Conversation with Bertrand Abraham

Chief Human Resources Officer

Let’s be Team Players

Bertrand Abraham and his HR team are using the recently redefined Velogic Core Values to help the Business Units facilitate trade together. According to Bertrand Abraham, these values should serve as a guiding principle for employees, both locally and overseas, to help them become better team players.

Velogic is at a turning point in its corporate culture. How does the HR team make the core values come to life?

Like all businesses, since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, we have faced an unprecedented challenge where we have had to adapt to a new global environment. As an essential service provider, we have had to show great agility in order to deal with the constantly evolving global logistics challenges, whether it be for import or export by sea and air, or transport and other activities in the supply chain. Our values, Agility, Customer Centricity and Team Spirit are of prime importance to successfully accomplish our mission in facilitating trade. This also applies to the HR function, which is a support service to the different Business Units. Our role is to be attentive and to ensure that employees are comfortable and happy in their roles; whilst respecting company principles and the rules of good governance. We are team players who endeavour to build the team spirit.

In what ways has the rethinking of Velogic’s vision, core purpose and values been a driver of growth?

The launch of the Velogic brand occurred in 2009 in a different context to the one we are living in today. We are in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world where we must constantly question and challenge ourselves to ensure our survival, whilst contributing to the smooth running of the business world and that of our country. In this context, our new values are essential in order to help us face the challenges that have arisen since the beginning of this pandemic. Our vision is to become the regional logistics leader that trades sustainably.

How are you making sure that Velogic’s ‘new identity’ is understood in the same way by all of the employees, since they live on three continents and have different day-to-day realities?

Even if each country is living its own reality, we are all living with the aftermath of the pandemic. These are being exacerbated by the war in Ukraine that is affecting the global economy. During these challenging times, Velogic has been listed on the stock exchange market since last December. Two months prior to this, thirty managers – including Country Managers from outstations – participated in a workshop where we revisited our values, our vision and our core purpose with the help of the HR team from the Rogers group.

These new values have become the pillars of Velogic. They are universal and should guide us in our everyday work. How can we demonstrate agility and team spirit to help one another in our daily work? Our CEO has done a roadshow for the Mauritian team to share the new company values. This was a pre-empt to the training on Customer Centricity which will be followed by other training sessions on team spirit and agility. A similar exercise will have to be planned for the overseas territories so as to ensure consistency and that we are all on the same wavelength.

How has the role of CHRO evolved since the appearance of Covid, and in such an uncertain climate?

Since the pandemic, the HR team has devoted its energy to serving the Business Units, to help them operate in the best possible conditions. We did needful to obtain Work Access Permits, arranged transport to allow employees to attend work, motivate and convince employees – despite the climate of fear – that we are an essential service provider, without which retail outlets would be empty, pharmacies would run out of medicine, coal power plants and petrol stations would run out of stock. This also included the setting up of sanitary protocols with the Health & Safety team in order to minimise the spread of the virus. We also organised and encouraged the vaccination of employees in their interests, whilst respecting the individual’s rights to be vaccinated or not. In the prevailing circumstances, the role of CHRO was to provide the necessary support to the CEO and the management teams to maintain operations even though the country was in lockdown. And today, it is even more important to support them to make trade easy.

What kind of leader are you?

I aim at being an authentic person, who encourages and inspires others to be at their best whilst being fair, but firm if required. I want to help my colleagues and my team accomplish their goals by listening to their needs and trying to put myself in their shoes, reach win-win solutions and achieve the best possible outcome. My experience in industrial relations and trade union negotiations has greatly helped me to develop this approach. I am convinced that the majority of people want to give their best. And in order to satisfactorily accomplish their work, they need to be encouraged and have their self-confidence reinforced. Unfortunately, to err is human and sometimes, one needs to show understanding and empathy in order to help employees learn from their mistakes and improve.

Which role model inspires you professionally and personally?

I really like Simon Sinek, a British-American inspirational speaker, and author of books on management and motivation. I am particularly inspired by one of his sayings: “How do I help people be at their natural best”. I am convinced that leaders need to inspire trust and create a safe and healthy atmosphere for their teams to feel motivated and give their best.