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How World’s Best Workplace DHL Deepened Its Commitment To Community in 2020

How World’s Best Workplace DHL Deepened Its Commitment To Community in 2020

There may be no company more global than DHL Express.

The package delivery and logistics business operates in more than 220 countries and territories. But DHL’s worldwide reach meant that the global COVID-19 pandemic posed huge challenges for the company.

What would the crisis mean for DHL’s 104,000 employees? To their livelihoods and to their lives, given the health risks and the physical, international nature of the work? How would DHL continue to serve customers as countries shut down their economies to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus?

Could DHL continue to live up to its mission of “Excellence. Simply Delivered”?

Put simply: Yes, it could. And it has.

The company is not only #2 on the list of the 2020 Fortune World’s Best Workplaces. It is a living testament to the notion that a global problem requires a coordinated global solution, one based in mutual trust and relentless commitment.

Committing to employees’ safety

Consider how DHL delivered for its people.

Employee safety is the top priority for leaders. Frank Appel, CEO of DHL Express parent company Deutsche Post, formed a COVID-19 task force early on. It has met daily, in part to ensure that the organization, in all countries, follows the safety protocols of international and local country health authorities. Similar task forces were set up across DHL globally and regionally, with daily meetings.

The safety protocols protected tens of thousands of DHL employees in the field, including couriers on the frontline delivering packages to customers. DHL also took steps to safeguard its 30,000 office-based staffers. As fast as an overnight delivery, they all moved to virtual work. DHL rapidly prepared mobile IT equipment for many to ensure they all had an appropriate home setup.

“People matter and this was clearly evident in the management of pandemic. Safety of employees was paramount and employees were given freedom to work from home and manage/ensure their own safety and their families’.”

—DHL employee based in Malaysia

Committing beyond physical safety

DHL leaders also have worked to help employees with their mental well-being and sense of financial security. With people around the globe afraid of losing jobs and income amid economic shutdowns, DHL promised not to lay off any employees and to continue paying 100% of salaries.

These pledges carried weight. Heading into the pandemic, 88% of DHL employees trusted management to deliver on its promises. That figure is well above the U.S. average. In our 2018 normative study of the U.S. workforce, between just 39% and 66% (depending on employees’ seniority) thought management delivered on its promises.

DHL went further to ease employees’ minds during the pandemic. For example, the company sent motivational messages to employees through their package scanning devices. It also offered virtual yoga classes and facilitated meditation sessions.

And DHL acknowledged the emotional burdens of employees with caregiving responsibilities working from home. The company made clear that family duties come first in a flier. It read, “Are you worried about having to juggle work and family while working from home? Don’t be.” 

Committed to their communities

DHL has a long history of giving back to the communities in which it operates. It took that sense of social responsibility to the next level amid the pandemic.

From the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, DHL prioritized shipping critical medical supplies such as personal protective equipment. The company has its own fleet of 250 aircraft that it devoted to this task. But those planes weren’t enough to make sure communities around the globe received urgent shipments. So the company coordinated a network of charter flights, and purchased passenger flight cargo space—sometimes at prices three times the usual rate.

DHL didn’t make decisions during this period based on the cold financial logic of spreadsheets. Instead, the choices were driven by a bigger, big-hearted purpose: to help the world overcome COVID-19.

A foundation of trust, a mission to serve

DHL’s positive response to COVID-19 was possible because the company entered the crisis with a foundation of trust and a mission to serve.

A sign of that profound trust between employees and leaders was the DHL executives’ decision to conduct a companywide survey during the pandemic. While some companies have canceled or postponed employee surveys during this difficult time, DHL showed employees it respected them enough to listen to their needs and learn about their experience amid COVID-19.

Using Great Place to Work’s Trust Index™ employee survey, they have surveyed over 18,000 employees in 15 languages across 23 countries since March.

The survey responses showed a community of people coming together. DHL employees described their workplace with words such as “care,” “family,” “well-being” and “camaraderie.”

With this foundation of employees feeling physically and psychologically safe, customer service has been stellar at DHL. Its on-time delivery rate during the pandemic has been higher than 99%.

In effect, DHL used the crisis of COVID-19 to deepen its commitment to its community of employees, customers and humanity overall.

That commitment was captured perfectly in a new, beautifully simple, company motto:

“We keep moving, so you don’t have to.”

Read our full report: World’s Best Workplaces 2020: Rising to Historic Challenges


Ed Frauenheim