Learning & Development Asia 2024
Upskilling 101: How DHL Global Forwarding APAC is developing world-class supervisors and frontline leaders

Upskilling 101: How DHL Global Forwarding APAC is developing world-class supervisors and frontline leaders


As a global leader in the logistics industry, the priority at DHL Global Forwarding Asia Pacific is to stay ahead of the curve to meet the constantly evolving needs of its customers.

“Connecting people, improving lives” is a guiding principle in scouting for talent; who in return, benefit from the opportunity to grow with the company and shape the future of logistics.

Celine Quek, Head of HR at DHL Global Forwarding Asia Pacific, explains: “To ensure that our 550,000 employees around the world are aligned with the Deutsche Post Group’s Strategy 2025, and key priorities, all learning and development initiatives are developed with the participation and feedback of not just my management peers, but also in tandem with colleagues from the country level through to the regional and the global head office.”

Interview excerpts below:

Q It is vital for companies to step up the pace of their teams’ skills development. How are you achieving this for the organisation?

We embarked on a transformation journey a few years ago to modernise and digitalise many of our processes, which meant a need to equip our employees with the necessary technical know-how so they are able to harness the full power of technology to achieve higher efficiency and productivity.

The recent work-from-home arrangements due to COVID-19 measures has accelerated our transformation to a digital workplace and has underscored the importance of having the necessary technical skills to make full use of technology and digitalisation to keep our business resilient and competitive.

The development of soft skills and a strong company culture is also essential to increase overall employee engagement. When employees are fully engaged and have a higher sense of purpose, they will go beyond the call of duty to achieve customer satisfaction.

On this, we launched the worldwide Certified International Forwarder (CIF) programme in 2016 for every employee at DHL Global Forwarding. Utilising a mix of teamwork, quizzes, fun and engaging games, the programme seeks to inculcate a strong sense of pride in the heritage, purpose and brand promise of the group, as well as a set of behaviours and mindsets that we believe will spur the group forward in the face of increasing competition.

With engaged employees and great leadership as keys to our success, we believe leaders especially play a vital role in promoting our common DNA on the basis of our values and leadership attributes. Our management philosophy is about the synthesis of head, heart and guts, to which our managers adhere their actions to. These leadership attributes are the backbone of our working culture, especially in our operations.

In line with this philosophy, we are using our CIF programme to develop world-class supervisors and front line leaders. It is our aim to extend the trainings to supervisors and site managers across all geographies, reaching at least 80% of all our supervisors and site managers by 2025.

We have the privilege of being one of the largest employers in the world with 550,000 employees – this helps alleviate the burden of recruiting given that we have a ready pool of talent to rely on.

Q In your sector, what are the top five skills that are most in demand, and how are you developing these capabilities?

The top five skill sets that are in demand in freight forwarding are:

  • Digital skills and technological savviness.
  • Leadership and collaborative skills.
  • Adaptability, agile and growth mindset.
  • Creative and innovative problem-solving skills.
  • Freight forwarding knowledge.

Unlike newer businesses such as e-commerce or tech, for example, freight forwarding is a more traditional (although no less essential) industry and not necessarily the first career choice of the younger generation. Fortunately, we have been able to attract very high-calibre external candidates because DHL is a very established brand globally, not to mention that DHL Global Forwarding was recognised as a Top Employer in Asia Pacific.

We have the privilege of being one of the largest employers in the world with 550,000 employees – this helps alleviate the burden of recruiting given that we have a ready pool of talent to rely on. Our in-house programmes, coupled with on-the-job training and mentoring sessions based on individual needs, help us develop our employees’ capabilities and keep them ready for the future of work.

Q On the other hand, what would you say are previously much-talked-about skills that are on their way out from the list?

New skills will be required for the jobs of the future, skills that differ considerably from those needed today. Highly repetitive tasks and activities involving physical exertion will gradually be automated. By contrast, cognitive and intercultural skills and creativity will be a high priority in the job profiles of the future. In the logistics business, people are irreplaceable.

Ideally, employees whose tasks can be automated in future will be able to take on different responsibilities for which we can provide interdisciplinary training in the specialist areas and methods their new roles require. In return, we hope to be met with open-mindedness, curiosity and a willingness to explore the opportunities these new requirements can bring. Digitalisation is a continuous process that requires people to take responsibility for their own advancement, and this includes learning new things.

How and where we perform our jobs will change radically in certain fields. Activities performed at brick-and-mortar locations will increasingly be assisted by automation. We are already collaborating in numerous cross-divisional and international projects that would be inconceivable without the help of digital technologies. This reinforces team members’ sense of responsibility, motivates them and encourages innovation and ingenuity. It is exactly this capacity for renewal that ensures lasting success for our company.

Q It would be too simplistic to believe that digitalisation is the only game changer when it comes to skills. What are some of the other key factors to take into consideration?

Digitalisation is a tool that helps us stay relevant and competitive, but the tool is only as good as the user who uses it. Hence, having users with the right mindset, vision and agility to adapt to the ever-changing landscape that we are operating in would be key.

This interview first appeared as part of a feature in the May-June 2020 e-mag of Human Resources, Singapore, and the Q2 2020 edition of Human Resources, Malaysia. Read the case study in the e-mag, or the full feature here. 

Photo / Provided

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