The channel has made significant strides in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in recent years but still has a ways to go in terms of looking at business through a DEI lens.
This concept has been laid out pretty comprehensively in recent years. Real, quantifiable benefits come from diversifying your workforce and developing in-house resources to support inclusivity.
Organizations like Xposure Inclusion & Diversity Council, Channel Futures, and Alliance of Channel Women are breaking serious ground every day, advocating for equity and inclusivity in this industry we all love.
So, why should you strive for a diverse and inclusive organization?
“First, you want to attract the best candidates possible, not just the candidates that fit an existing non-diverse culture,” says Kris Blackmon, chief channel officer, JS Group, and board member of Xposure. “This includes making sure your leadership team is also diverse.”
For example, Culture Amp says that only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention.
“Second, a lack of diversity leads to innovation bias, where the go-to-market strategies companies develop inadvertently ignore valuable, diverse routes to market and product/solution deliverables that appeal to a wide variety of backgrounds and experience,” continues Blackmon. “Diversity is a great thing for the bottom line.”
For instance, Fast Company says that a higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders. And companies with higher-than-average diversity have about 19% higher innovation revenues, according to HBR.
“Third, Gen Z and millennials want to work for companies that promote DEI within their organizations and strive for equitable, supportive cultures,” Blackmon concludes.
Glassdoor says that 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an essential factor in employment opportunities. More than 50% of current employees want their workplace to increase diversity. Plus, the millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history: only 56% of the 87 million millennials in the country are white, compared to 72% of the 76 million members of the baby boomer generation, according to CNN.
When an organization seeks to build an inclusive space, the quantifiable benefits of diversifying your workforce are both immediate and long-standing as the culture elevates.
“One of the initiatives that Xposure spearheaded in 2021 was the renaming of ‘master agents’ to ‘technology solutions brokerages,'” says Kelli Ballou-McMillan, global partner manager, channels for Five9, Inc., and founder and CEO of Xposure. “While not everyone was on board, it was tone-deaf for an industry to utilize the term ‘master’ knowing the historical context that we understand the term to identify. I use this example to identify the benefit of using inclusive language because it widens the talent pool we invite into the channel. The various experiences that new and diverse talent will bring to the industry is an opportunity to change, grow and elevate our organizations.”
Building resources to support inclusivity within your organization allows for internal and external growth within your company’s culture. One way to accomplish this is by polling your current teams to identify what they need. Is it mental health support services? Community outreach programs? More specific employee resource groups? And so on. These resources are intended for individuals to advocate for themselves and build closer-knit relationships within the organization.
What does it look like to demonstrate a commitment to DEI and actively advocate for these issues?
Changing a culture to be more diverse and inclusive has to come from the top down; it’s a mandate that should be passionately advocated for by the highest levels of the executive team.
“Trying to increase inclusivity in the workforce or diversity in hiring practices is much more difficult if it comes from the bottom up,” says Blackmon. “For recruitment purposes, HR needs to develop an affirmative action plan (AAP) and make sure they are advertising job postings in forums that appeal to diverse candidates, such as community-based platforms, rather than just Indeed or similar job boards. HR also needs to create employee resource groups to increase equity and inclusivity among a diverse workforce. Working with a group like Xposure can elevate internal DEI efforts quickly.”
ERGs are also great for retainment. They provide effective feedback on what’s working in DEI initiatives and what needs more work.
Blackmon says that HR should create an objective scorecard for performance reviews to provide equal advancement opportunities within the organization. Utilizing a scorecard ensures that growth is measured in hard and fast metrics rather than subjective feedback influenced by inadvertent bias or personal opinion. Although a programmatic approach to DEI+A will look different for every organization, the dedication must be genuine.
“When I think of advocacy around DEI+A, I inherently lean into the equity piece of this quartet as a way to gauge your program’s success,” says Ballou-McMillan. “Equity is the ultimate outcome because it acknowledges individuals’ varied experiences or diversity of thought. Advocacy around equity provides access to tangible resources that include the building blocks to a cohesive and successful program.”
Ballou-McMillan outlines these starting points as the following:
- Financial: Is everyone paid equally based on talent, skillset, time spent, etc., so there are fewer opportunities for gaps?
- Mentorship: Are there opportunities to shadow a senior leader and identify one’s career journey, whether in 1-to1 or 1-to-many relationships?
- Education opportunities: Are there DEI courses, certifications, or company-sponsored speakers?
- ERG: Are there Employee Resource Groups that allow for advocacy of allies and specific groups to collaborate and elevate each other’s voices?
It is more important than ever to stand with those companies in the channel who have demonstrated a commitment to DEI and are actively working to advocate for these issues. Not only is it essential to be a supporter of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but it is advantageous to your business as well.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Create goals that reflect your company culture or the culture you are trying to create. It is vital to seek feedback from across your team to do this. Creating a feedback loop could be done with an anonymous employee survey or a dedicated meeting. Regardless of the retrieval method, leadership can gain valuable insights and direction by listening to the team.
- Learn what resources to leverage. Take a look at businesses in your industry with successful DEI models, curate an internal employee panel for guidance and seek outside organizations with a DEI focus and programs.
- Examine the representation of diverse talent within your company. Companies should advance diverse talent into executive, management, technical, and board roles. It is also important to set suitable data-driven targets to represent diverse talent.
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