For Women’s History Month, we spoke to Angie Freeman, chief human resources Officer at C.H. Robinson, to conclude our series on women leaders who are helping to bridge the talent divide. With revenues of $13.5 billion and approximately 12,000 employees across the globe, C.H. Robinson is one of the world’s largest third-party logistics providers. Offering a supportive work environment, opportunities for career advancement, and incentives that reward success, C.H. Robinson has received more than 12 Best Places to Work awards from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Currently, Angie leads the company’s global talent strategies and oversees employee relations, benefits, recruiting, learning and development. Since joining the company in 1998, she has held numerous leadership positions, including her current post as president of the C.H. Robinson Foundation, which provides philanthropic support to local and global communities.
To gain insights on the success behind C.H. Robinson’s thriving work environment and lessons learned from her personal career journey, we asked Angie to share a few D&I strategies to help the next generation of talent to thrive in the workplace.
LeadersUp: As a chief human resources officer, what are your thoughts on the future of our nation’s workforce?
Angie Freeman: It’s an exciting time to be a talent leader, because our workforce is undergoing significant shifts. Smart employers are adapting to those changes and, as a result, have a powerful strategic advantage. Baby Boomers are retiring at a rapid pace, and the changing demographics pose a math problem. While Gen Xers are starting to move into leadership roles, there are not enough of them to replace the departing Boomers. So, Millennials and the new Generation Z workers will have to fill that talent gap. Gen Z is the most diverse in our nation’s history and has different expectations for their careers. Some researchers have found that a significant percentage—as high as 50% of potential employees from those two generations—say they don’t want to work in a typical corporate role. Instead, they prefer working for startups, doing freelance and contract work, or starting their own businesses. In addition, they also have much more information about job opportunities than the generations that came before them. So if we want to attract and retain the best people, those of us in corporate America have our work cut out for us in order to have talent to support our future growth plans.
Millennials and Z’s are looking for more transparency, stronger career paths and development opportunities. They want to work for companies that are good corporate citizens. They want to do work that is meaningful. They also have different expectations on benefits, work environments, and a range of perceptions about how long they should stay in a position.
All of this is challenging companies to think differently about talent. To attract and hire this new generation of great employees, businesses will have to revamp their recruitment strategies and consider accessing this generation through new tools and resources. This group of talent imay not have taken traditional paths but have experiences that are applicable and valuable.
The future for our nation’s workforce is exciting. With new challenges come new opportunities for growth, diversity, and inclusion.
LeadersUp: U.S. women account for 48% of the workforce but only 4.8% of top executives in the Fortune 500. As a woman in the C-suite, in y our opinion, what needs to be done to help change this?
Angie Freeman: In recent years, study after study has shown that companies with diverse leadership teams do better financially. We know that this is more than the right thing to do. It has a real and positive impact on the company’s bottom line. The business case is clear and now is the time to take action.
To make sustainable changes, we have to do more than implement a few diversity and inclusion programs. This conversation needs to happen in all parts of our business, especially as we look at our talent strategies and processes. By infusing D&I into our daily work, we will start to see the systemic changes and cultural shifts that are necessary to move the needle.
Finally, it has been said, “What gets measured gets done.” We have to set clear objectives for this work and then measure our progress.
At C.H. Robinson, we strongly believe that diversity and inclusion is more than an HR issue. The entire company must take ownership. This starts at the top, and we are thankful to have the strong support of our CEO, John Wiehoff, and the leadership team.
With that support, we’re able to invest in our people. We have conversations with our employees about their career goals and map out how those goals can be achieved. This may include training opportunities, taking on stretch assignments or new roles, networking, or sponsorship.
LeadersUp: What are examples of how C.H. Robinson promotes an inclusive workplace and how have these practices impacted your company’s success?
Angie Freeman: I think that creating an inclusive workplace is grounded in our people—the great people we have working for us at all of our 281 offices around the world. We want all of our employees to feel empowered and respected. When we provide a supportive work environment, employees can be more innovative and creative. This leads to better solutions for our customers, carriers and growers.