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Diversity & Inclusion in Sales

Gigster hosted a panel of industry leaders to discuss the challenges we face in building an inclusive, diverse sales team. Here are a few key highlights

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a hot topic amongst the world’s tech community – more so here in Silicon Valley. However, there is a lack of conversation around how DE&I programs can be optimized for individual teams. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to solving issues related to DE&I and it is important that you understand the challenges associated with each part of your organization. Most of these conversations focus on how you can inclusively build an engineering team, but doing so for a sales team seems to be an afterthought in the tech community.

Here at Gigster, we’ve experienced first hand that the challenges associated with DE&I strategies aren’t exclusive to engineering or product teams, and I know we aren’t alone in that struggle. Identifying and hiring under-represented minorities in an Enterprise Sales team seems like an insurmountable feat, but with the right intention, an army of DE&I champions, the buy-in from your executive team, and a clearly defined strategy, we can all come together to influence positive change.

This summer, Gigster curated a panel of industry experts to discuss how they think about Diversity and Inclusion at their companies. Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:

It Starts at the Top
Jason Medley, VP of People Operations at Imgur, believes that if you truly want to move the needle forward, there has to be an evident Executive buy-in to motivate the rest of your organization. Your people are your most valuable asset and it is important that you invest in rallying everyone behind your initiatives if you want to succeed. But it doesn’t stop there, Jason and his team take it a step further by putting DE&I action plans into place for each Executive at Imgur, whose bonuses are influenced by their success against these plans. This may not be the right solution for your org, but this type of forcing function may be just what you need to kick your DE&I initiatives into high gear if you feel that the Executive team lacks the motivation to influence change. 

Aliisa Rosenthal, Head of Enterprise Sales at InVision, brought an interesting perspective given that the entire company consists of a remote workforce. Obviously, this is a unique structure that doesn’t work for every company, but has enabled her to tap into new markets with an entirely new pool of talent. Specifically, this type of organizational structure has been appealing to working parents and talent that may need the full-time work from home accommodation. Organization design aside, Aliisa has also set the expectations with her Recruiting team that they won’t make any hires unless there is a 50/50 gender balance in their candidate consideration set.

To expand on Medley’s point, getting executive buy-in is critical to the success of your DE&I programs. Recognizing that there is an issue and expressing intent simply isn’t enough to make a difference. It is important that you analyze and share you People data (e.g., demographic data, engagement data) amongst the leaders at your company to set change into motion. Erin Wilson, Co-Founder of Hirepool and former Head of Talent at Brightroll, presents this data in a way that shows the executive team how a lack of inclusion can lead to attrition and ultimately cost implications related to backfilling a position. For sales, think about things like missed quotas due to empty seats or deals lost if reps are spread too thin. Focus on the data and the impact on your company’s bottom line and you’re much more likely to instill a sense of urgency amongst your company’s leadership group.

Here is an example from Erin: Purely hypothetical, but say you have an attrition rate of 22%. By implementing structured interviewing we will reduce that attrition by an estimated 40%. With a current employee count of 200, using the average employee’s salary of $150,000 we will save an estimated $2.4M.

In this example, we’re showing the executives how investing relatively small amounts of budget in the diverse community we’ve hired, turns out to a net gain of millions.

Beyond Attracting Talent
We all know that uncovering and attracting a diverse set of candidates is only one of the many challenges that we face in scaling our organizations. How do we ensure that the incoming talent is going to be successful? Have we done all that we can to foster an inclusive environment for all walks of life? This is something that stays top of mind for Olivia Williams, Head of People Operations and Diversity at Welkin Health, as she builds out her People Ops strategy. Sometimes, you can make a measurable difference to your companies inclusion with lower-effort initiatives like recognizing cultural holidays, visibility into DE&I goals, and hanging posters and community flags around the office.

Like Erin, Olivia depends on the data to not only gain buy-in from the leadership team but to help prioritize where she and her team spend their energy. To do so, she becomes intimately familiar with the story the data is telling (by departments, by different demographics, by location, etc.) No one strategy fits every department and team, just like each department and team may have a different set of challenges as it relates to diversity and inclusion.

Creating and Empowering DE&I Promoters
If you feel that you and your organization have the right intent, the executive team is bought into your strategy, and you’re armed with meaningful data to help you measure success, you’re destined for greatness. How do we keep up that momentum? Aliisa has led negotiation workshops to help empower under-represented minorities in their offer negotiations and aid in closing the gender wage gap. This skill is also something that minorities in sales can utilize in their negotiations with customers, making them more successful in their jobs.

If you haven’t already, consider launching Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Beyond the obvious value of creating a community for the under-represented minorities at your company, these ERG members are an extension of your diversity task force and can help champion your initiatives across the company. Organization-wide visibility into the data and what DE&I programs your company is committed to will go a long way in creating advocates within your company.

Take Action
What we’ve outlined in this post only scratches the surface of what you can do to build and foster a diverse, inclusive environment for the employees and candidates at your organization. We leave you with this:

  • If you haven’t already, get started by defining a strategy and leveraging employees that are passionate about solving the problem. You may be surprised by how few people it can take to make a difference. This group may also be your future ERG leaders!
  • Understand what data is important to your executive team and what is going to motivate that group to make DE&I programs a priority for your company.
  • Take a step back to evaluate what your organization is doing to make all walks of life feel welcome with visible signs of allyship for your minority groups
  • Consider new hiring markets that you haven’t tapped into where remote resourcing may be a viable option.
  • Identify areas of your organization where there may be more diverse representation. Consider creating career mobility and promotion opportunities for those individuals to move into new functions where diversity may be lacking.
  • Invest in training and development at your company and ensure that everyone has access to the same professional development resources.

If you are interested in continuing the conversation and learning more about Gigster, follow our blog here.

The Gigster Blog is the official publisher of Gigster company news and updates. You can find insights into the company culture as well as pieces about design, engineering, and startups.

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