#KeepRising: How global supply chain group GEODIS charts a successful people strategy
As one of the world’s top supply chain operators, GEODIS played an integral role in keeping companies on track despite the overall slowdown during the pandemic. GEODIS relies on its people to serve as the backbone of operations, with the mantra of #KeepRising becoming their battle cry in this new era of business.
People Matters spoke with Anne Tan, Head of HR, APAC, about the company’s plans of further cultivating their people strategy and charting a path forward.
As a talent leader, what key factors are shaping your outlook towards the new ways of working and emerging hybrid workplace?
I would say there are quite a few key ones, starting with employee and manager maturity and expectations in physical and remote management, and the wider social and community practices at play, including schooling, childcare/eldercare, transport and other community facilities. Lines between work and personal spaces are blurring, and even merging, and more than ever, we see the need to factor in the wider personal and social aspects as we are looking at how an individual functions and gets through the day. It's no longer just about how an employee spends their working hours in the office.
How has a renewed focus on communication, engagement, wellness and productivity impacted your employee experience strategy?
Pre-COVID, employees were viewed as having only a professional contract with the organisation, and there was a clearer line between an employee at work, which the organisation engages with, and the employee outside of work with their own schedule. The pandemic has brought about a sudden change in how those two facets of an employee’s life interact with each other for most organisations.
Since the onset of the pandemic, an emotional contract has become the anchor of our employee experience strategy, where we look to fulfil and engage with our employees in a more holistic way, beyond the work hours and commitments.
We want to keep a two-way open channel of communication so we can know how best to partner with them. We want to make sure that they are nourished both at and outside of work to the best of our abilities and resources, so that we have the best of every employee.
This includes initiatives like giving care packs to employees, as well as rolling out wellness programs that cover physical workouts and mental health sessions, adjusting workspaces and processes keeping ergonomics in mind and organising children’s activities for employees who have children to provide the parents with some respite from children who may also be spending extending periods of time at home.
How are employers responding to the need to digitise internal processes and systems, and the need to raise employees' digital capabilities?
This is something welcomed by the majority of employees, as they see and understand it as a key requisite to enable them to continue working in the most optimal manner. They also understand that digital progression is the only way forward amidst these times. Coping with COVID-19 driven changes is a must now. We all need to learn how to adapt and live with it and our employees have shown great strength and resilience in that regard.
How do you see the role of digital workflow solutions in making workplace communication more efficient, especially cross-functional communication?
Through the adoption of tools, like Microsoft Teams and PowerBI, we have fully automated the onboarding processes, and embedded collaboration as part of our daily operations. That enables us to have real-time and continuous communication in the teams. We have also set up different communities on Microsoft Teams for different groups. These include helping participants in management programs better interact with each other when the courses were taking place.
We have also digitalised all of our manual processes, removing paper forms, such as expense claims, to make it easier for employees to file their expense claims through mobile devices, anywhere, anytime. We have also begun adopting robotics process automation (RPA) across various business operations to reduce repetitive and administrative tasks. Examples include issuing reminders team members to complete their tasks. On our frontlines, the use of robotics and automation also serve to improve pick-and-pack accuracy for our customers and reduce the risk of errors and returns.
With our workflow and digital solutions, even our frontline staff can work anywhere and anytime as the information is available to them without physically having to go back to the office. In the past, some employees needed to go back to the office to complete certain tasks but now they can do almost everything online. Our customer service teams too can check everything online now using our system and respond to any customers queries, including those about delivery status and milestones, while working remotely.
What is GEODIS doing differently to enhance cross-functional collaboration for its workforce?
We are kickstarting a new Rising Stars program, in line with our GEODIS Keep Rising brand signature, which has cross-functional projects built in as part of the program for young talent, so that it starts for them from day one. We also ensure that GEODIS cultivates functional diversity in the various activities that we manage, such as focus groups, innovation awards, employee engagement sessions, diversity and inclusion networks, as well as project groups for implementation of new initiatives and systems and so on. From an operations perspective, the program makes cross-functional collaboration the norm for us.
We have also had a transformation program since 2018, to bring us towards our Ambition 2023 plan. The transformation program consists of seven different workstreams which are either Products or Functions, each headed by an APAC Board member. These workstreams identify for each of their areas, what the key gaps between the 2018 status or the current scenario and our 2023 vision were/are and propose various projects to enable us to work against fixed timelines to bridge those gaps.
Each workstream’s projects, as well as key deliverables and inter-dependencies with other workstreams, are discussed at length and agreed upon at the onset. As we have progressed, many projects in various workstreams have been worked on, in partnership with other workstreams, in order to achieve the common vision for 2023. Through such exercises, cross-functional interactions and collaborations happen very regularly and organically.
What are some steps employers can take to make business agility and operational excellence a reality for a distributed workforce?
The first step is to understand the different types of work and objectively determine how dependent or independent the locations are to the work that is being performed. This sounds simple but is really the first and a complex step in effectively assessing which functions can perform well if your employees are scattered.
COVID-19 changes have shown us that we can achieve significant efficiencies with a distributed workforce if we have a clear vision and are open to adapting fast. It has put to bed several preconceived notions about work processes like the idea that your team being in zones/locations impacts the team’s productivity. At our company we have noted that that is not the case.
The second step would be looking at those on whom we have higher dependencies, requiring them to be in a single location and how best we can either re-structure the work, or equip them with more advanced tools to bridge any gaps.
The more we can adapt to working with a wider distributed workforce, the more versatile and resilient the business will be in meeting new challenges of the future.
Additionally, by developing the mechanisms to work well with remote work arrangements, we can have greater opportunities to foster more diversity in the workforce.
How can leaders in the new world of work improve workforce and workflow management?
Speak to your employees and understand them in contexts that apply in, as well as outside of, work settings. Hear their challenges and struggles in, and especially outside of, work: what support they would like, where they find themselves struggling and take all of that back to the drawing board.
Work demands will continue to be important and a top priority for the company. However, it is how we make work settings conducive for the workforce to deliver value in these testing times that really drives mutually beneficial outcomes.