Why investing in your frontline is the smart thing to do

I recently read an article from McKinsey and Co. about unlocking the potential of frontline managers and found myself agreeing with every point they made. Moreover, I found myself thinking “this is exactly what we have done with DHL Express” – it read like our case study.

Five years ago, DHL Express came to us and said they wanted to do more with their supervisory/frontline managers. They believed they were the key to engaging their frontline teams and unlocking a vast reservoir of untapped discretionary effort. This was music to our ears!

And they totally understood what it would take to do this… some 20,000 frontline supervisors thinking and acting as people leaders, performance coaches driving their legendary insanely customer centric culture.  Having worked alongside many of their frontline managers I was only too aware of the potential in this workforce – like other frontline supervisors, they are the fuel of any high performing organisation.

Working with DHL Express we set about creating their incredible Supervisory Academy. We co-created a blended learning curriculum that would take their Supervisors on an 18-month development journey to become amazing supervisors today with the talent to become leaders of the future. DHL Express recognised that money and time invested now would benefit everyone both in the short and longer term.

NKD people and DHL people at the DHL Express CIS event

The CIM Supervisory Curriculum

DHL Express have long maintained that people managers need to spend 70% of their time with their people – working alongside them, listening, coaching, and providing support and direction.

With this in mind, we created a curriculum that blended workshops with self-directed app-based learning. The learning was built around the four pillars of their FOCUS strategy, building the skills to develop Personal Excellence, People Excellence, Service Excellence and Operational Excellence.

Equipped with the right skills, the real learning happens in the workplace. Every module has on the job challenges that need to be completed before progression to the next module. And all of this is supported and sustained via a minimum of three coaching sessions per module from their sponsoring manager.

Their managers all undertake a coaching skills workshop and as their supervisors progress through the curriculum, they receive a manager’s guide to help them coach and develop their supervisor through that module. They also attend a workshop on inspirational leadership half way through the program.

The graduation ceremony 

At the program’s supervisors attend their graduation ceremony – a truly amazing experience where capped and gowned they receive an OFQUAL diploma. For many supervisors, who had only completed secondary education, this was a very proud moment. I saw one 52-year-old supervisor face-timing his dad whilst dressed in his cap and gown, and he told me: “I am the first to graduate in my family”. 

Creating this sense of pride is only part of it, I frequently hear supervisors talk about how the experience has changed their lives, both in and outside of work. They speak of the great relationships they have with their teams, customers and managers, and how they truly feel that they make a difference. They are motivated and empowered to lead their teams and shape the business.

As a result, in DHL Express, the employee opinion results show an increase in their Active leadership scores and employee engagement.  And globally DHL Express is now the 4th Best Place to Work on the Planet.

The Academy has proved so successful and delivered such tangible results to the business, that Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, has committed to his investors that by 2025 over 80% of all Supervisory across his 550,000 strong business will have graduated a similar experience.

Nurturing our frontline managers is essential for the future growth of any organisation. And it’s our passion at NKD. We are so grateful to DHL Express for giving us this opportunity to be creative and innovative with their Academy and we are so proud of what they have achieved.

If you would like to know more about unleashing the potential of your frontline managers, we would love to talk to you.