By Pamela Mattsson, SVP People and Organisational Development at Outreach
When implemented properly, DE&I initiatives hold the potential to create a better work experience as it makes people feel valued and supported by the organisation, which in turn helps with improving overall employee retention, motivation and productivity.
At Outreach, intentionally building a company and leadership team with diversity in mind has enabled the organisation to create a work environment where employees from diverse backgrounds feel safe, secure and valued by their colleagues. An inclusive culture also allows employees to bring their full selves to work. Besides, consumers are also more likely to support a business that provides equal opportunities for individuals regardless of their gender or racial background.
In fact, according to recent research by Forrester, commissioned by Outreach, 94% of sales leaders believed that recruiting and retaining a diverse sales team will be key for the success of their organisation moving forward. The study also revealed that brand purpose now plays a critical role in the buyer’s decision-making process, as consumers become more aware of the problems related to discrimination both in and out of the workplace. So how do we champion each employee to foster more diversity, equity, and inclusion at our firm? We’re doing things your company can do too.
Organisations today need to understand that simply hiring many people from various underrepresented backgrounds does not necessarily contribute toward the success of a DE&I strategy.
In fact, according to a study by McKinsey, which surveyed employees at tech, finance and healthcare companies, it was found that although most felt positive about diversity, over 61% responded or showed negative sentiments when asked about inclusivity within their organisation. This happens when employees feel like they are a token hire within an organisation that prioritises visual diversity over inclusive behaviours.
Hence, companies that dive into DE&I initiatives also need to create engagement programs to ensure that these employees feel genuinely valued and respected in their workplace. And that we celebrate culture “adds” rather than culture “fits.”
Rather than just claiming that an organisation supports diversity and inclusion, businesses now need to ensure they provide equal opportunities to everyone within the workforce. By providing opportunities for advancement to people with varying skills, personalities and perspectives, businesses can better position themselves to build high performing teams where people feel psychologically safe, can take risks, and do their best work.
This also involves taking a closer look at what the team is currently lacking in terms of diversity, and making decisions that lead to better representation. For instance, if your senior management team mainly consists of people from a specific gender or ethnicity, considering hiring sources – changing up the interview process and ultimately diversifying this group can help the company gain various perspectives, which is key to decision making for global businesses.
While it may be impossible to create a workplace that emulates the comfort of working from home, organisations still need to work on building an office space that prioritises the well-being and safety of its employees, regardless of their unique needs. This includes designing and creating a workspace that accommodates the needs of all individuals, including those with both visible and invisible disabilities.
For example, by building in ramp access and fitting workstations with customisable and ergonomic furniture, organisations can ensure that all employees are able to comfortably work and move around the office. In addition to structuring the office space for maximum comfort, employers should also look into making their restrooms more comfortable for use with gender-neutral single occupancy toilet cubicles that are well stocked with all the necessary amenities including hygiene products.
At Outreach, our newly opened office in Atlanta has been built from the ground up with accessibility and inclusivity in mind. Fitted with size-inclusive furniture, doors and appliances with appropriate weight and handles to accommodate dexterity impairments, the office also features gender-inclusive single-occupant restrooms, private and secluded wellness room for self-care and a new parent’s room for nursing parents.
While the physical safety of the workplace is paramount to maintaining a truly inclusive work environment, businesses shouldn’t neglect psychological safety. By creating a working culture where employees can be truly themselves without judgement, business leaders can improve information sharing, help employees learn from each other’s unique perspectives and continue to grow, both personally and professionally. This improves talent retention and allows employees at all levels to have a say in the way the business is run. It also helps with enhancing the management practices of the organisation by preventing discrimination and promoting inclusiveness all throughout the organisation.
While policies are the cornerstone of any change management strategy, they aren’t enough to make a company truly inclusive. Companies need to combine policy with action. Actions like providing access and training for practical tools that empower employees of all backgrounds, is a great step to take in effort to foster inclusion.
Many traditional work processes are designed with able-bodied, neuro-normative, extroverted people in mind. For example, a traditional sales function would require salespeople to pick up the phone and have meetings with prospects to sell them products. This way of working is based on the assumption that the seller can be present in the room, both physically and mentally, and interact in a way that will suit the prospect. This has created barriers to entry to a wide range of people who could excel at sales – but simply need access to the right accommodating tools to perform.
Today, sales execution platforms allow anyone to be a strong seller: introverts, who often make good listeners, can use them to gather all the facts they need to mentally prepare themselves to act as consultants to their prospects. Neurodivergent people who may struggle with eye contact and close proximity can do video calls or use social selling to easily engage with prospects in a way that works for both parties. Nearly anyone can also use a live AI coach to bring up social cues about the buyer’s intent that they may otherwise have missed. People with attention deficit disorder and similar conditions can use automated sales sequences and scheduling features to help them keep track of – and stay focused on – all the activity without worrying should they forget something. People with physical impairments can also use these platforms to work in a way that supports their specific needs – whether using video calls from the comfort of their home or automated transcripts for future use.
Sales execution platforms are designed to make sales as efficient and easy as possible. The advent of automation, AI and the growing range of complementary features that have recently become mature enough to scale means that they can also level the playing field to enable anyone to be a powerful seller – and effectively make it possible for sales leaders to hire from a much wider pool of talent to power inclusive sales engines set for the future.
Diversifying the makeup of teams and creating an inclusive work environment that caters to the needs of different individuals can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, particularly for organisations at the start of their DE&I journey.
Your DE&I strategy should include a combination of inclusive talent hiring and retention; creating spaces that are welcoming for everyone; creating a culture where everyone can feel psychologically safe and leveraging the right technology to give employees their best chance for success. Businesses that strike the right balance will not only be successful in the short-term, but rather they are also creating a business culture that will attract talent, investors and clients for years to come.
Pamela leads Outreach’s People and Organizational Development team and is responsible for building values-driven, human-centered and inclusive developmental experiences for all Outreach employees from individual contributors to C-Suite. She ensures the company’s culture is strong and pervasive, yet challenges each employee to be the best version of themselves by expanding and evolving with each and every culture-add (vs. culture-fit). She enables Outreach to walk the talk of our core values, and solidify the behaviors, systems and symbols that allow those values to scale.