Reaching for the stars

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 1 October 2013 in Interviews

In our series on the winners of TJ’s 2012 Awards, Seun Robert-Edomi talks to NKD Learning, winner of the ‘best commercial programme’ category in partnership with DHL Express

A partnership that helped to inspire, invigorate and motivate employees was recognised at last year's TJ Awards.

NKD Learning, in partnership with DHL Express, was the winner of the 'best commercial programme' category at the November awards, triumphing over Specsavers and BSkyB.

NKD was praised by the judges for helping staff connect back to the business. John Baker, director at John Baker Consulting Ltd and category judge, said: "This entry stood out in this category. It has become the foundation for an ongoing development programme and has driven a culture change in the organisation."

The challenge first came about when DHL wanted to re-engage and re-motivate its employees after there had been a loss of focus due to organisational restructuring. Employees were not providing an acceptable level of customer service or maintaining internal networks of contacts consistently on a global scale and this was something that needed to be addressed.

To combat this issue, the firm wanted a programme that would reignite the passion within its people and help to differentiate it from every other company in the logistics industry. It went to NKD, which, in turn, helped it to create a bespoke programme called Certified International Specialists Foundation.

As the programme was to be delivered to more than 100,000 employees in more than 200 countries, identifying the training needs and getting to the heart of the company's culture was vital. Key stakeholders and subject matter experts from NKD and DHL met in London to discuss the company's culture, its people and needs for the programme. Further meetings, focus groups and conference calls were set up in order to understand the key areas of the DHL Express business.

This included customer service, sales and network operations.

As a result of NKD's research, four key themes emerged:

  • build passion The programme needed to stretch people beyond their comfort zones and increase their level of passion for the organisation, business and customers
  • customer service People needed to understand, and take ownership of, the total customer experience and understand how their behaviour with customers affected the long-term profitability and security of the business. They needed to move beyond customer care to ownership of the customer experience
  • increase understanding and alignment There was a need to broaden knowledge and understanding of the wider DHL world and how it all fits together to deliver excellence for customers
  • inspire pride and confidence DHL teams needed to believe in the simple and repeatable story about why they should be their customers' first choice every time.

Getting people excited about the programme was essential from the start. DHL's CEO and his top 150 leaders acted as its ambassadors. NKD then appointed a dedicated programme manager to oversee the design and delivery of the whole programme (one and a half days). A support function was also created to ensure one point of contact throughout. Weekly meetings and conference calls were frequent during programme delivery to ensure that objectives were being met.

The global feedback results about the CIS programme were extremely positive. The overwhelming majority of participants said that they were going to do something different after attending it. Furthermore, many agreed that their knowledge and awareness of DHL products, culture and services had increased substantially. In addition, 5.9 out of six agreed that they felt positive about the future as a result of their attendance on the programme.

Surveys and focus groups have also been set up following the implementation of the CIS initiative, with further progressive scores. Additionally, DHL employees have called for more training to further their skills and knowledge.

Andy Holmes, L&D lead at Ernst & Young and category judge, said: "This programme had clear business metrics and good evidence that these had been beaten as a result of the learning.

"Internal engagement was excellent. The programme was delivered with global consistency and has been embedded within the brand, demonstrating the longer-term value."

Sue Stoneman, founding partner of NKD Learning, believed that the quality of the programme was what helped it to stand out and make it a winner.

"The shortlist was very strong and, if any of our competitors had won, I would've held my hands up as everyone could've put forward reasons as to why they should have won," she said.

"But I think we won because DHL are fanatical about measuring success and we were very clear when speaking to them about what needed to change. They were very robust in how they measured things and there is real evidence behind the quality of our programme."

The use of media to engage DHL workers was a big factor in making the programme innovative.

"The programme had to be original because we were taking so many people from throughout the business, so getting them in a room and keeping them entertained and engaged for a day and a half was a huge ask," Stoneman said.

"We created a series of animated characters that acted as superheroes and stressed to the employees that they needed to act as superheroes in every aspect of the business, especially in relation to customer service. We still use this in functional training and in everything we do with DHL - it acted as a kind of icebreaker.

"Film was a big part of the programme and it was vital in helping us to deliver the core messages to the employees. People forgot that they were learning, even though they were, because of the way the message was being delivered."

For those looking to do a similar sort of programme, she emphasised that it is vital to get the organisation you're working with to be crystal clear about the change they're trying to measure.

"I think it's really important to make sure your solution is relevant, practical and measurable - and sometimes this is where L&D falls down.

"Building strong relationships and working closely together also enables you to challenge the status quo and push boundaries further," she concluded.

For more on this year's awards, click here.


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