Within any organization the grease that makes the gears turn smoothly are the employees. It’s the people that work day in, day out that makes an operation truly successful and is what allows a business to thrive. It only makes sense then that investing within to strengthen this crucial element should be at the top of the priority list. However, with stagnant growth in the shipping and logistics field, sadly the first item that is normally cut are programs and training that gives employees a way to grow within a company. Hellmann Worldwide Logistics is bucking the trend and sees the value that well trained and loyal employees can bring to a company. We recently met up with three members of the management team at one of their training courses in Bangkok that was already in session. Ms. Joanne Handley, Head of Global Learning & Development; Mr. Michael Thomas, CEO South East Asia; and Mr. Hendrik van Asselt, Country Manager Thailand, helped better explain Hellmann’s philosophy towards investing within the company and how it helps to strengthen their company even further.
Strengthening from Within
The air seemed to be buzzing as we walked into the room where the training was taking place. There were people scattered throughout the area talking in groups and everyone looked to be working together. Plans were being drawn up, solutions to various problems being solved, and it was plain-to-see that the networking and discussion happening was well structured and the attendees looked to be enjoying the business as hand. We sat down with the management team and Ms. Handley began by explaining the structure behind the International Logistics Management (ILM) program taking place.
“The ILM program was first created in response to the need for quality country managers. We had been finding it increasingly difficult to find good candidates, so this program was conceived to promote aspiring individuals within our company. At the time, we were opening new countries more or less every year. Also, the market and industry is changing and becoming more solution driven rather than just A to B freight, and traditionally that’s all we’ve ever done and the skill base we had was in freight forwarding. We needed to set ourselves apart from our competitors and be more strategic about how we moved going forward. We needed to find an answer on how to provide the skills to our employees in order to do that, and create career paths internally.”
“The ILM program we have going on now is for internal candidates that are recommended or apply from various countries,” said Mr. Thomas said. “There’s a selection process we go through that’s generally mid-management focused. It’s fast tracking and investing in their careers to take the next step. We’ve got needs in a few areas today, a major one being the emerging countries where we need to put management in to cope with the growth. Thailand, Vietnam, and Mexico are all examples of this. Through the program we’ve been able to elevate the skillsets of the individuals to be ready now when opportunities arise for both themselves and the company. We’ve got country managers in Vietnam and Mexico from the program that come to mind immediately as an example of the success the program can foster.”
Mr. Thomas continued, “Hellmann South East Asia is relatively new and over the last five years we’ve opened up into quite a few countries in the area. Attracting the right quality of staff when you’re doing greenfield operations is pretty difficult. People are normally reluctant to move into these types of environments. Getting this knowledge transfer across in everything we do within Hellmann is a real challenge and can be difficult. If we’ve got the people in position ready now to move into a country later that knowledge transfer to the rest of the staff is immediate. The impact to group productivity is a lot quicker as a consequence.”
Managing a Global Business
Mr. van Asselt spoke about how he has seen first-hand the benefits of the program from his area in Thailand. “From a country level perspective first of all you show that you care and you’re willing to invest in your people, and as a result you also get better trained, loyal, and more motivated people. It’s a win-win for everyone; the person grows and the company benefits from the person having increased knowledge, they are then able to handle more and give higher levels of return. Working with people across various countries, there’s bound to be a culture and language barrier and you’ve got to know how to handle and respect the locals and the culture. The purpose of the course is to eliminate borders and to give our employees an outlet to learn and grow.”
In Asia especially, we’re currently moving into the second generation of freight forwarders and logistics professionals. The people that originally fell into the industry are beginning to retire and the next generation is looking to them for guidance. Hellmann is helping this knowledge transfer take place with their local employees, and in turn they themselves are also learning and evolving. Moving to more of a solutions based company rather than being pigeonholed into one specialty is helping them to stay ahead of the curve. Taking customers’ needs seriously and offering a value proposition that puts the customer first is appreciated no matter where you are in the world. The real key to long lasting and continued success, however, is having well trained and loyal staff ready to take on the torch and accept the challenge and is what sets apart the leaders and innovators in the industry.