XPO Logistics: the freight firm teaching diversity and inclusion to its staff and leaders

Via teaching and partnerships with disability and LGBTQ+ organisations, XPO is loud and proud about its inclusion mission

DiversityQ meets Lynn Brown, Vice President of Human Resources — UK and Ireland at XPO Logistics, a global freight business that’s teaching its staff to be better allies in the diversity and inclusion journey.

XPO is changing the narrative on who the supply chain transportation sector is open to, which goes beyond stereotypical images of men driving trucks.

“There’s an assumption that the roles are all manual. But that’s just a lack of understanding about the variety of roles that exist, including business development, finance, IT, HR, and legal functions,” says Brown who despite only being with the firm a few months is already impressed by its inclusion record.

Aside from using social media to highlight the varied careers available in the sector, XPO sponsors community events in areas where they have a presence to highlight their inclusivity as a firm.

A couple of examples are their sponsorship of Tamworth’s first-ever Pride festival in Staffordshire this year, as well as the Birmingham Pride Show, signalling their support for LGBTQ+ employees and future recruits.

External pledges of inclusion

XPO’s partnerships are another example of the efforts they are making to become a more inclusive business. “We’re actively working to tap into pools of people from different backgrounds, creating pathways into XPO that are relevant to their personal goals.”

Such partnerships include working with ex-armed forces organisations and an employment programme run by the Downs Syndrome Association, which in Brown’s words, is to help XPO understand and break down the barriers to employment “from a disability perspective.”

Internally, XPO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is clearly stated by their CEO Brad Jacobs, who Brown says embeds it “top-down” via a series of “completely unwavering commitments.” As a result, XPO has created a culture where diversity and inclusion policies are genuinely believed to create better employee engagement and business innovation, as well as workplace equity.

Internal diversity and inclusion infrastructure

On a practical level, XPO’s “global D&I team” is tasked with upskilling staff across the business in the ways of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) from a knowledge perspective, which includes giving them “the tools to create more diverse workplaces.” There’s also an internal communications channel to promote related DE&I activities and commend people who are getting behind the agenda.

For new mothers there is XPO’s maternity returners policy which ensures that women returning from maternity leave “can do so in a manner that suits them and enables them to continue to drive their careers and their development,” says Brown.

Last year, XPO launched eight Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), including a multicultural employees and allies group, a women’s employees and allies group, and an LGBTQ+ group. “It’s about creating opportunities for people within these groups to come together globally and share their experiences in the workplace,” says Brown, who adds that group collaboration can help develop better inclusion policies for the business. “You get firsthand feedback about the workplace, and by understanding that you’re able to put in place policies and programmes that strengthen the culture.”

XPO is also serious about career progression and developing inclusive leaders. This year, they launched “The Everyday Leader: Building a Culture of Inclusion” programme to train leaders “to assess the culture they are working in and to challenge anything they see that gets in the way of building an inclusive workplace.”

Teaching is an integral part of XPO’s diversity and inclusion journey, and XPO University, the organisation’s central teaching hub, is an essential platform for delivering the programmes.

Building knowledge for better allyship and career progression

In 2020, XPO University created a universal teaching programme called “Stepping Forward Together: Becoming an Effective Ally.” According to Brown, the programme, available to everyone across the business, is about “ensuring that employees have the tools they need to help advance diversity and inclusion and feel comfortable speaking up and challenging things.”

Brown adds that many of XPO’s diversity and inclusion programmes are in multiple languages to ensure accessibility, while many are compulsory for XPO staff.

XPO believes that allyship is another important way to ensure D&I is achieved. However, in Brown’s words, people have to understand D&I first in order to be an effective ally, which is why knowledge-building is such a crucial part of the firm’s diversity and inclusion experience.

There are also self-development courses and workshops on offer to XPO staff which Brown thinks has contributed to the firm’s impressive female retention and progression rates. “Out of our new hires in 2020, almost a third were female and 30% of our global promotions that year were female. So, I think we’re demonstrating that we can hold onto top-shelf talent and bring these women up through the organisation.”

Another innovative programme XPO has developed is called “XPO Rise” which helps identify talent for future leadership roles and ensures these colleagues develop their skills with diversity and inclusion in mind. “As our future leaders move up through the pipeline for executive roles they are already aware of D&I and the different challenges that could exist in that space,” she says.

Before our conversation ends, Brown wants to clear up another falsehood about the transportation sector namely that it lacks innovation. “It’s a very fast-moving and varied sector,” she says. “During the pandemic, many of our customers got very busy and while the job got more challenging that in itself is creating new career opportunities. It shone a light on the dynamic supply chain world and its excellent career paths.”

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