Diversity and digitalization in logistics: Leading with head, heart and guts

Following an industry-leading award streak in 2020, Eva Mattheeussen, Global Project Lead of ‘Women at DHL Global Forwarding’ shares her perspectives on leadership and being employer of choice in these unprecedented times.
Following an industry-leading award streak in 2020, Eva Mattheeussen, Global Project Lead of ‘Women at DHL Global Forwarding’ shares her perspectives on leadership and being employer of choice in these unprecedented times.
Eva Matteussen from DHL Global Forwarding on gender diversity
By Eva Mattheeussen |

Employees are our best assets. Therefore, it is no surprise that attracting, retaining and keeping them engaged remain key to organizations – and there is an increased emphasis on this during this ongoing pandemic. In fact, a recent KPMG survey conducted among some leading CEOs identified ‘talent risk’ as the most significant threat to business growth, placing it ahead of ‘supply chain risk’ and a ‘return to territorialism’.

The pandemic has dealt a challenging hand to organizations, destabilizing some and shuttering others but above all, it is also a test of leadership, grit and resilience at the highest level. At DHL, we have been committed to practise a set of ‘leadership attributes’ every day, and this has definitely served us well. We encourage leading with the “Head” – being results oriented and leveraging strengths of the team, “Heart” – providing purpose and having and creating trust, and “Guts” – focusing on clear priorities and being positive about challenges, uncertainty and change. These attributes define what great leadership means to us as a Group and ensures that every employee – a leader in their own right – uses that to guide them, and deliver on our strategy.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this pandemic has been that prioritizing employees’ safety is critical to business continuity. As such, we can expect that the focus on employee wellbeing will continue to figure prominently on leadership agendas, especially if organizations want to win in attaining and retaining the best talents. The crux lies in having an effective balance between work productivity and safety.

In the logistics sector, while health and safety management has always been important, the pandemic has brought it into sharper focus. While we have adopted flexibility to facilitate remote working, our most crucial personnel continue to work onsite – but do so while adhering to the strictest measures, in compliance with guidelines from government authorities.

Six leadership attributes build the common ground for the leadership culture at Deutsche Post DHL Group
Six leadership attributes build the common ground for the leadership culture at Deutsche Post DHL Group

Being agile promotes talent inclusiveness and diversity

There is little doubt that the future of work will be a hybrid model incorporating both office and remote work arrangements – and the flexibility in rolling out appropriate measures. Employers now have new perspectives on collaborative work, the importance of building trust and being adaptable. Flexible working arrangements are an integral part of ‘the new normal’.

However, remote working brings on other challenges. Internal communications takes on greater significance. Keeping employees regularly updated, sharing positive messages and information is critical. Employee engagement platforms, including social media and mobile messaging apps, are now being deployed to share updates and news and develop esprit de corps.

While traditional work is being redefined, there has been a paradigm shift in how performance is evaluated. While companies continue to look for skilled and specialized talent, they are also keen to welcome individuals who are equipped with collaborative, digital and leadership skills and have demonstrated resilience.

Employee safety and diversity

One unexpected benefit of remote work has been the fillip to diversity and inclusion. Organizations can now recruit the best talent, regardless of geography. Being flexible allows businesses to access a more diverse talent pool and from different walks of life, in different circumstances.

Diversity is a strength for any organization. It can be fostered by actively focusing on equal opportunities: offering work arrangements, transparency, and career support. Initiatives such as the Stevie award-winning “Women at DHL Global Forwarding” which I am currently leading in the company, help to promote this cultural mindset. We also have a new talent management program, mentoring and networking initiatives covering topics such as personal and career development to help drive employee engagement and promote diversity and inclusion.

DHL Global Forwarding honored with four Gold 2020 Stevie Awards for Women in Business

The last quarter of 2020 brought great news for DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight specialist of Deutsche Post DHL Group.

Out of over 1,500 nominations submitted for consideration, the company’s diversity initiative “Women at DHL Global Forwardingwon four Gold Stevie Awards, making DHL the first freight forwarder to win such a high number of Stevie awards in one year.

Considered the world’s premier business awards, the four Stevie Award categories which DHL topped were: Achievement in Developing and Promoting Women, Female Executive of the Year – Business Services – More Than 2,500 Employees’, Event of the year, and Achievement in Human Resources.

The initiative aims to drive a cultural mindset shift with focus on equal opportunities by promoting flexible work arrangements, improving transparency, and providing opportunities such as mentorship, networking, and career support.

As a global company, Deutsche Post DHL Group brings together over 500,000 people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, skillsets, and perspectives. Among other diversity goals, DHL aims to have a group-wide proportion of 30% women in management by 2025.

Making a connection through empathy and appreciation now more vital than ever

Along with its economic impact, the pandemic had a (largely) invisible psychological impact on people. Not everyone could comfortably adapt to the uncertain period of isolation – especially expatriate workers who are often away from their families and now face additional travel restrictions.

Employers should recognize the often-unexpressed need for emotional support. Virtual engagement platforms are a powerful tool to help employees connect and communicate. Employers of choice are leveraging technology to foster connections. At DHL, a ‘Connect’ app on the intranet is used to post friendly messages, share pictures and videos and keep in touch with coworkers.

Covid-19 social distancing

Contrary to popular belief, technology has actually made ‘the human touch’ even more important and accessible. When teams go above and beyond to perform tasks, they count on managers to motivate and engage them.

In the logistics sector, for instance, DHL teams worked around the clock, across the globe, to ensure essential medical supplies and protective equipment reached frontliners. Such efforts did not go unappreciated. Monetary appreciation is not always possible, but a kind word can go a long way in helping people feel valued.

How digitalization will change the future of people management

The pandemic has accelerated digitalization in all spheres. Logistics, for example, used to be a traditionally manual-focused sector. It is now being reshaped by automation. This makes for a safer workplace, improving productivity and efficiency. At the same time, digital transformation is also redefining the employer-employee equation.

Swayer - Robotic arm in DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf

Digitalization facilitates remote working, team management, interviews, training and onboarding. HR leaders have a vital role to play in championing technologies to improve productivity and drive collaboration, while keeping employees engaged. The events of 2020 proved that focusing on globalization, e-commerce, digitalization and sustainability will help businesses navigate the new normal.

Moving forward, I believe employers of choice will be those who value trust and honest communications, while supporting people as they adapt to rapidly evolving technologies. As HR leaders, our mandate is clear: humanize technology and ensure people remain our top priority.


Eva Mattheeussen is Head of Human Resources, DHL Global Forwarding (Middle East and Africa) and Global Project Lead of ‘Women at DHL Global Forwarding’. She won the Gold Stevie Award this year in the category ‘Female Executive of the Year – Business Services – More Than 2,500 Employees’.