Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a commitment to honor individuals and embed the spectrum of their perspectives across the organization. Leaders implementing advanced DEI programs actively assess their customers, talent and business models through these additive perspectives, ultimately aligning the three components to enhance their market position.
Effectively implementing DEI requires leaders not only to show inherent respect for their employees, but also to follow verbal commitments with concrete and measurable actions. Executives that successfully align commitments to actions are able to tap into the exponential creativity of their workforce, leveraging this energy to deliver more significant value propositions to customers.
Addresses how a person self-identifies, including race, gender identity, age, religious affiliation and sexual orientation. In addition, their education, personality, cultural references, experiences and physical abilities can all be part of their unique voice.
Includes how people are treated, including fair and equal access to resources, career paths, promotions and training.
Builds a culture that invites people to participate. As a result, their opinions and actions are heard, valued and respected.
The role of a corporate leader, and in particular that of a revenue leader, has changed from one who commands to one who listens.
Revenue leaders listen to market signals to anticipate and successfully navigate disruptions. They also listen intently to sellers, service and front-line workers to capture the ever-evolving voice of the customer. Effective revenue leaders are active listeners, consistently gathering information from a wide variety of trusted sources in order to keep a finger on the pulse of their employees, customers and competitors.
Revenue leaders who incorporate diverse voices into their collection of trusted sources are able to identify and address gaps within their market that are invisible to less attentive competitors.
One such gap is the rising importance of delivering exceptional customer experience (CX) to meet the expectations of increasingly savvy consumers. According to Tracy Robertson, global VP of Customer Experience at Kimberly-Clark, “80% of surveyed customers state that the buying experience is now as important as the products or services they buy.” Customers need to trust sellers, their products, and the people who deliver them.
Revenue leaders recognize that capturing and elevating diverse voices internally is a valuable input to the CX equation. A diverse workforce is better equipped to capture and service the voices of the customers and communities it serves. Nearly half of the leaders surveyed in Alexander Group’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey in stated “meeting or exceeding customer expectations” as a primary reason for investing in DEI programs, acknowledging the connection between maintaining a diverse, motivated revenue organization and exceptional CX.
Although the process of embedding DEI into the revenue organization is unique to each company, the most important step is to commit to a long-term vision that aims at continuous improvement. Alexander Group research shows that, across the board, companies not yet implementing various DEI programs tended to perceive them as potentially less effective, whereas companies that have already made large strides in program implementation lauded their programs as highly effective.
Alexander Group Survey data: Most revenue organizations that are not implementing various DEI programs are cautious because of low expected effectiveness. In contrast, revenue organizations that have committed and are fully implementing DEI programs are seeing the benefits.
As with any transformation, the road to building strong DEI programs may seem daunting without clear insight into each program’s ROI; however, companies that are first-movers in committing to a best-practice mindset recognize their ongoing investments as worthwhile, already citing improvements in talent acquisition, retention, and meeting or exceeding their customer expectations. Nearly 80% of revenue leaders responding to Alexander Group’s DEI survey saw improvements in organizational culture as a result of DEI investments made in the past 12-18 months.
The volatile market conditions brought about by the pandemic have challenged revenue leaders to actively calibrate execution of strategic opportunities against a public health crisis that has impacted their employees in unique and often difficult-to-predict ways. Many leaders have engineered flexibility within the virtual workplace in response to employees facing mounting pressures of childcare and mental and physical health. Executives that have failed to understand and address these pressures now face a growing talent gap, as many employees seek out organizations with an embedded DEI philosophy.
Even in normal market conditions, revenue organizations that commit to DEI programs acknowledge and nurture the value of their employees. Alexander Group survey data shows that 57% of revenue leaders cited “acquiring diverse, well-qualified talent” and “retaining diverse, high-performing talent” as primary reasons for investing in DEI programs. Notably, the DEI practice that receives the most buy-in from revenue leaders aims to promote an equal share of childcare: of 13 potential DEI programs described in the survey, providing paid parental leave was by far the most highly implemented and highly effective measure.
Another approach to successfully embedding DEI practices into company culture is to establish a DEI-focused task force composed of individuals across all levels of the organization. This is a highly implemented practice across companies: 71% of Alexander Group survey respondents cited advanced or fully implemented DEI task force programs. Collaboration across levels of the revenue organization encourages different generations to learn from one another, helping executives directly access and incorporate diverse opinions into both internal governance and go-to-customer strategies.
According to Stacy Tiger, EVP & chief HR/experience officer at Allegiance Bank, “one approach to successfully attracting and retaining top talent is to match the energy and expectations of early-career employees, who tend to be more vocal about workplace expectations and expect an inclusive environment.”
Wendy Bahr, chief commercial officer at Rubrik, adds that “retaining diverse and best-in-class talent requires introducing flexibility into the workplace in the form of flexible working hours, continued work-from-home models, or hybrid-remote programs. Because nearly all firms have experimented with flexible work models in response to the pandemic, employees at all levels will continue to expect some degree of flexibility from leading organizations going forward.” 61% of revenue leaders surveyed by Alexander Group stated that their firm had already implemented flexible work hours, with another 29% in the beginning stages of implementing flexibility into the revenue organization.
In addition to being attentive listeners to the voices of their employees and customers, revenue leaders need to communicate their DEI implementation intentions and progress frequently, collecting and incorporating employee feedback as they expand the programs. Stacy Tiger highlights a best practice taken by Allegiance Bank: “Always accompany statements of value with statements of action. This keeps revenue leaders accountable to their employees and encourages more transparent and authentic communication, which is essential to an inclusive workplace.”
DEI starts at the top but is practiced at the front lines. That is why companies increasingly focus on program implementation rather than just communication of commitment. For instance, revenue leaders are increasingly focused on identifying and eliminating disparities in sales compensation plans. Nearly 50% of Alexander Group’s DEI survey participants are in the exploratory/beginning stages of designing fair and more equitable quotas; approximately 40% are exploring systematically evaluating pay levels for equity.
Delivering an exceptional customer and employee experience requires a workplace culture of respect, teamwork and resilience. Revenue organization workplace culture is not created overnight and involves a commitment to help employees to achieve their potential. While compensation is a key factor, it is not the only element. Feeling valued, connecting with the company vision, and having advancement opportunities are key elements to strong culture and cohesion. Employees trust that the organization will support them, and in turn, they offer their skills and high productivity to achieve company goals.
Unlocking those skills, especially within collaborative teams, is just one of the benefits of a respectful DEI environment. Studies show that groups that are well-managed, respected and guided toward a common goal create uncommon results. In addition, these teams require diversity of thought, which can only be effectively delivered within an inclusive environment.
Implementing a DEI program takes time, but its success can be measured, including using data to assess equity for women and minority groups. Sample metrics include representation (in sellers, managers, support roles), pay (including base and incentive), tenure (time in a role/time to promotion), quota achievement, and employee turnover.
Alexander Group’s DEI survey reveals that the highest category tracked among revenue organizations is recruitment, where 82% track multiple DEI categories, followed by leadership representation, where 67% track multiple categories. Over half (52%) track multiple categories for termination, and 45% track promotions and compensation.
Listening to diverse voices is the first step. Implementing and refining measurable actions is a necessary second step. The time has come for revenue leaders to do not only do what is right but what is necessary to achieve a new level of relevance and competitiveness in the market. By embedding DEI within the culture, revenue organizations can reap financial benefits in addition to the respect of their employees, customers and competitive peers, ultimately setting a new standard in their industry.
Alexander Group understands your revenue growth challenges. Since 1985, we’ve served more than 3,000 companies across the globe. This experience gives us not only a highly sophisticated set of best practices to grow revenue—we also have a rich repository of unique industry data that informs all our recommendations. Aligning product, marketing, operations and finance efforts behind a successful sales organization takes insight and hard work. We help the world’s leading organizations build the right revenue vision, transform their organizations and deliver results.