An empirical analysis of the culture in DHL Global Forwarding and concrete suggestions on how to develop the culutre into strategic example

Joubert, Melanie (2014-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


Since 2006, DGF struggled with a diverse and disjointed corporate culture. In this industry, the diversity did not bring about a competitive advantage – on the contrary, it was a negative influence on the organisation’s sustainable performance. It was clear that there were many different cultures, different sub-cultures and different ways of working within DGF, which affected the overall company’s effectiveness, efficiencies and performance. The core research question for the purpose of this research assignment was, “What is the existing culture within DGF, how did this culture evolve and what can be done to change the culture into a strategic example?” The empirical analysis made use of quantitative research, where the majority of the research outcomes were based on the findings from two types of questionnaires. The first questionnaire, “Beehive 2.0”, was used as an analytical tool to analyse DGF’s culture and the second questionnaire was the DGF Employee Opinion Survey (EOS). This survey allowed a safe environment in which the employees voiced their opinions in terms of the organisation. Initial informal one-on-one interviews, open forum Senior Leadership Team discussions and group discussions were held to determine the team’s general approach, how individuals felt towards the organisational culture at the time of the research and whether there was a real opportunity for an improved culture. The Senior Leadership Team identified organisational needs in terms of trust building, changing the culture and improving staff moral. It was clear through the discussions that people were cautious to speak up about organisational culture issues in a group environment. A lot of hurt came to light and without the ability to ensure confidentiality and privacy, a true reflection of how people perceived the culture would not have surfaced. As a result, the quantitative data gathered formed only a small part of the total data gathered for this research. It became apparent through the initial informal discussions as previously referred to, that there was a lack of trust and collaboration, and a culture of fear amongst the employees. The series of acquisitions DGF has been involved with over the years, without solid change management to ensure a unified culture, resulted in many different cultures and sub-cultures within the company. Change management coupled with a unified culture was promised to the employees prior to the acquisitions, but it never materialized. This left the employees uncertain and weary to trust their leaders. Communication throughout the organisation was poor and there was a top down approach to strategy creation. Through this, employees did not feel empowered to make their own decisions and this negatively influenced their trust in the organisation. There was little focus on talent creation, managers did not take the time to impart knowledge or develop employees and in general, employees felt neglected, under-valued and unappreciated. Employee engagement was very low. Most of the results obtained from the EOS and Beehive survey research confirmed the initial needs identified by the Senior Management Team and confirmed the reason for the low morale and negativity in DGF. Employees have lost confidence in a better tomorrow within DGF, and felt that it will not help to speak up anymore. No solid action plans came from making their voices heard in the past, they were concerned about their job security and previous EOS survey results has shown that less than a third of employees felt that positive change could still happen. There was, therefore, a dire need to identify a cultural framework for DGF. Once the new economy leadership culture was selected as the most optimal framework, the existing DGF culture needs to transition into the selected framework. The change of culture was therefore needed to restore the trust of the employees and achieve sustainable competitiveness in DGF, since employee satisfaction and performance are directly linked to organisational culture.

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