In an increasingly competitive talent market, leaders are embracing diversity and inclusion to build high-performing teams. Diversity can mean many things—including diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, disability, age, work experience, education, and many other backgrounds.
Research consistently shows us that different viewpoints can lead to greater collaboration, creativity, and problem solving, all of which are building blocks for successful teams of all kinds, including revenue operations teams. But building a team full of people of different backgrounds and experiences takes work.
At Generation Revenue 2021, Clari’s virtual conference for revenue operations, which included DEI and sales professionals, experts discussed different forms of diversity, as well as actionable strategies to build more diverse teams.
“You have to be deliberate. DEI doesn’t just happen by itself,” says Deepak Sharma, managing director at Deloitte. “There are everyday actions you start doing that make an impact in the long term.”
During the conference, Sharma shared his perspectives alongside Tammy Ramos, executive consultant at InclusionINC, Maria Tribble, former vice president of sales at PathFactory, and Valerie Lau, enterprise sales director at Clari.
These leaders shared four impactful DEI actions, including rethinking job descriptions, practicing allyship, building intergenerational teams, and creating a culture of openness that welcomes inclusion.
Sharma acknowledged that making change starts with taking action, but that action doesn’t have to be extraordinary. In fact, it can be downright ordinary.
Create horseshoes, not circles
For Sharma, creating a culture of inclusion starts with deliberately being open and welcoming. Rather than viewing your organization or individual teams as closed circles, Sharma recommends creating what he calls horseshoes.
“A horseshoe is always open, so there's always a way for new people and new ideas to come in,” Sharma says. “Think about how you can organize your teams around horseshoes, versus organizing around a circle.”
Creating a more open culture can start small. At Deloitte, the team calls simple yet impactful actions everyday equations. For example, every meeting includes an icebreaker question at the top with teammates choosing the next person to answer that question.
Questions might include:
- What’s something new you learned recently?
- Tell us about a recent win, personal or professional.
- What’s one of your favorite memories?
Asking informal, lighthearted questions can create new opportunities for teams to bond.
Recognize the power of intergenerational teams
Intergenerational learning is a two-way street. There’s value in being open-minded and willing to learn from your teammates, regardless of their age or experience. People who are earlier in their careers can learn new things from folks who have been working for decades—and vice versa.
Tribble notes that age-based discrimination is “alive and well.” She shared a personal experience about being passed over for a job in favor of an older male candidate who was presumably a better fit for leading a team of older male employees. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-time event for her.
“There are definitely many experiences I've had throughout my [professional] life around age,” she says.
With her teams, Tribble emphasizes valuing the contributions of teammates of all ages. There’s power in pairing up teammates with different experiences, and she facilitates these connections on the teams she leads.
“I had a team of enterprise account executives, ranging from mid 20s to late 50s,” she says. “I built out a buddy system for them, where I might pair someone who’s new to the sales profession with someone who’s been in management or consulting.”
Building an age-diverse team opens up new possibilities for peer-to-peer coaching that can empower individuals and improve team performance.
“What you need to be doing as you’re building and scaling your team is fostering collaboration and coaching inside the team,” Tribble says.
Rethink job descriptions
As Sharma noted, DEI must be an intentional practice. In hiring, that often means taking another look at your job description and its requirements.
- Should this role require a college degree? Or will relevant experience suffice?
- Is 5-10 years of experience a necessary requirement? Or can someone grow into this role?
- Does the person in this position need to come from the same industry? Or will experience in a different industry provide valuable perspective?
What if your best candidate for that open marketing specialist position worked in the service industry? A successful sales development representative (SDR) is an organized, quick-thinker with top-notch people skills, which could describe many professions, such as a bartender or a school teacher. Be open to the possibility of great candidates coming to you from non-traditional backgrounds.
Lau at Clari's career progression is a prime example. She left her role as a stockbroker on Wall Street for B2B technology sales. Her perspective on what matters to finance professionals has proved valuable in enterprise sales, where CFOs are often major stakeholders. Lau also shared her experience working on Wall Street, an environment of predominantly white men.
"As one of the few women on the trading floor, everyone always assumed I was a secretary, or an admin, despite my leadership position. So imagine a boy's club, but to the extreme," she says. "It was also very frustrating to see very few Asian leaders in rounds of promotions, even though the floor was majority Asian. It felt like all of us who were not white had to go the extra mile to prove ourselves."
Today, Lau is a top seller at Clari. But if we hadn't rethought our job description, requirements, and the qualities that make someone a successful candidate, we might’ve missed out on hiring Lau.
To incorporate DEI in your hiring process, managers can use actionable strategies that include intentionally expanding your talent pool and hiring for capabilities.
Practice and promote allyship
At GenR, Ramos of InclusionINC shared a framework called the “4 A’s of Allyship” that maps out what it looks like to be an ally to different people and communities.
- Awareness: Being an ally starts with understanding how different people face and experience oppression. “It’s being aware of our own human tendency to have unconscious biases that can lead to unintentional microaggressions, and microinequities in the workplace, which can cause people to feel devalued,” Ramos says.
- Advocacy: Use your privilege to work in solidarity and partnership with people who have been excluded, marginalized, or oppressed. Ramos notes advocacy can happen across recruiting, interviewing, and promoting.
- Accountability: Make a commitment to holding yourself and others accountable for your words and actions. Ramos says this principle is simple: ”If you see something, say something or do something.”
- Action: Taking action looks different for everyone. For some, it’s standing up for a colleague in a meeting, or seeking out diverse candidates. For others, it’s starting a workplace book club with lunchtime gatherings to discuss titles centered on DEI (as we’ve done at Clari).
As an ally, you’re not always going to do things perfectly. That’s why allyship is a practice.
Ramos says that ultimately, “it’s really about developing that spirit of humility and free curiosity, to broaden our understanding of different lived experiences.”