One of the top logistics corporations in the world, DHL employs 440,000 people in 220 nations. The firm, which has its UK headquarters in Milton Keynes, has started a determined recruitment push to increase the number of women among both front-line drivers and the C-suite.
Lindsay Bridges, SVP HR UK&I at DHL Supply Chain, explains this campaign and what it stands for in the following paragraphs.
If you conduct even a cursory Google search on UK logistics, you'll immediately learn two things:
- There is a persistent need for qualified drivers in the UK.
- The qualified drivers are virtually mainly men.
The first trend, which is the result of cultural changes, the wider range of employment options accessible to today's youth, and the "great resignation" of European drivers following Brexit, is a little more difficult to explain.
The second phenomena, though? Oh, that's simple. It's assumed that driving has always been a man's profession. It has always felt like such a blokey environment because of the long hours, the truckstop showers, the pot noodles at the rest areas along the highway.
In reality, it's a challenge across the board for logistics. Women make up 47% of the workforce in the UK, yet only 20% of it is in the transportation industry. Just 5% of senior supply chain positions at Fortune 500 logistics organizations are assigned to females, according to a study done in 2017 by Supply Chain Management Review.
Correcting the situation
Now, however, a growing number of organizations, including both for-profit businesses and cross-industry groups, are working to improve the gender balance in the workforce and encourage more women to work in it. The Supply Chain division of DHL is setting the pace.
In Britain's response to COVID-19, DHL was crucial. In addition, its patient transport team has provided non-emergency ambulance services to patients with Covid-19. At the height of the epidemic, it transported over 3,000 vital lines of life-saving equipment to the new Nightingale hospitals from bases in Liverpool and the neighboring Skelmersdale. And it has given the fabrication and delivery of thousands of new ventilators a crucial supply chain network.
DHL is currently attempting to take on a new position as a supporter of diverse workforces, with a strong emphasis on gender equality.
When it comes to inclusive, family-friendly ideals, DHL has always been on target. It has implemented programs like subsidized tutoring and family activity bundles and gives at least 13 weeks of paid maternity leave. It is thus in a prime position to break down some of the outdated taboos that are preventing women from pursuing careers in logistics and become a trailblazer in the development of a gender-balanced workforce.
As Lindsay Bridges points out, "not least as we aim to extend the pool of people we want to recruit to a career in logistics," "our employer branding has focused on our main values of diversity & inclusion, learning & development, and sustainability.
"Given that the logistics sector as a whole has historically been dominated by men, our present emphasis on hiring women is a part of our continuous effort to redress the gender imbalance."
"The lack of drivers has caused us to reflect,"
An important objective of the entire plan is the hiring of drivers. There is a vast untapped talent pool to investigate because today, men make up around 98% of all commercial drivers in the UK.
Because of the widespread driver shortage, Lindsay adds, "we've had to consider how we might draw in a variety of diverse people to our firm." One of these underrepresented groups is women.
The DHL Driving Ambition initiative, a fully financed license acquisition program that is specifically targeted at non-traditional candidate groups, makes this focus very clear.
The initiative offers free driver training worth up to £3,000 that includes both in-person instruction and simulator training delivered through a mobile classroom. To operate rigid trucks, applicants may receive a Category C license (Class 2), or they may apply for a C or E license (Class 1) to operate articulated lorries.
The DHL pension plan is open to all new hires, and they can also take advantage of a number of special wellbeing perks including free online GP services, online education for children, and mortgage assistance in addition to receiving discounts of up to 10% at stores and supermarkets.
Switching between the gears
DHL is also working to improve the proportion of women working in offices. Starting at the graduate level, Lindsay and her colleagues have carefully examined the evaluation tools they use and gone through a laborious process to translate the language that is gender-exclusive in all of their communications, including the application form. All language that could be offensive to women or other ethnic groups has been dug out and eradicated.
An emerging program called Shift Up A Gear assists the advancement and placement of female applicants for management roles for those who are already employed by providing specialized and focused career development support.
As part of Shift up a Gear, women participants are paired with a member of the management team in an effort to increase their visibility inside the company. Longer term, program participants are given coaching or assistance from a mentor, who may or may not be a woman.
Last but not least, coworkers have the opportunity to learn from other successful women from around the DHL organization through a series of female-focused career seminars and a senior leaders conference.
"We want to demonstrate how it is"
But none of this growth, opportunity, or advancement will mean anything if it is not successfully shared with the next generation through identifying role models who can serve as an inspiration to them.
Role models may inspire women to enter non-traditional areas like logistics, according to a number of think pieces. These female pioneers may highlight the opportunities in their industry and pave the way for prospective recruits by sharing their tales and showing what is possible.
The editor of Logistics Manager stated in an editorial article that appeared in February 2020 that "more women will enter the industry if they perceive prominent role-models and leaders of business in logistics. To succeed in business, they will aim to a profession in logistics.
So DHL has started a coordinated brand awareness campaign with the goal of expanding recruiting to non-traditional sources.
A network of ambassadors who feature in DHL's recruitment materials, video ads, social media posts, and trailer photography serve as the program's representatives at the driver level. Drivers may select the promotional events they wish to take part in, and participation is completely voluntary.
The program's goal, according to Lindsay, is to demonstrate what it's like to be a driver in the modern world and, more especially, what it's like to work for DHL. "This network of drivers is then used to promote our driver community both within and outside.
We seek to inspire a wider spectrum of people to take up driving by highlighting the diversity of our drivers and sharing their life experiences."
Through SmartConnect, DHL's internal interaction tool, this is enhanced. The firm's internal communications staff frequently writes blog pieces and articles promoting hiring women (which, according to Lindsay, "usually receive a really favorable response from colleagues") and utilizes forums to pinpoint issues with hiring drives, which are then communicated across the company.
Externally, DHL and the Department for Transport worked together on a social media campaign to encourage diversity and draw in women. These advertisements frequently include female drivers who describe their daily routines and why they find their jobs fulfilling.
At the end of 2021, Baroness Vere, the minister for roads, paid a visit to DHL's Transport Development Centre, which had been transformed into a focal point for Driving Ambition training. A female driver who completed the program spoke to the minister about her pleasant experience at the event and described to viewers and participants what the project entails in actual practice.
Emergence of new growth
It is still too early to determine if the effort to promote gender diversity among drivers has been successful. Over one in five mid- to upper-level management roles are currently held by women (23.2%) throughout the whole DHL organization, providing compelling evidence that the balance is shifting at these levels. DHL's personnel executives want to increase this number to 30% within the next three years in accordance with the criteria of their Strategy 2025 strategy.
At a lower level, the greenshoots are also bursting forth. The statistics support Lindsay's claim that she and her colleagues have kept the number of offers they make to women in their hiring process at a high level. 48% of new recruits to DHL's Future Leader Graduate Program this year were women.
This is a fantastic accomplishment, and one we intend to expand on moving forward, adds Lindsay. "We recognize that more diversity with recruits at the beginning of their careers is necessary if we are to make long-term changes to the future management profile."
According to Lindsay, she and her team "will be focused on communicating to talent in the settings and in ways that seem natural for them" in 2022. The recruitment leads have increased their activity on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook over the past year, supported by a schedule of virtual events. This emphasis will be strengthened over the coming months as DHL adopts a pro-active strategy to create a diverse workforce for the future.
The personnel team will seek to highlight genuine DHL employees so that potential employees may see the opportunities accessible to them. Female employees will play a crucial part in the ongoing stream of films, blogs, and social media messaging.
Real change won't take place overnight. The stigmas and hurdles that women in logistics still face are well ingrained, and their removal will take time.
But DHL's aims are very clear: the old, macho logistics culture is no more. We need to discover talent everywhere if we're going to create a supply chain that can maximize efficiency in an era of unparalleled resource stress. It cannot be a man’s world anymore.