An interview with Naveeda Mahmud, DHL Learning and Development Manager

Oct 08 - 21, 2007

DHL is planning ahead to be the employer of choice. The Human Resource Development is playing a major role in bringing this hope to reality. We met the Learning and Development Manager, Naveeda Mahmud and discussed about HR, its implementation, its development and its future.

PAGE: Tell me a bit about yourself and your association with DHL? How long have you been serving this organization?

NM: I have been with DHL for the last three years working in the HR department. In my current role I am responsible for training, performance management and all organizational development programs within the organization. Prior to this I was working with ITC, a training consultancy and before that I was in PIA for around 12 years where I worked in the Marketing and management training departments. My early education was from St. Joseph's and I did my MBA from IBA with majors in Marketing and Finance.

PAGE: HRD has different connotations. It varies from organization to organization. How DHL defines it?

NM: The objective of HRD is to add value by ensuring that HR practices produce positive outcomes for key stakeholders employees, line managers, customers and investors. Nothing you do internally has any meaning unless you create value for your customers externally.

Our HR strategy is to fill the talent gap, position DHL as an employer of choice and create a new generation HR organization. Apart from delivery of the HR basics, which is a given, there has to be a strategic as well as an operational focus. HR has to work as a change agent and strategic partner in the business in addition to being an employee champion.

We aim to strengthen our organizational capability by building a high performance culture with skilled, capable and motivated people and delivering best HR practice.

PAGE: What measures have been taken by the DHL to identify its employee's capabilities and how it has trained people over a period of time? What importance and impact training has on the performance?

NM: We have recently rolled out a new performance appraisal system in the organization with objective setting and competency based performance measurement for employee development and talent management. We impart both technical and soft skills training which is based on needs assessment and each employee's individual development plan is prepared after discussion with the line manager. The development activities are tailored to the individual's potential and career aspirations as well as reflecting the targets and key performance indicators which have to be met.

Training is very essential because it's not just you are enhancing the capability and skills of your workers to do a particular job but you are developing both the knowledge and skill component in them. We give a lot of emphasis on operational training as well as on soft skill training and currently we are emphasizing in competency development in line with our performance management system which goes by the name of "Motivate" and basically it focuses on eight core competencies which are clustered in three groups, that is leadership competency where we focus on developing partnership within the organization, Business competency would be business acumen and decision making driven, and Personal competency where we are working on communication skills to develop their commitment to excel. We are also in touch with other service providers; some of the training is done in-house and some is done through service providers keeping in view of our requirements.

PAGE: What are the core values and philosophy that were transferred in your organization to ensure that all employees develop a firm foundation with the company and its vision?

NM: Our seven corporate values are delivering excellent quality, making our customers successful, openness, integrity, to act according to clear priorities, act in an entrepreneurial way, and corporate social responsibility

PAGE: Do you think that the concept of HR has been grasped in its entirety in Pakistan?

NM: Initially, it was more of an Administrative focus and kind of Personnel Management but since last couple of years, there is a lot of business focus on HR in various seminars and forums and HR is now a strategic business partner. In DHL, we are fortunate and a lot of our HR initiatives come from the region, we are rolling out many programs

which are regional initiative and which is part of DHL being an employer of choice within the region DHL Express.

The work in HR at DHL is quite innovative when you compare it with a lot of other companies in Pakistan. We are doing a lot of work on measuring the HR delivery in various areas like recruitment and engagement, training and development, salary and compensation, in all these areas we are quantifying matrix. Other than that we have got a number of projects that we have undertaken as part of being in HR in DHL, for example, we have the Leadership project where we are doing 360 degree evaluation of our senior staff, based on that we are undertaking Employee Opinion Surveys. Those are mainly to measure the employee engagement within the organization. We have different criteria for that and we have an Employee communication project where down the line, we are stressing on the importance of employees communication through various methodologies by which we can improve the communication between employees and management. We have another major project which is the change management project in which Pakistan is actually leading where by we are developing the change management capability in our employees to help them cope the change within the organization so for this purpose we are rolling out a very specific training methodology within DHL, which has been rolled out all over the region and in Pakistan as well, which goes by the name of ACT, that is Accelerating Changes and Transitions so these are some of the areas in which we are working in HR. We are doing a lot of work on talent management as well as on succession planning as to how we are going to manage the high potential performers within the company. There is also a reward and remuneration project o reward the employees and likewise many other such projects that could benefit the organization.

PAGE: What sort of communication is needed to bring in the involvement in these HR programs?

NM: A lot depends upon the way it is communicated. Within the organization, it has to be cascaded right down to the grass root's level. Basically it all starts with the top management as to how committed they are to actually rolling out those programs. It has the approval of our area specific management board. There is a top management commitment to make DHL the employer of choice so these programs are a result of that. As far as the average employee is concerned, a lot depends on communication and on how involved they feel.

PAGE: How do you see the improvement in bringing the HR culture in our education set up?

NM: Initially, there was no specific HR degree in the market but now we are improving on that, a couple of universities have got specific programs in HR. It has become a very specialized field and I think that further down the line, it will become further specialized in areas such as training, recruitment etc. We are moving from a generalist concept to a specialist concept. Two years back, it was relatively easy to get into HR but with the passage of time, the trend has changed. You need to have people who have very specific experience in that particular area in order to work in HR.

PAGE: HRD is still in its infancy in many organizations. No need analysis, impact assessments or follow up are conducted after training. How DHL is working in this regard?

NM: Well, a lot of organizations have a budget and they roll out a training program and then there is no kind of structured way of seeing what difference it has brought on the performance. It is actually the entire process which starts with identifying the areas where improvement is required. You need to work close with the line manager in that respect and add specific target training to meet those requirements and then after few months you can gauge the improvement or no improvement either on capability issue or on skill issue. If the no improvement factor is about capability issue then the person is not suitable for the job, if it is about skill issue, then we can improve it through further training. So we have a number of tools which are at our disposal now to do a post training evaluation as well.

Another thing that I would like to mention is that as far as our performance management system is concerned, there is a lot of work which has been done on measuring the competencies. We find specific behavior to measure competency and there are positive indicators and negative indicators for a particular competency so at the end of the year it becomes very easy for manager to actually see what improvement is required in terms of that competency.

We are also working in the area of identifying and calculating (Return on Investment) ROI on training. For example we reduced revenue losses through service failures with the help of training interventions and thereby succeeded in getting an ROI on our training. We are also in the process of linking learning and performance with business goals and developing scorecards to determine the effectiveness of learning programs.

PAGE: How big the role research can play in HR Development?

NM: At the moment we don't have much research that has been conducted as far as HR is concerned. We don't have any specific organization which is conducting HR research. All organizations will benefit greatly by HR research report in their particular areas.

Basically its all about attraction, retention and keeping the workers motivated to perform. If you have research in that particular area, it would be very beneficial. At the moment we have a lot of academic stuff but practical research is really needed in HR Development.

PAGE: What HRD policies and futuristic plans do DHL has?

NM: We want to be the Employer of Choice by attracting the best talent to a company known for innovation and the most efficient infrastructure in the industry. We have ambitious plans for business growth and in line with our vision for 2015 we want to become an organization where people want to work, want to stay once they are hired, want to give their best everyday, and when change occurs want to adapt creatively. We want to position DHL as an employer of choice by aligning those HR practices that will leverage the key drivers of employee engagement.

PAGE: Is there any Message that you would like to give to youngsters who want to join this field?

NM: There is a lot of opportunity in HR in Pakistan and there is a lot of scope especially for the young entrants in this field and I hope they find a very exciting time ahead. Also the basic understanding of the business and understanding of finance is crucial to sustain and work effectively in HR field.