INTRODUCING OUR GUEST BLOGGER: Rob Pymm, DHL International (UK)
After completing a Masters in Economics over 20 years ago, Rob joined Thomson Holidays’ yield management department and continued with the company in various management roles before joining DHL Express UK in 2007. His team make sure the logistics company has the right products on sale at the right price for a customer base spanning consumers, SMEs and huge multinationals. “People might think being in pricing is all about number crunching, but the task of taking our prices to market rests largely with sales, so my team has to really focus on communication and engagement with the sales teams, making sure there is a mutual understanding of each other’s objectives. This communication gives us the best chance of finding the right solution for us and the customer.” Married with seven-year-old twins, Rob loves cooking, eating and watching sport.
How do you reach your customers?
“Our communications are aimed at ensuring that we are engaging customers with relevant content. Our customers are busy, so we always have to question why we are sending them something. We will typically use emails for targeted messages to our customer base and, of course we are increasingly active on social media (@dhlexpressuk). As the UK market leader we also have a role to play in leading the conversation on industry matters, so whether it is trends in ecommerce, or the insights that we can offer on the health of UK plc through our knowledge of international trade and how our customers are performing in overseas markets, we will use the media to adopt that thought-leadership role. A recent example of this was our sponsorship of The Sunday Times SME Export Track 100, which gave us the opportunity to comment on the growth in online retail and the boost this is giving to UK exports. We also have long-standing associations with industry and governmental bodies, such as the British Chambers of Commerce and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), where we can lead the conversation about international trade. Another area where we can reach our customers and enrich their businesses is through working with partners such as Harlequins rugby club or Leicester City Football Club, but that doesn’t just mean giving customers access to corporate hospitality. Increasingly our focus is on how we can leverage these partnerships to bring a true business focus. So, for example, we might jointly host a business forum with Harlequins where our customers can gain insight from the sporting world in to what it takes to be successful. Or through our sponsorship of London Fashion Week, we may hold an event where customers in the fashion industry can share insights on how to export their products to international markets. Our focus is on making our customers more successful, and although our communication can take many forms, it’s all geared to that end.
How do you reach your colleagues?
We communicate with employees in many different ways. We have an employee magazine (pictured below) that goes out to everyone, and people definitely still value being able to put their hands on something tangible. We also send weekly emails with business updates and other content such as information about events, corporate hospitality, competitions or recognition for employees who have gone that extra mile for our customers. We also have an annual Employee Opinion Survey where everyone gets the chance to have their say on the state of the business and their role within it. Our challenge is often that we have thousands of operational employees who are not in a position to read an email during the day, so we put a massive amount of focus on face-to-face communication. That might be a daily update from someone’s immediate manager on the issues of the day, or it might be a town hall meeting where a member of the Board will give an overview of how the business strategy and how we are performing. We also have an Employee Consultation Forum that gives a formal platform for employees to raise issues to the senior team. Above all it’s not about set-piece communication: it’s about ensuring there is an open culture with two-way communication at all levels of the business happening every day. We have had that at the heart of our employee engagement strategy for a number of years, and in my time here I have seen the company make massive strides in this area.
What synergies are there between your external and internal audiences?
The messages we are conveying to either audience should have an underlying consistency and therefore resonate with both. Whether talking about industry issues, investments in our business, the prospects for ecommerce or the state of international trade, there may be slightly different angles taken with internal and external audiences but the core content should be relevant to both. We want our customers and our employees to be engaged with us, and invariably our communication messages will centre around common themes to achieve that.
What trends are you seeing in internal communications?
As with external communications, there is more focus on outcomes, not output for output’s sake – after all, we live in an age of information overload. It’s that core question: why will people want to know about this, and what will be the better outcome on a personal or business level when they know about it? If you can’t provide a compelling answer to that question, don’t bother with that piece of communication. Of course, being an analytical person, outcomes need to be measured – so in the case of internal communications, measuring employee engagement is key.
How has DHL Express UK’s internal communications changed in the last five years?
In some ways it hasn’t changed that much, in the sense that the traditional methods of communication – whether an employee magazine, a weekly email or a quarterly town hall meeting – are still relevant and effective when there is a specific message, piece of news or event to talk about. Of course, we are seeing more use of video, and social media has changed things. Ultimately, I think the change is more to do with the general culture of communication within the business, in terms of the day-to-day, face-to-face communication not just between managers and their teams but at all levels, across functions and even across the different divisions of DHL. The internal communications team will continue to innovate and make use of all the exciting new channels, but internal communications needs that bedrock of a culture of effective communication pervading the business every day.
Have a look at this video of the fabulous project we worked on with Rob!