Managing 43,000-plus employees
Kim discloses knack in controlling mammoth outfit
By Kim Tae-gyu
It is very difficult to lead any organization whether it is small or big, which is the reason why so many scholars have devoted their lives to the studies of leadership in history.
In particular, the leader’s hardships tend to snowball when the organization’s size gets bigger because communication with members becomes more complicated.
Here is a figure who has assumed the tall task of heading Korea Post, one of the largest public companies in the country with up to 43,000 employees in around 3,600 offices.
``Obviously, Korea Post is a very big organization and worse, it is spread across the country. As you are aware, a mother with a large brood never has a peaceful day,’’ Korea Post President Kim Myong-ryong said in an interview with Business Focus.
``Topping other things off, it is tough to communicate through the multiple tiers to all the workers. One of my top priorities over the past year has been to focus on internal communication.’’
Kim, who took charge of the state-run postal service provider in early 2011, came up with four principles in better communicating with both rank-and-file workers and senior executives.
``I capitalized on the official routes to learn the opinions of our employees and let them know the policies and focuses of Korea Post,’’ the life-time bureaucrat said.
``However, the official lines were not sufficient and I have looked for many other means for better internal communications so as to find a few principles.’’
The first one was to set up a clear-cut goal to achieve a certain policy and the second one is to secure the voluntary approval and participation of Korea Post workers.
Kim stressed the significance of the second golden rule of voluntarism.
``You may take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. Just as the proverb indicates, voluntarism is the best way in jacking up acceptance of employees for specific policies or measures,’’ the 54-year-old said.
``In a big organization, leaders are prone to make top-down orders but overly high reliance on such an approach is feared to undermine acceptance and resultantly the efficiency of any steps.’’
As specific action plans, Kim said that those at the top jobs should explain the backgrounds of policies as well as encourage all the members to take part in the process of making decisions.
``It is quite troublesome and time-consuming to involve many people. But such a bottoms-up approach offers much better end results in comparison to costs needed,’’ Kim said.
Related to the second principle, the third rule is to delegate powers to regional offices and the final one is to stage seamless efforts to complete once specific directions are set.
``We decide just the outlines and allow regional offices to add or subtract some factors in tandem with the unique characteristics of each office and region,’’ the president said.
``Then, we keep an eye on whether any policy and step are executed just as initially planned and remind people of them via various manners like e-mail, handset massages and social network services on top of official routes.’’
Under the leadership philosophy, Kim made a dedicated section on the website of Korea Post where employees of the postal service can directly speak to their head at any time and at any place.
Kim deals with all the messages on his own and such a low-key stewardship is seemingly one of the key factors that have helped Korea Post attain business success despite the recent economic woes.
Korea Post aimed to chalk up revenues of 2.5 trillion won and operating profits of 200 billion won last year but Kim and his underlings surpassed the goals, achieving 2.6 trillion won in sales and 248.4 billion won in profits.
This is far better than other postal services in advanced economies such as the United States and Japan.
The United States Postal Service has recorded operating losses for five years in a row including $8.5 billion in 2010, according to Korea Post. Its losses stood at $5.6 billion during the first three quarters of 2011.
Korea Post’s Japanese counterpart also clocked around 1.5 trillion won in losses during its fiscal year 2011, which spans from April 2010 through March 2011.
Without regard to the struggles of other postal services, Kim strives to further crank up the turnover to 2.65 trillion won this year while increasing financial assets to 97 trillion won.
``We will pull out all the stops for the substantive growth of our mail sector and financial division so that we will be able to become a model of the government-run enterprises,’’ he said.
As far as the cross-border express mail offerings are concerned, Korea Post boasts of a storied success case based on its international express mail services (EMS).
When it debuted in 1979, its annual customers were merely 600 but the figure skyrocketed by some 10,000 times to reach 5.97 million in 2009, 6.23 million in 2010 and 6.92 million last year.
With Kim at the helm, Korea Post is expected to top the 7 million mark for the first time this year as the number has already reached 3 million as of the end of last month.
``For parcels whose weight is less than 30 kilograms, we carve out up to 35.6 percent of the market to remain ahead of the pack,’’ Kim said.
``Regarding the service quality, we are also second to none as recognized by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). We will keep marching so as to offer better services.’’
The UPU, a specialized institute of the United Nations, granted the top Gold Level to Korea Post for five years in a row from 2006 through 2010. The annual awards are given based on the appraisals of 150-plus UPU members on such criteria as service performance and track.