"Our employees are role models for young people"
Deutsche Post DHL and SOS Children's Villages have been partners in Madagascar for five years. Christof Ehrhart, responsible for Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility at DPDHL, looks back - and forward. In this interview, he also reveals what makes the GoTeach partnership so special.
South Africa Career Day
It's something to celebrate: the GoTeach partnership with SOS Children's Villages is now five years old. Where and how did it all begin?
Christof Ehrhart: It began in Madagascar. A pilot project was set up there before the official start of the partnership between SOS Children's Villages and Deutsche Post DHL. The catalyst was a speech given to the national chamber of commerce by the DHL country manager. The national director for SOS was in the audience. It was their first meeting, and they found common ground right away.
Madagascar was the first country where Deutsche Post DHL got involved. The company chose a small country to launch the partnership. That's unusual...
Christof Ehrhart: It's unusual to the extent that hardly any large corporations are present there. And we're active not only in Madagascar but in Ethiopia and Haiti as well. These are all small countries. Large corporations rarely get involved there, so that makes the involvement by Deutsche Post DHL in these small countries something special. We do it because we can: DPDHL is present almost everywhere in the world, and our employees get involved at the local level.
SOS Children's Village Madagaskar
DPDHL employs a lot of people in the participating countries...
Christof Ehrhart: Yes, we're a large corporation, so we have a wide range of experts: from financial specialists to forklift operators to express couriers. All of them are a big help to young people in giving them career orientation. But the first priority is to provide them with basic knowledge, and then they can get their first experience in working life - in a short internship, for example.
What role do our local employees play?
Christof Ehrhart: At the program level it's different in every country, but at the personal level it's the same everywhere: our employees are role models for young people. That's mostly because the DPDHL employees who take part are local people and all of them have pursued their careers locally. That imparts a special authenticity. For young people it's especially motivating to see that a man or a woman from their own country has had a successful career.
And what motivates Deutsche Post DHL employees to take part?
Christof Ehrhart: Employee motivation has a variety of sources. For instance, in Brazil social inequality is very high. At first, some who got involved there mainly wanted to offer prospects to young people in need. But with time their horizons broadened. Our employees come into direct contact with young people whom they otherwise would not have met. They gain access to other social classes, they build social bridges.
That's also the goal of the partnership between SOS Children's Villages and DPDHL. How is the team from GoTeach able to build bridges to working life?
Christof Ehrhart: We always keep our core idea in mind: with GoTeach, the focus is on the employee. The fact that DPDHL employs so many people with different professions in so many countries is a strength that we put to good use. So in South Africa an employee from Supply Chain might lead some young people through a warehouse. But the primary focus isn't on logistics expertise, instead it's the experience and knowledge of the employees that's needed. To give the young people a glimpse of local working life, above all our colleagues use their personal abilities - and they make use of their own experiences.
Deutsche Post DHL has clearly been successful with its idea. The GoTeach partnership with SOS Children's Villages is reaching more and more countries. How is the company reacting to this rapid development?
Christof Ehrhart: In the first year it was only Madagascar, in each of the next two years three countries were added. There were seven new countries in 2013. And in 2014 there were even more. To keep pace with this trend, in spring of 2015 we're going to start mid-range planning to set specific priorities for our work and make the GoTeach partnership with SOS Children's Villages even better.