Staff development is a crucial element of DHL’s plan for the next two-to-five years. We met with Andrew May, Managing Director of DHL Freight, at the Hemel Hempstead terminal to hear what he has planned for the freight and logistics industry.

Andrew started his career working for a wholesale pharmaceutical distributor called Uniphar. This is where he cultivated his expertise in the transport arena. Soon after, he began work in Dublin for a software company, but he was always waiting for something like DHL to come along. Lo and behold Andrew came in to DHL as a business controller for the global forwarding division in Dublin about ten years ago.

When I began I had one person reporting to me, and after a while that grew to 15.

Since then he’s held the reigns as CFO in Ireland and as cluster CFO in the UK and Benelux. In March 2015, Andrew took up the role as MD of DHL Freight UK with a view to driving further growth and enhance margins.

Every day brings a different and exciting challenge and I’m proud of the direction in which the business is going.

How did the opportunity at DHL come about? 

I came into DHL as a business controller for the global forwarding division in Dublin about ten years ago. At this point we were going through the acquisition with Exel and effectively the company doubled in size. When I began I had one person reporting to me and after about eighteen months that grew to fifteen.

DHL Freight was a separate organisation in Ireland. In order to realize a number of synergies we went into a consolidation process to bring Freight and Global Forwarding together.

At that time I was dealing with the MD of the UK. A year or so after that, I received a call to say we were forming a cluster with Belgium and the Netherlands and there was a position for a CFO – so I spent two-and-a-half years working across the cluster. 

In March 2015 I was asked to take on the role of UK Managing Director and I haven’t looked back! 

How has the role been going so far? 

It’s been brilliant. Every day brings a different and exciting challenge and I’m proud of the direction the business is going. We’re delivering a great customer experience today and I plan to further enhance that in 2016.

What makes DHL Freight unique?
What sets it apart from your competitors? 

We pride ourselves on quality of service…when people pick up the phone they have a certain expectation; the bar is set really high. We have a closed ‘yellow and red’ freight network providing next day delivery services across the UK offering various features such as ADR delivery, AM or Timed. This network coverage extends to the whole of Europe and further afield!

We have passionate employees at DHL Freight UK focused on handling our customer’s goods in the right manner first time and every time.

You need knowledge, you need passion and you need the right attitude. If you’re missing any one of these ingredients you won’t be successful. You need happy staff to have happy customers.

What are the primary values of DHL? 

In line with Deutsche Post DHL Group’s strategy for 2020, ‘Focus, Connect, Grow’, DHL Freight UK will Focus on the core things that make us successful, such as focusing on developing markets like eCommerce. We will Connect further with our employees through our engagement initiatives and customers, to deliver a great work environment and a great customer experience. At DHL Freight we believe that happy employees lead to happy customers. And thirdly, Grow in markets segments such as the retail, automotive and consumer sectors in the UK amongst others. My ethos is:

Happy employees + happy customers = great results

What is the most important thing DHL are focusing on at the moment? 

Staff. That’s the key thing that I’m working on. We want to drive employee engagement, staff development, and active leadership. That’s across the board from drivers to customer services. An engaged team across all functions leads to a great customer experience.

In regards to staff, do you have any development plans? What are you aiming to achieve in terms of growth?

In 2015 we introduced a number of employee recognition initiatives that recognized great service and dedication in all functions of our company. Prior to 2015 we had some really positive employee opinion feedback but I felt we could take things a step further through further recognizing the stars in our business. We’ve rolled out a number of different initiatives at DHL Freight to help our staff become more involved and invested. We launched a portal called that allows you (or the customer) to nominate a colleague or supervisor, who has gone the extra mile in their day job or perhaps delivered a project that has really made a difference either to a customer, function or charity.

We’ve had a phenomenal response! We gather around 60-80 nominations a month, each of our nominees receive a nominal reward and from that we award three special recognition awards for Driver, Sales Person and Employee of the month.

In regards to company culture, in what way are you trying to improve that?

The culture at DHL Freight revolves around employees, quality and customer satisfaction! I try to get round to every single terminal at least twice a year. This way I am close to the business, can directly share the strategy and focus areas with the employees and at the same time receive feedback from their end. The sessions are interactive and allow me to get a real feel for day to day challenges and our staff’s motivation.

That must really motivate the staff
when they see you!

It does. The teams feel comfortable in sharing their views on life, DHL and their ideas on how we can make our business even greater!

Employee opinion is really important. We take what they say and we build on that. We launched idea weeks: we take people’s ideas to see what we can do better or differently. The top 3 ideas receive a monetary award and then we put them into action.

Have you found that people have a better work ethic since this has been in place? 

Our busiest terminals are now achieving great results on our employee feedback surveys. These results are reflected in our efficiencies across the board.

With the market changing and the way people are buying you’re going to need to move out of the box quick. Is that going to be through growing internally or acquisition

Internally. We have a unique footprint in the UK that allows us to look towards new product development and the regular transience of demand. In 2016 for example, we plan to launch several new products tackling growth in the retail sector for example or consulting customers on their Customs requirements. We are the UK market leaders when it comes to coverage, service and innovation.

What are DHL’s specific requirements and priorities when it comes to transporting
its products (optimal conditions?)

We place great value on quality in everything we do, be it equipment, trainings, network, etc.

We have a large internal team for health and safety. We’ve fitted vehicles with front and rear cameras to give the drivers peace of mind by improving safety for everybody. A lot of vehicles have analytical software installed that we can use to download delivery route performance and further optimize our fleet performance. This is how we’re making drivers more efficient, the technology is measuring every aspect of the drive. DHL Freight are continuing to invest in equipment that allows us to be efficient and thus reduce our carbon footprint and promote safe driving behavior.  We are an ISO-accredited company which takes its commitment to Health & Safety very seriously by investing in various training and incorporating safe systems at work.

Have you seen any issues with the current European status? Have there been any problems with shipping? 

For the UK, as it’s an island,

[the] transport / supply chain is more complex than mainland Europe.

There are positive signs that the UK is starting to re-invest in many of its industries. We see positive development coming from some sectors. As DHL Freight, we are investing in line with these market improvements and are prepared for growth.

What’s next for DHL Freight?
Two-to-five-year plan?

I have a three-year vision and I’m going to work towards it. The key is happy employees and happy customers; we will invest in our business accordingly in order to achieve this and ultimately achieve sustainable growth.

If you were to give advice to someone who is aiming to make a career for him- or herself in freight forwarding, what would it be? 

I wanted to become the manager of the department I worked in. I set targets that I could achieve. It’s all well and good that you want to be the chairman of the board, but you need to set tangible short term targets in order to realize your longer term ambitions.

I didn’t always succeed in what I was doing, but if you keep going and you’re determined enough you will succeed.