People First: initiatives to ensure the best individual experience at IAG Cargo

Our Chief People Officer, Caroline Andrews, speaks about her new role in the company after joining IAG Cargo six months ago, and how she plans on transforming the employee experience for everyone in the IAG Cargo family. 

How did you become Chief People Officer at IAG Cargo?

I’ve always enjoyed learning about people. When I was younger, I achieved a series of HR qualifications that cemented my interest. I then did work experience in the US in HR departments, which fuelled my passion in people and business. Now, I’ve been working with people for over 25 years. Most recently I was Vice President of HR at DHL for almost a decade.

Tell us a bit about your role.

Essentially, I lead the people agenda for the organisation – supporting, shaping and delivering the business strategy alongside my cargo executive colleagues. Everything I do is about understanding people and making sure employees who drive the success of IAG Cargo have good experiences. This drives business performance. 

My role is varied and includes how we hire employees, employee recognition and rewards, skill development and nurturing, experience and opportunities within the organisation, as well as supporting employee’s transitions into being life partners at IAG Cargo, especially if they’re retired. 

Why is people experience so important?

If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers – which is what enables a business to thrive. A lot of what organisations achieve is about employees going above and beyond. To motivate and inspire our colleagues to do this, they’ve got to enjoy where they’re working, who they’re working with and the organisation they’re working for. 

What do you love most about taking care of the people and culture in a workplace?

Seeing progression and change that benefits both the organisation and its people. Everywhere I’ve worked there’s been a strong transformation agenda. At IAG Cargo, we are investing more in our people. We’ve already started by making sure we’ve got the right capabilities in the organisation and the right level of resources to support our people and agenda across the business. 

What has become valuable for people at work that wasn’t there previously?

Covid brought to the forefront the importance of wellbeing, mental health, diversity and inclusion. We brought in mental health first aiders and had an overwhelming response from people wanting to sign up and support the initiative.  To encourage a working environment where people can perform at their best, it’s not just about work and the day job: it’s also about the pastoral side and supporting our people when they need us most. We also refurbished a gym on one of our larger campuses, which was really well received. Over 10 per cent of the campus signed up within the first couple of hours of it being re-opened. 

With so many employees across 80 countries, how do you plan on taking care of each individual?

By listening. For the first time, we’ve run coordinated listening groups across the business. The best way to meet the needs of our employees is to understand what those needs are and how we can better support them. This could be personally or professionally, plus how we can improve ways of working and collaborating. We rely on everybody’s determined attitude to make it a great place to work. 

What do you love most about your role at IAG Cargo?

I enjoy getting to wear a number of different hats. You can pick up a textbook on HR, but the realities and practicalities are very different. You’re dealing with people’s thoughts and emotions, and everybody is unique. Some people might think the same way, or you could have one topic and ten different views on it. It’s how you bring that together and find common ground. I also like how varied and fast-paced it is.

Tell us about some of your initiatives.

We’ve launched a ‘Day to Make a Difference,’ which allows people to take time away from work to support causes that are really important to them. This has a positive social impact, which is part of our vision. We’ve also got ‘Great to Be You’ that focusses on diversity and inclusion. Recently we championed Black History Month. Also, we had an initiative to encourage people to simply have tea or coffee with somebody and chat. It’s about getting to know people as individuals. To help sustain the improvement agenda in the long term and encourage a culture of employee involvement, we’ve created our new programme COLAB. Any colleague can go online, make a suggestion and then receive immediate feedback from peers. 

And I’m delighted that we are sponsoring EveryWoman in Transport & Logistics Awards 2023, a programme dedicated to developing the female talent pipeline and showcasing true talent, rewarding achievement and celebrating success. Sponsoring this event also provides a great opportunity to shine a light on IAG Cargo’s brand and values within the transport and logistics arena.

Could you tell us about the graduate and apprenticeship scheme restart?

It’s going really well! We’ve had some great feedback from the graduates after only a month of joining the company. The 2-year programme offers graduates the opportunity to move across various areas of the business; from distribution and transformation, to marketing and revenue management. This approach allows those on the scheme to gain a breadth of knowledge and experience, whilst also being exposed to meeting colleagues across different departments. 

We had an executive lunch as part of their onboarding, so we could get to know everyone as individuals and build those relationships. We hope it made them feel like they know us better and can readily approach us with any support they need.  

Which initiative are you most excited about?

How we engage people meaningfully, so they bring their hearts and minds to work. It excites me because I think it’ll really shift the culture. Also, learning and development. We’ve been working with a global provider to offer online learning for every role within the company. There are resources to develop soft and technical skills which may be relevant to an employees’ day job or future aspirations. It’s also something we’ve been able to offer on a global basis. There are also language courses with Rosetta Stone, which is important for a global business. The business language is English, but we’re supporting colleagues who would like to expand beyond this. 

Why is it important to get more young talent involved in the logistics industry?

There’s a drive for transformation and digitalisation, different ways of working, as well as insight and analytical skills to help inform the right business decisions. Since the logistics industry typically has long-serving communities, it’s important to relate to future customers by having a good pipeline of emerging talent. This complements the existing skills and experience within the organisation. Through working together and sharing knowledge with a fresh perspective, we’ll help drive inspiration and innovation.