By Harm Otten, Executive Vice President Human Resources, DHL Global Forwarding & Freight
By Harm Otten, Executive Vice President Human Resources, DHL Global Forwarding & Freight

Creating a Culture of Resilience

Organisational culture: Creating a culture of resilience

On 28 January, I had the privilege of witnessing DHL Global Forwarding, Freight at the Top Employer 2021 ceremony where we received 35 country-, six regional- and the Top Employers Global Certification! Our well-deserved win is because of every individual in the various Human Resources departments who have contributed tirelessly to making DHL Global Forwarding, Freight what it is today.

During this award ceremony I was given the honor of answering a few questions in a panel alongside Annick Deschoolmeester, Head of Global Learning & Talent Management at Takeda on the vital topic of “Organisational culture: Creating a culture of resilience”. 

What does it take to create a resilient culture?

A resilient company and culture isn’t created overnight. This is something that is developed over the years and the most important components for me revolve around organisational structure and practicing, technology and information, and of course leadership and the mindset of people.

Strategy and Purpose

An agile mindset needs to be embedded in the culture of the entire organisation. It starts at the top and goes all the way down. People have to know our strategy, what their task and our overall purpose is and for DPDHL it is connecting people, improving lives and this is more relevant now than ever!

Organisational Structure

All our business stations in our global network in more than 100 countries have business continuity plans in place where we are trying to prepare for the unexpected. These are regularly discussed cross-department and practiced. Preparation is crucial and through this preparation we build confidence. Confidence leads to courage and resilience and through that we deliver results. Alongside this, we ensure our people that they are of importance and that safety of everyone is always number 1, through thorough Health and Safety measures.

In addition to that, we develop products like “DHL Resilience360” which is an innovative supply chain risk management software platform that helps businesses predict, assess and mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions.

“Go Help” and "Get Airports Ready for Disaster" are other examples where we partner with United Nations to conduct multiday workshops for personnel at airports and local disaster management organisations. These help them improve processes for dispatching and processing large volumes of incoming relief workers and supplies. Through this we connect to society and help improve lives.


Our business is global logistics and information and data are key to make this work. Enablement through digitisation and short and fast information top down and bottom up is key to resolve extra-ordinary situations. We require people to act locally as an entrepreneur. We require fast communication in our network around the globe. Enablement to work anywhere anytime with the right information is key to us. Looking back at 2020, I think about me trying to move the needle of having people working from home and balance home and office better for 30 years and was not able to move that needle one inch. When COVID-19 hit, within 48 hours it was possible! More than 80% of our people were enabled in the shortest time to act for our customers and interact in our network. Fast information and fast decisions were enabled through technology.

Leadership that fosters Trust and Enablement

It is about empowerment of our people isn’t it? Our role as leaders is to facilitate our people to enable them to do their job. Trusting them to know the local circumstances they have to operate in, being good listeners and being open to feedback. People have to feel that they can act, they can take a risk, have the trust of the company and feel that they can be an entrepreneur with their customers.

“Having and creating trust” is one of our Leadership Attributes and key part of our culture. Our leaders trust their people, trust them to take decisions and move into action when needed. All our leadership trainings breathe this spirit.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

The success of our business is having a global network with local entrepreneurs. We invite our employees to take matters into their own hands and find solutions for our customers. This is really job fulfilling for our people, because it gives them purpose and room to act.

We as leaders and as a company can offer stability and safety for our people in this crazy world around us. I see resilience is an ongoing process, but it starts with having a safe place in our company.

“Take ownership, Allow change, Be brave”, was the key message from Tim Scharwath, our DGFF CEO, in our 2021 virtual global conference and it summarises what a resilient culture is about.


Harm Otten, Executive Vice President Human Resources, DHL Global Forwarding, Freight

This article originally appeared on Linkedin Pulse.