How DHL Express is leveraging the power of D&I to drive the business forward

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Seeking input and feedback from your workforce can be an incredibly effective way of engaging them in your DEIB programme, says DHL Express' Siniša Plavšin, Senior Director Strategic HR Projects - DEIB. 

Good employers recognise the need to constantly improve diversity & inclusion as a moral responsibility, and there is also plenty of research that demonstrates that diversity & inclusion is just as much a business issue, with a clear link drawn between diverse workforces and financial performance. Whether it’s promoting gender balance, addressing racial inequality, or seeking the perspectives of LGBTQ+ or people with disabilities, having a more diverse team has been shown to improve creativity and drive better decision-making.

DHL Express was ranked number one in the global Great Place to Work league table and recognised for creating a culture and practices that challenge inequality, bring marginalised voices to the fore, and drive its business forward. But what does this look like in practice? And how can other employers find new ways to improve their own DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging) framework and roadmaps, addressing some of the key challenges faced by their workforce?

As an employer with a complex, international workforce, it’s important for us to take a proactive approach to diversity on both a regional and global level, this means recognising the different contexts and needs in each market as well as identifying common goals. Our DHL4ALL programme ensures all people, regardless of who they are, for example of all races, faiths, identities, sexual orientations, and abilities are not just treated fairly, but empowered, supported to succeed, and feel a true sense of belonging. By being a globally inclusive employer we’re able to thrive through diverse perspectives and experiences, which drive innovation and better decisions.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to DEIB across the globe, there are areas that need attention in almost every part of the world. Inclusion for people with disabilities, support for the LGBTQ+ community, and representation of women in management positions are universal issues that we as a Global HR function focus on with global initiatives that can be rolled out in each market.

For instance, DHL has developed a programme called Shift up a Gear, which focuses on enabling talented women to progress into senior roles. As part of the programme, women are matched to a member of the management team, improving their visibility within the business. On a longer-term basis, programme members are also offered a female or male mentor to provide coaching and advice. Likewise, female-focused career workshops and a senior leaders conference give colleagues the chance to be inspired and learn from other successful women across the organisation. The Shift up a Gear programme, like others designed to tackle the underrepresentation of women in management roles, focuses on building a pipeline that will improve the gender balance in the organisation in future years.

priya oct 2022 dhlexpress provided

Our presence throughout Pride Month is growing each year. To support LGBTQ+ identities and communities, we created a weekly suite of communications that rolled out across the month, designed to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and educate employees on how to show solidarity, embrace diversity and practice inclusivity. Beyond communication toolkits, we do focus on education, sharing, allyship and building up awareness what does it mean to be fully authentic at work.

Ahead of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have a global programme of activity for building awareness and educating our people about the creative challenges perceptions around all types of disability and encourages all employees to look beyond the surface. We also focus on guiding our teams on how to support colleagues living with disabilities, including top tips for being a good ally.

Meanwhile, at a regional level, understanding local challenges and empowering the teams are key to ensuring that any programmes have real resonance and meaningful impact. Regional HR teams are encouraged and empowered to focus on areas of DEIB of particular importance in their markets, for instance racial equality and inclusivity, or aspects of the global focus areas.

In some regions, supporting women in the workplace not only means lifting them up and supporting their careers, but also ensuring the workplace is a safe space. An effective DEIB programme needs to be an honest one, and address some of the real challenges faced by women and marginalised groups across the world. At DHL India, the We for She initiative includes a safety guide for women, designed to provide advice and guidance to employees to improve understanding of personal safety in the workplace. It also contains important telephone and helpline numbers that can be used in case of emergencies.

While a guide like this may not be relevant in every region, understanding what the individual issues are from country to country, and devising initiatives that are relevant to address the unique challenges, will be essential to both improve conditions for the workforce, and unlock the full potential of the business.

Seeking input and feedback from your workforce can be an incredibly effective way of engaging them in your DEIB programme, as well as generating new initiatives that will work in each region.

Besides our global satisfaction survey that includes some DEIB questions, in the Philippines, our business recently used our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Week as a chance to source opinions on how we might create a more inclusive organisation. Employees across the business actively participated and sent in their comments, enabling us to ensure we were listening closely to their concerns when devising our country-specific initiatives.

For a DEIB strategy to be effective, it must be authentic to the business and the workforce, based on real challenges, and shaped by a truly diverse range of perspectives – making sure everyone can bring their true self and feel this is the place where they belong. Only when this happens can it become truly part of an organisation's culture.


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