HR Director, Kuehne + Nagel UK
I have been working at Kuehne + Nagel for seven years, and in HR for almost 30. Although I’ve been in it for the long haul, I’m still excited to see the rate of change in HR and the way in which we can have a real impact on driving value throughout the organisation.
The Kuehne + Nagel Group is one of the world’s leading logistics companies. We’ve got over 79,000 colleagues worldwide, with over 16,000 of them in the UK. We’re always ambitious at Kuehne + Nagel. There’s no time to stand still in our market – our customers are always evolving so we are too.
Ambition isn’t possible without a foundation to build on: we’re stable and secure with a clearly defined plan for where we’re going. We’ve been doing this for 50 years, so we know our stuff. No two days are the same in our organisation. There are opportunities for all our people to make a difference, and everyone can have their voice heard. We’re big, but we maintain an entrepreneurial spirit with a real focus on continuous improvement.
For me, the most important thing is listening to your people. If you give everyone a voice, and empower them to speak up, your organisation will be all the better for it. Showing our people that we listen to their ideas is what drives our continuous improvement, and it’s the best way to capture the innovation at the heart of the organisation.
I think it’s also important to allow and encourage colleagues to develop and progress with the company. Offering a variety of learning methods and teaching people to push for their own development is key, but a top employer organisation also needs to equip managers to foster that progress in their teams.
Communication is key. It’s always a challenge to share information in such a large and diverse population but being a top employer means facilitating connectivity in ways which work for them.
We launched a new strategy last January, and the roll-out of that has been fantastic to see. There’s been real energy and engagement in the growth opportunities for Kuehne + Nagel in the next five years and beyond.
It’s been developed to resonate with people, and it was important to us all that we connected with every level of the organisation. We held interactive, engaging briefing sessions for all of our 16,000+ colleagues across the country. They were run by our leaders, rather than by the HR team, which is a key thing for me – we’re all responsible for making our people strategy a success, whether we’ve got ‘HR’ in our job title or not.
I’m not only proud of the roll-out itself, but also the fact that this new strategy puts people at the forefront. This means we can focus on our areas of development and that we’re truly recognising the power of our people in delivering value for our customers. I’m excited about the future and the great opportunities to receive feedback and connect with our colleagues.
Coming back to the importance of listening to our people: our objectives have been set by them. We recently held over 45 listening sessions across the UK, and one of the key things which came out of these was the need to increase and effectively train our people manager expectations. We’ve got to make it clear what we expect from our managers, but most importantly help them to meet those expectations.
We’re investing in development programmes for our leaders, equipping them with important skills like creative thinking, accountability, and team flexibility. This will make sure we’re giving our people the best chance of success and that our teams can perform to the best of their abilities.
Our biggest challenge is what I would call ‘the war on talent’. We operate in a lot of markets with never seen before levels of employment, like Milton Keynes. This means we have to stand out as a top employer in the area and demonstrate to potential colleagues that working for our organisation is the right choice. We’ve also got to invest in retaining our people, so that we don’t lose the valuable skills and expertise they bring to us.
We’ll overcome it by becoming a company our people feel proud to work for. As I said earlier, our objectives will be guided by listening to and talking to teams across the business. One of our strengths is acknowledging where we need to improve; by taking an honest look at the organisation we can understand how to make changes and reach the next stage of our development.
We’re already adapting, and we still have a way to go. We’re investing in improving our flexible benefits offering, so our teams can choose what works for them. Flexibility, overall, is key. Whether that’s a parent who wants to work the nightshift so they can take their children to school, or someone who prefers to work from home one day a week, we need to do what we can to make that a reality.
We will also have to look at the skills which will be in demand in the future workplace, which historically we haven’t been looking for. This could include things like coding, robotics, and other new technologies which are yet to emerge. We’re focusing heavily on improving our technology, which will mean investing in people who can support it.
We also need to promote ourselves more as a brand. We’re great at what we do, and highly respected in our industry, but our people have said that we need to sing our own praises a little bit more. We’re working on it!
This interviewee was kindly introduced to us by ‘Top Employers Institute – the global authority on certifying excellence in employee conditions.’ Their organisation is certified as a Top Employer.