TNT’s Henk van Dalen

A CFO preaches the importance of "employee engagement," traditionally a subject left to HR.

Henk van Dalen has been busy on the M&A front. The CFO of TNT, a €10 billion Dutch logistics company, has overseen the acquisitions of ARC India—one of the countries major road express companies—in 2006 as well Brazil’s Mercúrio of Brazil and Hoau of China in 2007. These deals are part of TNT’s plan to become the number-one logistics company in emerging markets.

But along the way, the acquisitions present van Dalen with a challenge. Now that TNT operates across more than 200 countries and in 37 languages, how can he persuade a diverse group of employees to work towards a common strategic goal?

As the CFO sees it, part of the solution lies in “employee engagement,” getting employees to go the extra mile for the company. At TNT, this now includes an annual online survey to measure engagement levels, external benchmarking and making engagement levels a component of management bonuses.

Giving the programme’s acceptance among TNT’s rank and file a boost are studies from the likes of Towers Perrin-ISR—an employee-relations research firm—that draw a link between employee engagement and financial performance. Van Dalen concedes he needs a bit more time to see that link with TNT’s programme—which was launched a few years ago—but recently discussed with CFO Europe why he believes the initial results are encouraging.

Why did TNT decide to focus on employee engagement?

Employee motivation and engagement have always been important to the kind of work that TNT does. An enormous commitment is required from people to do their job effectively and efficiently with a focus on service and the right attitude.

At the same time, we recognised that it is important to work on this subject more precisely by having indicators available that enable management to target actions to get the best possible engagement. This more formal part started two to three years ago. It’s part of a wider focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability, which focuses on three elements: people, planet and profits.

How does TNT measure employee engagement?

We measure engagement in three areas: employees’ perception of the group, such as the principles they believe it adheres; their views on the quality of leadership at TNT, and their views on various elements of the working relationship—for example, learning and development or reward and performance evaluations.

These areas are covered in an anonymous online survey, which is conducted by an external company. This allows us to benchmark ourselves against our sector and against the leading 10% in the world in terms of employee engagement.

How would you describe the current level of engagement at TNT?

We started the online survey in 2006 so I think it’s still too early to identify real trends. What we can clearly see is a lot of interest in the survey—the participation rate is high. Management is picking up on the outcomes and developing action plans for the next year. The outcomes are also being discussed with employees within each department.

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