Embracing uncertainty: lessons from Deutsche Post DHL Group

Cornerstone Editors

These past months have been uncertain and chaotic, to say the least. We can learn a lot from each other, therefore we wanted to share the incredible, resilient, and exciting success story from Deutsche Post DHL Group on their learning strategy during the pandemic. Sharing experiences will make us wiser, more prepared for the future and it will help us realize we are not alone! Many HR departments had to prove to the business, that they were ready to support their workforce in what has been one of the biggest crises in a decade. Meredith Taghi, VP Group Learning Talent and Platforms at Deutsche Post DHL Group shared her thoughts in a panel discussion we held recently together with Fosway some of the lessons learnt from the past year.

Hasty climbers have sudden falls.

Or so they say! The first reaction I experienced to the COVID-19 crisis was “Oh no!”. With 570,000 employees in over 220 countries, it’s difficult to imagine the magnitude of the task Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL) had ahead. The first question they had to solve was: how do we inform and train our frontline? How can we give all our employees access to critical training to support them in the time of COVID? At DPDHL they already had been heavily investing in digitalization, but as Meredith Taghi shared with us, from one day to the next it become one of the top HR priorities. In order to be able to function as a business information and learning platforms had to be available and working for everyone.

“The temptation of doing the transition fast versus the importance of doing it well from a user experience point of view, needs to be very well balanced, otherwise, we disengage everyone”, Meredith Taghi, VP Group Learning Talent and Platforms at Deutsche Post DHL Group

At Deutsche Post DHL Group, they were already in the journey and investing resources in order to get the learner and employee experience right. Having had that early pre-work done, enabled them to respond quickly. “When we offer training, we need to ensure it is easy to access, user friendly and relevant.”

Some months later, we observe that many organisations have been able to make the switch to digital learning. We have particularly leveraged the digital classroom format. But with the constant zoom calls, meetings and online classes, something has happened: we are tired. We call this digital learning fatigue, as Taghi, VP of Learning, shared, we need to ensure we are giving a good learning experience. There is an opportunity here to rethink how we teach virtually and how we can make it more human, more interactive, and more engaging. Augmented reality? Maybe our future could head that way.

Changes are here to stay.

Everybody had to make the switch as we did. Get the learning platforms ready, with content and give all their employees access. Even though we hope to be able to get back to normal soon, gather with colleagues and be back in the office, we expect many of the organisations that have implemented a digital learning strategy to maintain that trend in the future. Fosway shared with us that 94% of surveyed L&D professional had changed their strategy around learning due to COVID. Also, a big part of the budget was allocated to get digital learning content. In Cornerstone we saw a tremendous spike in the usage of our content, which made the Content Anytime offering extremely exciting for our clients.

Put your money where your mouth is: the currency of skills

We are in a very exciting time when it comes to innovation, artificial intelligence, and HR. We finally have a common data point, that enable us to target training, recommend learning and career paths to our users. All of that, without significant manual intervention. The algorithm does the analysis and statistics to make recommendations. At DPDHL they believe strongly in the currency of skills and how learning and a strong strategy around skills ontology is the answer to better performance, longer employment, more engagement, resulting in stronger business growth. To increase people employability enables us to help people move horizontally in the business and make talent mobility part of our business values.

What makes it all so unique is that we are bringing this experience into the flow of work! Some of the frontline workers as Meredith was explaining, are very hard to reach, the power of the tool is that we can add a learning icon into the employee portal experience and suggest relevant content that will enable our people to develop while they work. The personalisation and tailoring is extremely important, as we said we want to engage the users and trigger people to come back for more learning.

This skill-based approach enables the HR department to identify which skills could be required in the future, if we do not have those skills within our workforce, it gives us the opportunity to prepare for that new trend. How can we get that skill? Whom in the team will need to develop it? For that to be a reality we first need good content, opportunities to use that skill on the job and gig projects or cross functional collaborations.

The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot.

How do we find time to learn? Those that provide learning to the rest of the business need to learn too! As Meredith Taghi flagged “L&D professionals need to quickly upskill and reskill themselves”. They need to try different formats, be innovative, use analytics and data to find out what is working and what is not working so well. In fact, making time to learn is something everyone in the HR department needs to be better at, in particular recruiters as Teddy Dimitrova shared with us in a recent article.

Surround yourself by the best.

To partner with the right team is key to have success, especially in such an innovative context like the one from DHL. Large data bases, very complex workforce structures and a very ambitious project. Meredith Taghi’s, VP Group Learning Talent and Platforms, vision of the future invites us to dream of a workplace in which we shift from roles to skills, from careers to projects and from biased decisions to anonymized personas – all powered by algorithms that study the data and make relevant, fair and new suggestions to improve the experience of our employees.

Do not miss out the blog “ Three ways to scale skills development in your organsations” in which we highlight again the inspiring story from DPDHL, as well as the full panel discussing in video format here.

Key Take-aways

  1. The employee experience needs to be part of your digital learning strategy.
  2. Employees will expect remote employment and digital learning from now on.
  3. A clear skills ontology will enable us to support career development utilising matching and recommendation AI algorithms.
  4. L&D needs to find time to up, re and new skill themselves.

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