Does the company have ties with the workers' family members, too?
Definitely. The employee's family is included in company activities. We mark family occasions such as weddings, births and bar/t mitzvahs, acknowledging them in a way that stays with the family throughout the year. And only at DHL is the courier's vehicle also available for personal use by the courier's family outside of work hours, and of course the family benefits from it.
DHL stresses its contribution to the community. How is this brought out?
DHL Worldwide is a company with a strong awareness of the issue of contributing to the community. Our company vision reads, "Being a responsible friend who contributes to the community," and we are committed to this. We believe we cannot lose our soul and we hope that as a company we continue to contribute and give. We have a very ethical CEO who radiates a sense of giving at the organization. For instance, during this winter's cold spell we collected blankets from employees' homes and distributed them to the homeless and to Darfur refugees. Another example is workers who made cakes and sold them to other workers and the money collected was donated to various organizations.
We've also adopted an organization called Etgarim [which provides outdoor sports and recreational activities for the handicapped]. It's not by coincidence that there's a lot of involvement in sports in the company.