workIn recent years, large corporations have been looking at best practice ways to attract, retain and nurture new talent, whilst developing the existing workforce and seeking to generate a better gender balance amongst leaders.

The logistics industry is thriving in the UK, and the sector is currently worth £93 billion. One in twelve working people in the UK works in logistics across industries such as fashion, food, automotive and FMCG, so the pressure on DHL Supply Chain and our competitors to rapidly evolve to meet customer requirements is a continual challenge.

Our customers increasingly recognise the opportunity for value beyond cost efficiency from their outsourcing arrangements, and look for higher levels of knowledge and expertise. It is more important than ever that logistics companies are one step ahead of their customers, by being authoritative and thoroughly understanding the opportunities and challenges presented by specific sector trends.

In such a competitive industry, nurturing talented employees really does matter. In recent years we have been developing our global talent management strategy so that we can equip our new and existing employees with the right skills and tools to offer our customers the very best service. The results are clear, and across Europe we’ve filled 70% of our management and leadership roles with internal candidates over the past 12 months.

What we’ve implemented at DHL is a talent programme that develops and motivates employees with a range of different career ambitions, so that we’re nurturing a leadership team that reflects our customer base. By offering such support, we’re differentiating DHL as an employer and continue to attract some of the best talent in the industry too.

How does our talent programme work? We offer employees a customised range of activities that individuals are expected to complete within a specified time period, and not during a single event or training day. Activities designed to fast track their career development include cross country/region project work to solve real business issues and therefore ensure that we have the right people filling management roles at senior, middle and entry levels – the three streams which make up the talent development programme.

Our employees have to be nominated on to the talent programme, and need to have demonstrated their potential to progress to a more senior role within two years. Our nomination process has a number of streams. We ask senior executives and various panels to nominate candidates who appear to have the potential and motivation needed to succeed. Additionally, we ask line managers to use a nine-box grid to plot individuals’ performance and potential ratings to ensure we have the right people on the programme.

We have divided our programme into three clear pipelines.

1. International – future leaders who genuinely want a role that offers significant travel opportunities.
2. Leadership – prepares leaders for their next leadership role.
3. Key role – for employees who want to progress within their own area of expertise.

When employees are accepted on to the programme, we ask them to sign a formal learning agreement before it starts, so that there is a real commitment between both parties. In addition, candidates discuss their career plan and this will be distilled into a one-page career plan that personalises the learning activities each employee undertakes.

Our talent programme also includes measures to increase gender diversity amongst senior leaders. Women account for almost 50% of our workforce in some parts of our business, but it’s less in our senior leadership team, and so we are implementing measure to fill more senior vacancies with women.

DHL has made a pledge to fill 25 per cent of its vacancies at certain levels with women and has already seen progress. We have identified a number of measures that will enable us to achieve this pledge. Currently, we are actively identifying female successors to executive board level positions, even if they are still two or three levels below. Each executive team has to have two female successors now, one of whom has to be in an operational role.

These measures have started to change the composition of executive teams in some regions, especially Europe, where the proportion of women in these teams has already climbed from six to 18 per cent.

When we chose to revise our global talent management strategy we were influenced by the work of Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at The Wharton Business School. I would recommend reading his work if you’re thinking about how you want to develop your talent strategy.

What we are proving at DHL is that a well-considered global talent management strategy ensures that people who want to progress, and also show genuine promise, are identified and given the support to grow, gain knowledge and skills. Ultimately this is benefitting the business, just as much as its employees.

About Nikki Craig