Leadership 6 min

How This Chief People Officer Retains Top Talent During the Great Resignation

Bradford Wilkins, chief people officer of Loadsmart, shares how the company approaches hiring and prevents attrition.

by Kaitlin Milliken on November 5, 2021

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  • Loadsmart predicts a 152% jump in headcount by the end of 2021

  • Loadsmart’s chief people officer focuses on creating a clear career path for employees

  • Loadsmart rolled out an online portal with the exact steps employees must take for a promotion

  • The company shifted to a hybrid model with early-career roles seated in-office

When in search of a promotion, employees are often left to their own devices to prove their value. At Loadsmart, an on-demand logistics platform, the path to a title bump is clearly laid out. 

The over 400-person logistics company has a career progression program called CLEAR, an acronym that stands for Career path, Learning objectives, Expectations, Accountabilities, and Rewards. When employees log into this online portal, they can see the next title for someone in their current role, and the exact steps an employee can take to move up. Once an employee achieves these milestones, they receive the title change. The program also indicates the compensation that awaits an employee after a promotion. 

“A mistake a lot of companies make is the strategy they use for attraction goes out as soon as you bring [employees] into the house,” says chief people officer Bradford Wilkins. “You [need to] create an environment where people can make a difference and can grow their career.”

Loadsmart deploys artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate how cargo freights are priced, booked and shipped.

According to Wilkins, CLEAR, which was rolled out this fall, is one way the Loadsmart team creates transparency and enacts a strategy focused on retaining top talent. The company predicts a 152% jump in headcount by the end of 2021, hiring over 200 employees in the last six months alone. In November 2020, Loadsmart closed a $90 million round of Series C funding. 

During a conversation with Senior Executive Media, Wilkins shared best practices for finding talent and building culture for a scaling team. Read the edited interview.

Bradford Wilkins

You [need to] create an environment where people can make a difference and grow their career.

Bradford Wilkins, Chief People Officer, Loadsmart

Senior Executive Media: How do you attract the best talent to Loadsmart?

Bradford Wilkins: I don’t know if there is a role that isn’t difficult to fill in this current job market… The foundation of every company is really built on five key components. Compensation. Career. Community — am I a part of something? Contentment — do I get treated like an adult and have an opportunity to make a difference with autonomy? And cause — a mission, a vision that you’re excited about. 

We create focus around not only intentionally driving each of those categories, but also making sure that we can [focus on the right component for each] individual. For someone earlier in their career, compensation might be a more important driver than later in their career. Someday, the autonomy or the contentment may be part of it.

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Senior Executive Media: When it comes to scaling teams, sometimes maintaining the culture as you grow can be challenging. How are you working on that?

Bradford Wilkins: Where I anchor culture…is really to the core values. The reality is the engineers that might be in Brazil or in New York, are gonna have a different culture [geographically and based on the type of job] than my inside sales team in Chicago, or my marketing team in Boston. And so I think a lot of companies sometimes try to get so specific in their culture, that they actually exclude a lot of people in the organization…

Our inside sales team, we have happy hours… [We] went bowling on Thursday, right? So [that team] likes that. Whereas the engineers, we have hackathons. We’ve got an eight day hackathon in Brazil in December, where we’re flying people from all over the world, all of our engineering product groups, to work and to geek out and actually build real things that go into production. It’s that localization — not in a regional way, but localization in the sense of what the roles are…

And to me that the secret sauce is…intentionally looking at your core values and using them for hiring, firing, promotions, raises, development. For instance, we’re rolling out a new competency and skill framework called the Loadcode. We’re doing that here in Q4, and the basis of all of our four key competencies [for Loadcode] are our core values [clarity, teamwork, curiosity, and results and commitment]… It’s really integrated into everything you do. [In a document forwarded from Bradford, the values are used as frameworks that influence hiring, performance reviews, and compensation for team members.]

 So whether you’re that engineer, the product manager, the data scientist, or finance person, you have a consistent throughline. What it means to be a great individual contributor, what it means to be a great manager, and what it means to be a great leader here are consistent, regardless of the tactical day-to-day. 

Senior Executive Media: What tips do you have for leaders like yourself who are managing hybrid teams?

Bradford Wilkins: First and foremost, make a decision. As silly as that sounds, it’s really important that if you’re going to be full remote, go full remote. If you’re going to be hybrid, be hybrid. If you’re going to be in an office, be in an office. As long as you’re transparent on the front side. [Instead of changing the decision frequently.]

[When it comes to managing hybrid teams,] there’s so many things that you can do with intentionality to make sure that [being in office or at home are] distinctively different, and that we’re not just hybrid in name only. [For example, in the office], you’re not just going to your desk putting your head down, and not part of the community. 

[For example, for in person employees,] we are rolling out the League of Shadows — as part of our internal management development program. We identify high potential individual contributors in the sales org for new hires to “shadow” — but instead of doing it randomly, there are trainings dedicated to how to coach, how to explain, how to assess; and the new hires evaluate the person their shadowing’s effectiveness.  We also will offer other “Pre Management Training” for the high potential, instead of just throwing them into the deep end as a manager with no experience or worse, always hiring from the outside.

We’ll also have a quarterly doubles ping pong tournament with a trophy that can be displayed at your desk. You aren’t allowed to partner with someone from your department, so you are encouraged to meet new people across Loadsmart.

Generally the roles that we require to be in office, like a lot of our early career roles, we think about learning through osmosis and having the support system when you’ve had an hour of bad cold calling. … If you don’t need that osmosis, if you don’t need that learning, we don’t require you to come in-office. Those roles are fully remote. It’s also about figuring out what roles would benefit from a hybrid environment, not just doing it for doing it’s sake.


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