Amod Date is currently the Vice President of Human Resources at DHL Express Singapore, bringing with him over three decades of experience in leading talent and leadership initiatives.
His philosophy is about making each day “the best day” at work for the hundreds of employees he leads, from frontline and customer-facing personnel to members of the mid- and senior-level management.
As part of his leadership style, he believes that open communication and collaboration are crucial elements of success in today’s business climate. And while he has embraced the new world of work that has redefined how workers collaborate, he continues to value face-to-face interaction with colleagues. Even in a distributed work setting, listening to the employee community at DHL has remained vital to his work.
How have workforce management challenges of the past two years changed Mr. Date’s approach? Find out in this exclusive interview.
As a talent leader, what key factors are shaping your outlook towards the new ways of working in the emerging hybrid workplace?
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work; we have had to adapt and adjust quickly to the changes in workplace safety measures at various stages. We have learned that mobile work is possible for most of our colleagues, with the exception of those in the frontline. During the circuit breaker (stay-at-home order) and at some phases of re-opening in Singapore, we were essentially running a full business with most of our employees working remotely. This has prompted us to become more adaptable and open to new ways of doing things. We had to leverage technology and develop innovative solutions to keep this Big Yellow Machine running while ensuring that we continue to keep our people engaged and motivated.
Our customer service and sales teams, for example, have evolved into a mobile workforce from being desktop-bound in the pre-COVID days. In terms of employee engagement, we had recently concluded our annual Appreciation Week, which celebrates the hard work that our employees put in throughout the year. The week-long celebration was held over a series of fun-filled hybrid events involving both on-site and online setups.
The pandemic has shown us that with the right culture in place and an engaged workforce, remote workers can continue to contribute to the organisation’s success together with those in the frontline.
How has this renewed focus on communication, engagement, wellness and productivity impacted your employee experience strategy?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic came upon us, we were well on our digital journey guided by our Group Strategy 2020. When our “Strategy 2025 - Delivering Excellence in a Digital World” was launched in October 2019, it brought into sharper focus, the need for digitalisation to play a greater role in helping us deliver on our three bottom lines, which is to be regarded as Employer, Provider, and Investment of Choice. “Strategy 2025” is our answer to the four trends that have been impacting logistics in recent years: Globalisation, E-Commerce, Digitalisation, and Sustainability. As the Employer of Choice, we aim to develop motivated and skilled employees who can deliver exceptional service quality.
At DHL Express, digitalisation is the conscious application of technology and enablement of people to utilise and apply it to improve customer experience, employee experience, and operational efficiency. The pandemic has accelerated our digitalisation journey and we have adapted well to the changes in terms of communication and employee engagement.
With most of our employees working remotely, we had to leverage various communication tools that are available such as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. In order to sustain and enhance our employee engagements, we had to transition our onsite activities to virtual activities such as webinars, town halls, and general assemblies, and employee onboarding.
Furthermore, we launched and have an internal digital app called Smart Connect where our employees are able to access various resources within the Group, get notified of business updates, and connect with one another regardless of where they are based.
Our continuous effort to communicate and engage employees during this pandemic really paid off for us as DHL Express was recently named the number one best workplace worldwide in the annual list published by Great Place to Work™ (GPTW) in collaboration with Fortune Magazine.
How are employers responding to the need to digitalise internal processes and systems, and the need to raise employees' digital capabilities?
Digitalisation allows us to streamline our internal processes and systems. We have introduced solutions to streamline vital processes, automate time-consuming repetitive tasks, and help our teams become more productive.
For example, we implemented an online portal that streamlines the approval process for staff members who need to return to the office on an exceptional basis during various phases when working from home was mandated by the government. The request portal shortens the approval process, organises the approval flow, and documents the approval electronically for ease of validation. This allows our employees to keep their focus on their tasks at hand while following regulations with ease.
We also equipped our employees with the necessary hardware, software, and training as we transit to upgraded digital tools in our digitalisation journey. This empowers our employees and gives them the confidence to adopt these new systems and processes more readily.
How do you see the role of digital workflow solutions in making workplace communication more efficient, especially cross-functional communication? What is DHL Express Singapore doing differently to enhance cross-functional collaboration for its workfor]ce?
The need to communicate and collaborate across borders and across functions has been vital in ensuring the company’s success. We have an internal digital app called Smart Connect that serves as a common platform to provide information on the go.
Through Smart Connect, our employees will be able to access employee services such as leave applications, access to payslips, submission of sales leads, corporate discounts, and more. There is also a social wall and in-app messaging in Smart Connect that virtually connects all of our 1400+ employees within Singapore. This allows employees to reach out and message any employee regardless of whether they are frontline workers or based in the offices.
We have also recently rolled out our digital Performance Dialog sessions using a smart whiteboard. Performance Dialogs are regular and structured meetings between managers, supervisors, or team leaders, and their respective teams to discuss issues, review root causes, plan actions, and gather improvement ideas. Our employees will be able to provide information and see changes made to the board in real-time even when joining remotely, which makes workplace communication more efficient. Additionally, they have access to a suite of cloud collaborative tools that enhances cross-function communication.
What are some ways employers can make business agility and operational excellence a reality for a distributed workforce?
There are two key aspects where employers can make business agility and operational excellence a reality for a distributed workforce. The first is digitalisation, and the second is employee support. Stepping up on digital transformation enables us to optimise our processes which in a long run allows us to harness the potential for profitable long-term growth.
By supporting and providing employees with the right tools and skills, and instilling a growth mindset to prepare them for different situations, operational excellence can be a reality. At DHL, we have our Certified International Specialist (CIS) program that enables our employees to be empowered through knowledge and development. CIS builds a common culture and provides the specialised knowledge our people need to do their job competently and confidently.
If you could offer one piece of advice for leaders in the new world of work to improve workforce and workflow management, what would that be?
Instead of being reactive, we should stay up to date, or even venture ahead of the curve by proactively anticipating trends and requirements. Through extensive sources of knowledge such as discussions with industry experts, research, experience, and support, DHL has been publishing whitepapers and trend reports that deliver insights into potential challenges and opportunities for the logistics industry in the months ahead. These insights give us better focus on what we can do to prepare our employees for what lies ahead of us.
This exclusive interview is one of a 12-part series on ‘Augmenting employee productivity and engagement with digital capabilities’, co-presented by People Matters and ServiceNow.