Before starting Flexport, I promised myself that I would always be my authentic self at work. A business like Flexport needed to exist—global trade is too important to our world for it to be this hard—but I wasn’t going to be the one to tackle it unless I could be myself throughout the process. In prior business environments, I found it draining to maintain an alter ego at work, one that exuded professionalism and certainty at all times, while suppressing other, more light-hearted aspects of my personality. As a result I became less engaged, and far less productive, until the situation became untenable for me.
As I made that commitment to be one authentic person, at work and in my personal life, I realized that to succeed I would need to create a culture for everyone else to do the same. Since Flexport’s inception, we’ve worked hard to create a welcoming culture, not just for candidates and employees, but also for others in our ecosystem to be their authentic selves. We want people to know that their quirks will be appreciated, their diverse backgrounds celebrated, and their ideas taken seriously.
When we say that Flexport’s mission is to make global trade easier for everybody, we really do mean everybody.
Global trade is the most diverse industry in the world. Every shipment requires a group of people from different parts of the planet, with different cultures, backgrounds, industries, roles, and experiences, to set aside those differences and collaborate to get stuff done. And our impact goes far beyond that: Almost all of humanity, everywhere on earth, now depends on international trade for important aspects of their daily life.
To support our mission, we are creating a culture that provides equal opportunities for all people to do the most meaningful work of their lives. Flexport must always be a company where every employee feels a real sense of belonging, regardless of their personal attributes. We seek to create equal opportunities for all people and do not discriminate against anyone because of their age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, ancestry, national origin, marital, veteran or citizenship status, religion, disability, or any other protected basis.
When we select for talent and skill, we look for unique capabilities that can advance our shared mission, along with a firm commitment to living our shared values. We also look for people who have overcome major challenges in their lives, because we see over and over again how star performers operate with growth mindsets that let them use adversity to get better. Further, we are committed to hiring and training generalists, to exposing our team to a diversity of experiences, and to ensuring our leadership has the capabilities to manage high-performing, cross-functional teams.
In addition to valuing a diversity of people, we also value people with a diversity of experiences. We think people who can move across disciplines seamlessly and relate with people from different backgrounds naturally have an advantage in identifying creative solutions. We’ve repeatedly seen the tremendous value created when combining two disciplines, or taking the best ideas from one discipline and applying them to another.
Most importantly, we must strive to create a culture that measures people on the value they create, where ideas win based on evidence, and where the people who make the best decisions earn more responsibility and make more important decisions. We also work hard to ensure market-based compensation, where pay is determined on the basis of the value a person creates as measured through objective evaluation and feedback processes, and never on politics, favoritism, or discrimination. The easiest person to fool is yourself, so we are committed to holding ourselves accountable through third party audits to regularly evaluate where we stand on the issues of compensation equity, and diversity in our workforce.
As we move toward that elusive ideal of a system where people wield influence according to their abilities and achievements rather than their personal attributes, it’s also not enough to merely judge on output, as tempting as that sounds. Before we can have a level playing field, we need to create a safe and inclusive culture, one where people at all levels and from all backgrounds are empowered to be their authentic selves, to make important decisions, to challenge those around them, to speak truth to power, to advocate for what is right, and to see their ideas tested in the laboratory of the real world.
We want to empower our employees to celebrate and invest in our diverse and inclusive culture with programs that include a program for transitioning veterans, a China-focused leadership program, a proliferation of recreational groups, and a speaker series featuring inspiring speakers from all walks of life.
In 2018 we are launching a range of programs to invest more in diversity and inclusion at Flexport. This month we’re hiring consultants to help us understand and implement best practices. We will aim to incorporate inclusive leadership training into our academy and leadership training starting in Q2. We will also increase our commitment to recruiting a diverse candidate pool, especially in our engineering team where our ratios are below the industry median. And we formally are committing to implement best practices in both operational processes, governance systems, and reporting transparency for diversity and inclusion.
In addition, this year we will formalize our rotational program into the Flexport Commercial Leadership Program. We want to encourage our commercial team members to work in new functions, disciplines, and regions of the world, plus receive additional management training and mentorship to prepare participants for general management and commercial leadership. We want our people to learn the capabilities and perspectives that come from an expanded range of experiences outside the role and geography where they first entered our company. We think this diversity of experience will prepare them to lead the many diverse, cross-functional teams at Flexport.
We can and will do more to make Flexport a diverse and inclusive workplace. Flexport turns five later this month and we have yet to operationalize many of the processes and governance systems we need to get results. As a leader, however, I am committed to listening, to learning, and to improving, and ultimately to driving our company to live up to the promise of our ideals.
Ryan PetersenFounder and CEO, Flexport
P.S. If you’d like to help us on this mission, please visit our careers page.