‘INVESTING IN PEOPLE’ MAY SOUND LIKE A CLICHÉ, BUT ADAM OXFORD VISITS THE LOGISTICS FIRM WHERE THE THEORY HAS REALLY PAID OFF’
Four years ago, Sundharin Moodley moved from Durban to Johannesburg looking for work, with just a year of a BCom course and a smattering of retail experience behind him. Today, at 23, he’s the after-sales manager for one of Gauteng’s most vibrant and fastest-growing logistics firms, leading a team that tackles customer problems for some of the best-known brands in the country.
Moodley’s rapid rise began when he was offered a position as a “VIP driver” with a local courier company. His job was to deliver high-value items, such as smartphones, directly to customers.
It’s rare that a delivery driver gets remembered – or even noticed – once a drop-off is finished, but Moodley was often knowledgeable about the products he handed out and engaged with customers on a highly personal level. He was also lucky that the company on behalf of which he was delivering, Digital Planet, is unusually responsive to customer feedback. Digital Planet began life as an e-commerce firm, but transitioned into a business that manages online retail on behalf of others.
It tackles warehousing, logistics and customer support for high-profile clients such as FNB, HP Shop, Nedbank and Vodacom.
It also has a highly enlightened approach to staff development. “When we recruit,” says HR director Melissa Gangen, “it’s not about your skills and background. We look for potential, and then engage in a lot of internal testing and training to make sure people are put in the right jobs.”
Digital Planet’s policies came about when the firm realised it was spending a lot of money on recruiting people for senior roles who weren’t always performing when they got there. “Talent is expensive to buy in, and not always
reliable,” Gangen says. “Our aim is to grow our own talent by having the right company culture and training inititatives. We genuinely believe that our people are our competitive advantage.” Through this approach, it’s not unheard of for someone who starts in the call centre to end up as part of the finance team. Digital Planet’s training processes aren’t cheap – indeed, they’re one of the firm’s biggest expenses – but they do pay off, Gangen says.
Moodley’s route into the company may have been slightly unusual, but, just like other employees, he sat through a psychometric test during his interview, and received support and training consistently from the beginning – often well in advance of industry norms. When he was promoted to team leader in the contact centre, for example, he was put onto a 12-month Management Advancement Programme (MAP) of the kind usually reserved for very senior members of staff.
“We covered problem-solving, leadership, paradigm shifts and goal-setting,” he says. “And it was structured well too. In between sessions we had two or three weeks to put ideas into practice and feed back.” Moodley says that, despite the company’s size (at over 100 people), the business feels more like a “family” than work. “Culture is the biggest thing at Digital Planet,” he says. “You notice it in the stuff that happens weekly throughout the business. The collaboration, people wanting to work together to reach a goal.
I don’t think you get that in a corporate company. You do things the way they’ve always been done. Here you have the freedom to try things and, if they don’t work, you learn from them, discuss them.”