Initiative no.3: Implementing flexible working
Vernon Barchou, now Vice President HR Specialist Services at DHL Supply Chain, talks about the programme he led to promote flexible working:
One of DHL’s key strategic priorities is around how flexible and agile we can be. It’s about being an employer of choice, finding a way of providing a better worklife balance for our people and giving them more choices in the way they want to work.
Flexible working is also about meeting customers’ needs, for example, the retail environment is changing, with people shopping more online, the profile of our work is evolving and we need to have people in the right place, at the right time, doing the right job.
The need for more flexible working therefore, started with a real pull from the business to see what we could do differently. Of course, as with all changes, there were some people who got it and some who didn’t, and we had to change the ‘no’ people into ‘yes’ people.
We created a network of 100 flexible working ambassadors and I took them through a workshop where we focused on understanding what the blocks were to flexible working and then determining the solutions. We looked at issues such as changing mindsets, company culture and dispelling the myths, and we also looked at the benefits to the business, after which they went out to promote it to colleagues.
Now, over 82% of our flexible working requests are approved around the organisation. The majority are 30-somethings, from which we make the assumption they are balancing childcare arrangements; but the second highest group is 55+, many of whom were men who wanted to work fewer hours, and others who have caring responsibilities. It has helped us understand what more we can do to support an ageing workforce and broadened the work of our diversity forums.
The number one benefit has been employee engagement and the advantages that come with it, such as retaining skills and knowledge. I think all roles can have elements of flexible working and I hope people would see DHL as an organisation that allowed them to be both flexible and successful in their career.
My advice would be to get people together and have a workshop. The 100 people we invited felt very differently about flexible working than they did when they arrived. In turn, that spurred the debate which people need to have if you want to adopt the idea. I believe ignoring flexible working makes you uncompetitive.”