Labor constraints and a growing focus on racial and social equality have pushed many companies to add a new position to the C-suite focused on inclusion.
Positions like a chief diversity officer or chief people officer may have been historically rare in trucking, but they are becoming more popular as the industry looks for more ways to retain employees and expand the driver pool.
When XPO created the chief diversity officer role in 2020, LaQuenta Jacobs was tasked with leading the company's efforts to expand its talent pipeline within management to include more women and underrepresented groups.
“Companies that promote a diverse and inclusive workforce build a company culture that fosters innovation, higher employee engagement and leading expertise in the industry,” said Jacobs, who has worked in the HR field for the past 25 years and was previously senior director of human resources at XPO.
"[CPOs and CDOs] are definitely worth the investment and should be put on the same level as other C-suite officers ”
Partner at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles
If the past two years have taught employers anything, it’s how crucial it is for employees to have a positive experience when at work, and for them to also be happy, healthy and comfortable.
Amy Campbell, Chief People Officer at supply chain risk management company Overhaul, said her role was developed to support employees holistically. She focuses on employee relations and engagement, rolling out initiatives that target engagement and compliance. Her position also involves creating strategies around talent acquisition.
Campbell has a background as a mental health practitioner, and one of her first tasks as CPO was to interview truck drivers about pain points within their jobs so the company could better support them.
“If people feel comfortable showing up (at work) as their true authentic self, that leads to high performance,” she said. “Transportation and logistics businesses want high performing teams.”
"Companies that promote a diverse and inclusive workforce build a company culture that fosters innovation, higher employee engagement and leading expertise in the industry ”
Chief Diversity Officer for XPO Logistics
People and diversity officers have to keep up with the transformed nature of the workplace amid shifts to remote work and greater calls for companies to act on environmental and social justice issues.
“Our priorities remained stable at Overhaul, and we did our best to thrive through the pandemic,” said Campbell. “COVID-19 impacted how we approached our work because much of our thought and strategy had to support the remote world.”
In some cases, responsibilities go beyond the workforce. As CDO, Jacobs is also involved with XPO's supplier diversity efforts, working to expand the percentage of purchases allocated to diverse suppliers by a minimum of 10%.
Jacobs said her goals are constantly being evaluated. Last year XPO launched an Environmental, Social and Governance scorecard, which is linked to executive compensation, she said. It also includes metrics for attracting, retaining and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce, along with promoting supplier diversity.
“This commitment to diversity has helped pave the path forward by demonstrating the positive impact of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy on shareholder value,” Jacobs said.
Jennifer Wilson, a partner at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, said she’s seen more people with the title of Chief People Officer over the past five years, though noted "industrial companies have been slower to adopt this title."
The shareholder value these positions bring is one of the main reasons companies are creating new seats at the executive's table for CDOs and CPOs. C-suite positions that advise on talent, coach and carry the culture are very important to investors, said Wilson.
“They are definitely worth the investment and should be put on the same level as other C-suite officers," she said. "That will pay dividends to attract and retain talent.”