A new year means a fresh start. That’s extra true in 2021.
42% of the U.S. labor force now works from home. 26% are still working on site. 33% aren’t working at all.
Yes, the coronavirus pandemic is still ravaging the global economy. But this article isn’t about that.
Businesses nationwide have been forced to adapt to change in this unpredictable new environment. Plenty of companies have failed. But the survivors disproportionately appreciate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
You’re reading that right. Instead of becoming more cut-throat and insular, now more than ever before, businesses are creating an atmosphere that is welcoming, kind, and provides opportunities for all.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t going away in 2021. They’re taking over.
We’re digging in deep to understand more about how these trends are impacting sales teams, what it means for you, and how forward-thinking businesses—and people looking for new jobs—can turn the changing labor marketplace into a competitive advantage.
1. Continuous Training Optimizes Hiring Processes
The standard hiring process is a disaster. A massive and undeniable body of research has shown that even when you control for experience and education, it disproportionately excludes anyone whose ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender identity, family status, physical abilities, religion, age, and income level doesn’t align with the majority expectation.
Let’s be more clear about that: If you’re not a native-born, straight, Christian, able-bodied, 25–45 year-old cis-gendered white man with 2.1 kids, who already has a middle-class income, it is radically harder for you to get a job. Full stop.
This is a systemic problem that’s more complicated than “racist people in positions of power.” No person or company is perfect. But all too often, excellent job applicants are rejected for job roles for reasons that have very little to do with their likelihood of success.
- Our office is too far away for you.
- We don’t think you would enjoy working here.
- You just don’t seem like a good fit.
But there’s good news:
Unconscious bias and other fundamental flaws in hiring processes actually aren’t that hard to overcome.
In a modern global economy, hiring the same cookie-cutter sales reps doesn’t look good on-site or on paper. But this is about far more than just appearances.
Business executives and managers benefit from hiring diverse workforces. This is especially true in a salesforce. Diversity lets you tap into a broad range of experiences and ideas, create powerful stories that resonate with broad audiences, and access new and growing markets.
It starts with a decision. Companies need to decide to do better.
Corporate decisions are made by people. People can be influenced.
You have the power to influence sales hiring decisions, whether you’re assembling a team, competing for a job role, or watching it all happen.
And it all starts with training.
Bias and sensitivity training doesn’t have to mean days-long seminars and manufactured certificates. It’s about sharing stories and building empathy.
Train Hiring Teams to Think About Diversity
- Find ways to understand: Standardize the hiring process. Make it simpler. Teach your employees to identify their own hiring prejudices, and how they can affect job candidates and business outcomes.
- Create quantitative measures: Don’t hire for an abstract “fit.” Identify specific skills, find ways to test them and score them, and incorporate that into your selection process.
- Structure your interviews: People love what’s familiar. If you don’t create explicit boundaries and requirements in your hiring process, your hiring team will always choose the candidates who are most similar to themselves. Write clear questions. Target specific performance measures. Base it all on merit.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to strike a balance between searching for a diversity of perspectives and discovering the potential for great talent. If your hiring team is prepared, they’ll be able to find and retain the most talented sales team.
2. Hire Diversity and Inclusion Specialists
Don’t ask your BIPOC staff to perform the unpaid emotional labor of fixing your broken hiring processes. Hire a diversity and inclusion specialist.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) specialists foster a healthy and open-minded work environment (inclusion) that includes people of different backgrounds (diversity). Depending on the size of your organization, they don’t even need to be a full-time hire: An HR contractor or recruiting consultant that you engage on a part-time or temporary basis can bring a valuable outside perspective, without breaking the bank.
Your D&I specialist isn’t the gatekeeper on diversity: They don’t decide what’s right and wrong, or set a list of arbitrary goals for you to achieve. Rather, they’re a subject matter expert who can identify, maintain, and achieve goals that you create together.
A Diversity and Inclusion Expert Can Identify:
- What percent of your technical and management staff are women and people of color
- How your company’s investments in D&I initiatives compare to the broader industry
- Whether your outreach efforts are being heard by diverse communities
- Satisfaction levels and red flags in your existing workforce
- Diversity and inclusion training goals
- And the list goes on
3. Broaden Your Job Requirements
Many sales organizations scare capable candidates away by being too picky about educational backgrounds and job histories.
Sure, there are plenty of situations where having strict qualifications makes sense. But for the vast majority of sales roles, a laundry list of qualifications does more harm than good. It narrows the candidate pool prematurely, and slows you down by leaving job vacancies unfilled for longer than necessary.
To combat this, many organizations have dropped their 4-year degree requirement for entry-level and mid-level corporate roles.
Major corporations that stopped demanding a 4-year degree:
- Bank of America
- Home Depot
- Whole Foods
All too often, instead of actually checking for relevant job skills, a college degree is used as a proxy for competence. Yet for many companies, people with front-line customer service experience actually understand their business and their buyers better than candidates with fancy business degrees.
Often the better choice is to hire candidates with non-traditional forms of education and teach them to become highly-skilled employees. Indeed, if you’re looking for a candidate who is able to quickly adopt your company’s standards and procedures, you should prioritize hiring someone with less experience.
4. Write Inclusive Job Descriptions
There’s psychology in this.
You might be surprised to learn that people associate certain words with specific genders. So if you aren’t careful with your job description, you’ll push qualified candidates away.
For example: What type of person do you think of when you hear the word hacker?
Is it a (probably young and nerdy) man? That’s the conclusion that Buffer came to, when they discovered that only 2 percent of their job applicants were women when they included this type of language in their job postings.
If you change the language, you change the applicant pool.
Inclusive ways to alter your job descriptions:
- Remove unnecessary corporate jargon.
- Replace must-have requirements with good-to-have preferences.
- Look for transferable experience, not exact matches.
Don’t be afraid to make changes to your job descriptions frequently. You can even cast a wider net by creating more than one posting for the same role!
5. Use Pre-employment Assessments
Resumes and cover letters aren’t going away as they’re familiar, and pretty well standardized. But sometimes they can open the door to unconscious biases.
This is especially true when an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) is allowed to run amok. The presence or absence of a keyword or a checkbox should not be the arbiter of your hiring decisions.
When these requirements aren’t focused solely on the duties of the position, they are pointless at best, and discriminatory at worst!
Instead, test for the skills and traits candidates will need to be successful in the role. Use the test results to include the best candidates, and not to exclude people with different experiences.
Pre-employment tests help to put all of the candidates on an even playing field. Let your candidates’ skills do the talking. Every candidate should feel empowered to show their worth. For some job applicants, that may mean giving them more time, creating a more welcoming interview environment, or passing questions along in advance.
Applicant tracking systems are useful for collecting and sorting through resumes. But they can be used in an adverse way against candidates who might otherwise be qualified for a role.
If you’re applying for a job, you might consider using your experience in the recruiting process as a talking point to help you tell your story, and make a memorable impression on the interviewers you speak with.
6. Retain Diverse Hires
Of course, who applies for your company—and who you choose to hire—all quickly becomes irrelevant if you’re unable to retain staff.
Diverse and marginalized people are more likely to face institutionalized barriers in the workplace. For example, they are less commonly chosen for mentorship opportunities, and more likely to experience microaggressions, like questioning by receptionists and security staff. These things are compounding and tend to result in shorter job tenures over the long run.
To make sure your company’s diverse environment is sustainable over the long-run, consider implementing programs like:
- Coaching and cross-functional assignments
- Executive sponsorships
- Formalized career development and training programs
- Salaries or performance records not tied to formal feedback
Don’t be naive. Your employees can tell the difference between appearing diverse and caring about diversity. People can sniff out toxic work environments from a mile away.
Creating a positive and inclusive work environment means embodying the principles your company espouses.
Talk the talk. But make sure you walk the walk, too.
The tech industry is growing more diverse, and that’s a good thing
Here at Uvaro, we’re very proud to promote diversity and inclusion: From the way we operate, to the people we hire, to the sales recruits we train, to the companies we choose to partner with.
Company culture in the tech industry isn’t just an indicator of job performance. It’s a vital part of the tech innovation process. For sales organizations, creating a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse working environment will help to accelerate growth in 2021 and beyond.
Hana Hassan, Founder of BlackMaple.io put this best in Fortune Magazine. When it comes to building an awesome and inclusive culture, “The role of new hires should not be to fit in; but to augment, challenge and improve the workplace.” This is something we hope every graduate can leave with and can take to their future organizations.