Logistics firm sets tough standards

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2008, 12:00am

A fortnightly column introducing key trainee programmes

Those keen on teaming up with one of the leaders in the logistics industry need more than just the right qualifications. It's the whole package that counts, and interpersonal skills rank supreme.

DHL Global Forwarding has continually raised the bar with its management trainee programme since 1999, plucking the best and brightest from more than 1,000 applicants each year.

While academic achievement is an assumed prerequisite, Edward Hui, managing director at DHL Global Forwarding, Hong Kong, Macau and South China, said: 'DHL has a dynamic workplace culture inspired by employees who are willing to go that extra mile to deliver customer excellence.'

Mr Hui sifted through applications with a specific candidate in mind. 'We look for that special combination of attitude and aptitude - team players who are truly motivated to satisfy our customers and are keen to move wherever the opportunity is,' he said. 'Mobility is key in our industry.'

Successful applicants in the past have come from different universities and diverse streams. Despite the range of backgrounds, all trainees are expected to possess leadership and professional traits, such as communication, listening and problem-solving skills, to be team players and customer focused.

Other musts include a willingness to travel and relocate, a good command of written and spoken English and Chinese, and an interest in a career in supply chain management.

The selection process includes a written test, presentation and panel interview. About 10 management trainees a year will be selected for the three-year development programme designed to accelerate them in professional and supervisory roles. 'Once they become a part of DHL, we help trainees realise their potential and encourage life-changing personal and professional goals,' Mr Hui said.

This was the case for programme graduate Frankie Fong, who is manager of operations support at the airfreight department. For him, the most enjoyable aspect of the programme was the support from top management in the form of gatherings, activities and sharing experiences.

The biggest challenge was the night-shift job rotation, which meant less time with family. However, this turned out to be an effective learning tool. 'It's about passion and commitment for the industry. The company is willing to use extra resources for management training,' Mr Fong said.

He said the programme tended not to focus on hard skills, such as the graduate's degree or previous knowledge, but more on communication, leadership and the ability to be a team player.

Mr Fong said candidates should not be in a rush to find short-term benefits because only a solid understanding of the industry could help move them forward.

Management trainee Jannie Poon was drawn to the programme after a speech given by former trainees. 'I most enjoy the job rotation which takes place every year. The assignments have deepened my understanding of the company, broadened my horizons and strengthened networks,' she said. Some of the challenges, such as leading a renovation and relocation project in Shenzhen, turned out to be valuable learning experiences. A tight timeframe was required for cost effectiveness and enhanced leadership, co-ordination, communication and time-management skills.