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More Than Small Talk: How DPD Better Understand Their Employees with the Help of Technology

from  April 16, 2021 | 3 min read

Ghita Haloui, DPD’s Talent Development Manager, recently spoke with Chris Rainey at HR Leaders about how the challenges of 2020 impacted their industry and company and what that means for tomorrow.

2020 threw up some unexpected challenges for the parcel delivery sector, as DPD found out.

The biggest challenges for DPD’s HR

For Ghita, 2020 was the clearest example of a VUCA (Volatility, Ambiguous, Complexity and Ambiguity) scenario she’s worked through. And this wholly transformed the landscape for the sector. Obliterating the traditional ‘cycles’ the sector worked too. Gone were the peaks and troughs that everyone relied upon (Christmas, Black Friday, etc.). A pattern gave them the breathing room to focus and invest in the business and projects and plan smarter.

Instead, this was replaced by volumes never seen before. And they were constant. So out of the blue, everything had changed.

It also transformed the product mix. In-person purchases were gone, everything was now online, and this led to unexpected surges. Things like exercise equipment or pet food and even medical equipment were suddenly booming and needing delivery. So delivery volumes not only went up but so did the average size of the deliveries. 

So how did they manage this surge?

A new plan of attack

What this did was force DPD’s hand. 3-5 year expansion plans now needed to happen almost overnight (or a few months, to be precise). But how do you do that and maintain business continuity and retain service levels?

DPD focused on increasing capacity, which they did in a big way. Through expansion and new sites, they achieved a 50% increase in just two months. Many of these new sites had to incorporate even more functionality than simply a warehouse. And all of these sites had to be staffed, but in 2020 that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

What was the HR impact?

Ramping up staffing during 2020 took a lot more work than usual. Not only did you have to hire staff, but you also had to do so safely. You also had to protect new and existing staff, creating all the necessary environments required to work safely. For some, they needed to work remotely, but for most, the nature of the industry meant that’s not an option. 

It also meant rethinking processes and the very nature of the work. How do you create contactless deliveries and manage parcels through a distribution center while reducing contact? Can you rethink order processes to make them more straightforward and intuitive? How do you track and trace all contact involved in delivery at every stage? The list goes on.

And to do all this across different countries while following varying degrees of lockdown and controls.

What did the solution look like for DPD

For DPD, many of the processes and changes were more functions of the solution than the solution. Necessary, but not what would ultimately make this happen. What was vital was people, new or existing.

So DPD had to focus on helping people manage this situation. And the solution laid in communication. Keeping people informed at both a high and team level, with updates, FAQs, best practices, and the like throughout as situations changed almost daily, was critical. DPD needed to cut through the noise, ensure people had the information they required instantly, and weren’t relying on unreliable sources or wasting time trying to find answers themselves.

But it was also essential to open up a dialogue and not just bombard people with information without listening to how it impacted them. This meant moving outside the usual parameters of DPD’s HR to gauge how people were feeling and coping. Always focused on keeping them safe and happy, which is hard during a period of such change and growth.

It broadened the HR role within the company. They went beyond simple people management and became better aligned with the other functions of the business. Helping inform everything from strategy to logistics and becoming the go-to team to offer support in managing the unfolding situation.

The part tech played.

And this deeper collaboration was made possible through the use of adaptive technologies. Helping them reimagine training, communication, and planning in unusual circumstances. Now they could manage everything remotely or connect isolated colleagues connect with others. The opportunities tech presented were endless, which in such challenging circumstances was invaluable. 

To hear the whole story behind all how DPD transformed their business and HR almost instantly during 2020, you can listen to Ghita’s fascinating discussion in full at HR Leaders today, sponsored by Unit4 HCM.

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