Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Transforming supply chain and logistics through diversity and inclusion

Indepth

By Natalie Cox, Head of HR, DHL Global Forwarding Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa


Today’s complex supply chain environments require professionals that can make critical decisions to streamline operations and build resilience.

These people come from diverse groups and bring various skills to the job – including a focus on effective collaboration. Unfortunately, many groups are still excluded.

According to a 2021 survey by Gartner, women comprise around 41% of the global supply chain workforce. While it is evident that the number of women in the supply chain sector is increasing, it is undeniable that logistics is still a male-dominated industry.

Supply chain disruptions – including lack of access to raw materials, container shortages, and price inflation exacerbated by the pandemic – have acted as a catalyst for rethinking talent in the industry. Today, nearly three-quarters (74%) of global logistics companies prioritise diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their hiring efforts.

The Deutsche Post DHL Group (DHL) is proud to be a diversity champion, with women comprising almost 50% of its total workforce in sub-Saharan Arica. Over the past five years, the proportion of women sitting on other supervisory boards has grown from 30% to 40%.

Although these numbers indicate significant progress, there is still a long way to go. Across the industry, continuing to build a diverse workforce with the required expertise is crucial for the success of logistics companies.

Building an inclusive company culture

Inclusion is a critical component of a positive organisational culture. It nurtures employees and motivates them to perform their best, ultimately delivering the desired outcomes for the company. In other words, it is better for both employees and the business.

Let’s look at the best practices logistics companies can implement to attract more women to the industry and achieve gender diversity:

  • Establish diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies

Sustainable business success hinges on a workforce with diverse backgrounds, genders, cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Irrespective of the size of the business, a diverse and inclusive workforce generates tangible benefits. It can boost productivity and efficiency, spark innovation and creativity, and improve employee engagement and organisational reputation.

But driving a successful gender-diversity agenda requires commitment from all levels, primarily from senior leadership. They must see to it that DEI is included in company policies and becomes part of the daily running of the business.

At DHL, employees at all levels undergo training in diversity and inclusivity to address, among other issues, unconscious gender bias. Employees learn techniques to conduct culturally sensitive communication and navigate cultural misunderstanding, enabling more meaningful teamwork and collaboration.

  • Rethink recruitment approaches

Mirroring gender equity goals in recruiting and career advancement is crucial to a successful DEI transformation. Attracting, retaining, and developing a diverse talent pool will help establish the balance needed to capture the related business value – especially as emerging technologies like AI and robotics have made the sector more competitive.

Workforce recruitment should follow a skills-based approach where all that matters is an individual’s skill sets, experience, and knowledge, irrespective of gender. Such an approach promotes more sustainable business growth in the longer term. Applying a similar approach to promotions, meanwhile, increases the employee retention rate. It also helps companies to appoint capable women to senior leadership positions when opportunities for promotion arise.

  • Champion employee development

One way to close the gender gap is through training and skills development programs. Providing opportunities for women to build their skills equips them for career advancement. At DHL, we make these opportunities available to all employees, regardless of their backgrounds, fostering a learning culture where everyone collaborates to build the company. This is a key feature of a resilient organisational culture.

For example, we are rolling out several initiatives across 12 sub-Saharan countries. These initiatives comprise workshops, training programs, mentorship, and networking opportunities, bringing together women from various societies and cultural backgrounds. The programs aim to cultivate professional skills that empower women with tangible influence over their future and prepare them for executive leadership roles.

DHL Global Forwarding’s career support programs, such as Accelerating Development of Employees Potential and Talent (ADEPT) and the Women in Leadership programme also provide development and networking opportunities for women to connect across sub-Saharan Africa. Another program, Shift Up a Gear (SUAG), increases the visibility of female talent, while fast-track initiatives ensure women in this pool are exposed to executives and network opportunities.

  • Offer flexibility

Undoubtedly, the future of work will be a hybrid model incorporating in-office and remote work, which has remained popular following the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees in a hybrid workplace typically enjoy greater autonomy and better work-life balance, so companies should strongly consider incorporating flexible working conditions in their policies.

An unexpected benefit of remote work has been the stimulus to diversity and inclusion, as companies can now recruit top talent irrespective of geography. Being flexible allows businesses to access a more diverse talent pool from different walks of life.

Own the process

Recruiting more women is a crucial step supply chains must take to adapt and thrive. Agile organisations must embed diversity and inclusion in their long-term company culture and strategy. Rolled out properly, gender parity will undoubtedly unleash a company’s full potential for competitiveness, creativity, and innovation.

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