Like many industries, Sales has evolved to reflect our values in North American society. With increased importance and priority on multiculturalism in our society, the sales floor has become a more diverse and inclusive space. Diversity in the workplace is a must for anyone to properly thrive in today’s global economy.
This is especially true for your sales teams because it is one of the first and primary places where your team and customers meet!
Before we dive headfirst into this topic, let’s take a quick look at the state of sales for two underrepresented groups — women and people of color.
Currently, women only represent 39 percent of the total sales workforce and just 25% in the tech sector. We’ve only seen a 3 percent increase in the previous ten years. Moreover, only 21 percent of Vice Presidents in the sales industry are women. Suffice it to say that there is ample room for improvement with these numbers and true equality will likely take decades to reach.
As for people of color in the United States, on the surface, you can find statistics that reference 11.2 percent of sales employees being African-American, but this percentage is far less when you look at tech sales in specific; a mere 3%! These numbers leave a large gap in the sales industry that translates to losses in potential income for companies that have less diverse sales teams.
Discrimination in the Workplace
There are no benefits to facilitating a discriminative workplace – regardless of where you are in the world. Your team will suffer, along with your company’s performance, and ultimately, your customer satisfaction. More needs to be done to improve diversity and inclusivity.
Here are some alarming stats about discrimination in the workplace:
- 43 percent of employees in France have experienced racism in the workplace
- 61 percent of employees have experienced discrimination in the United States
- 37 percent of employees have experienced racism in the workplace in Germany
- 55 percent of employees have witnessed racism in the workplace in the United Kingdom
These statistics show that companies around the world still have lots of work to do in order to build workplaces free from discrimination. One surefire way to help with this? Start focusing on diversity in your teams.
Even if this isn’t something that your organization is prioritizing, your sales teams should be the ones to start! This one department needs to be the catalyst for change. But why there? As mentioned before, it’s because that’s where your team and the world meet!
Why the change in sales?
The sales industry is constantly developing and growing, and sales companies need to evolve. With the technology industry now involved in the tech space, companies have the chance to build diversity in sales. Technology also helps tech companies build a more inclusive working environment (meta we know).
- Sales is now international: As the world has become more connected, sales have become international. If you can speak various languages, you have an excellent chance at progressing your career at a faster rate. Some of the world’s biggest technology industries are in the far east, and being able to speak their languages will only boost your sales career.
- The growing rise of the conscious customer: In the United Kingdom, 75 percent of the British public focus on ethical shopping. Companies now have adapted to changing customer habits. And sales teams are becoming more diverse as their consumer base diversifies.
- Technological Innovations: The involvement of technology like social media has increased the pool of available customers. And with the current software tools hiring outside of your home country just got easier. Hire sales talent around the globe. Take advantage of time-zone differences and keep your sales running 24/7.
How to achieve a diverse and inclusive sales floor
1 – Build safe spaces
There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding mental health in the previous 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic was brutal for people of all cultures and backgrounds. Racism has been rampant amid the pandemic. More action needs to be taken by companies to ensure a safe work environment for their returning employees.
As the pandemic slows down, many will be returning to the office. In light of this, it should be noted that many employees have noted that they are more comfortable with working from home. Simply because they want to avoid workplace racism. To help solve this, companies should create safe spaces at work for employees to relax and feel secure.
Companies that provide gender-neutral safe spaces have successfully promoted genderqueer inclusion and non-binary inclusion. Which further proves the need to invest in these safe spaces in order to successfully promote diversity in the workplace.
Providing prayer rooms, meditation spaces, rooms for new parents, and designated quiet workspaces are other great ways. Designated spaces like these help workers escape the stresses of work. And that’s important because unhappy workers are 10% less productive. So providing a safe haven for employees will only improve your companies performance!
Here are 3 ways you can do that:
1 – Encourage affinity groups
Many people know affinity groups as employee resource groups. They act as the perfect safe space for many employees. Affinity groups allow employees to meet each other and share their feelings. The most significant benefit is reducing the likelihood that employees will suffer in silence.
You need your employees to feel included in the conversation. A workplace affinity group can offer that. You can create an affinity group based on things employees may have in common. These include hobbies, interests, and extracurricular activities they actively engage in outside of work.
2 – Manage the conversations
Maintain a safe working space for employees by managing conversations through a dignity framework. Go above and beyond to ensure that you have a strong dignity framework. Ensure that those designated safe spaces remain safe spaces that positively contribute to your company.
Your company’s dignity framework could include:
- Treat everyone in your company as a person that matters instead of someone you work with
- Use people’s preferred names and gender pronouns
- Ask clarifying questions and always assume best intentions
- When discussing their actions and behaviors, don’t attack people’s character
3 – Offer online or off-site safe spaces
It’s important to offer safe spaces to every employee, even if they’re a remote employee. You don’t need someone to be in the office to provide them with a safe space. Try investing in software to keep remote employees engaged with affinity groups and/ or meetings.
Besides, you can create an affinity space through an online digital chat space such as Slack or email discussions lists. Let the group moderators choose the topics. Ensure that the conversations stick to your company’s dignity framework.
In summary, safe spaces are essential if you’re dedicated to building an inclusive and diverse workplace that thrives.
2 – Use the inclusive workplace model
Did you know that there actually is a difference between diversity and inclusivity? This is something all companies must understand. Building an inclusive workplace means that you are developing an environment that is accepting of any & all backgrounds. It makes everyone feel welcome & comfortable. By doing so, you’ll help more people feel valued as well as proud of their cultural heritage. Only then can diversity be fostered.
So one of the first things that companies have to do is acknowledge the differences in the workplace. From there, make sure that everyone knows that there is no need to shy away from their differences! In fact, they should embrace it and share their stories. Inclusivity comes from understanding. And the best way to boost inclusivity is through education.
These are important as sometimes employees may feel the need to mask or hide core parts of themselves. It could be because they feel invisible or unsafe. This can affect employees’ engagement, motivation, and in the end, the company’s turnover rates. Let employees know that they are seen & valued for their differences. This helps foster an inclusive environment. In the long run, this translates to a diverse workplace.
A quick case study – Starbucks
A great case study example would be Starbucks. Recently, Starbucks had an act of racism that shook the company and caused global outrage. After that accident, the company started mandatory unconscious bias training. The training was estimated to educate some 175,000 Starbucks employees about the importance of inclusion in the workplace. Starbucks was very serious about the training. In fact, they closed some 8,000 stores until all 175,000 employees had completed the training.
But not every company needs to use such drastic measures to get an inclusive workplace. There are other ways to help your team understand the importance.
Here are the best:
- Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the workplace: For many companies, evaluating the inclusivity of their workplace may uncover some unseen issues. Identify the issues, and you can begin an education program to encourage people to consider a more inclusive workplace.
- Have an employee feedback system: Companies can never underestimate the importance of a robust feedback system. So many employees from ethnic minority backgrounds will struggle to speak out against any issues in the workplace. For many, it’s a case of getting on with the job and trying to ignore any discrimination. That’s why you should have an employee feedback system. It will allow employees to be honest about what’s happening behind the scenes.
- Schedule lots of training: The best way to stay on top of inclusivity in the workplace is by scheduling lots of diversity workshops and cultural training. You can help stop the unconscious bias by educating all employees on the importance of inclusion regularly. Not once in a blue moon!
Creating an inclusive workplace model means companies need to be honest with themselves. It requires listening to employees, conducting research on the company, and offering continual education. Diversity in the workplace needs inclusivity to thrive!
3 – Analyze your executive team and leadership
The top management of the company speaks volumes about the culture of the company. Unfortunately, many corporate companies lack diversity in their executive ranks. Diversity in the workplace can only thrive when there is true diversity in the company. And it all starts at the top.
Based on a survey from the Boston Consulting Group, out of the 500 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, only 24 percent were women. But what was astonishing was that there were only 4 African-American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Between 2000 to 2020, there were only 35 Asian-American men and women who were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
If your leadership team is not diverse, that may be reflected in your team. Your workforce has to be properly reflected throughout the company ranks. What are the chances of others in the team excelling and believing they can reach the top if they don’t see evidence of it?
There are so many benefits from having a diverse leadership team, and these benefits include:
- Greater depth and perspective: Your company’s leadership will have greater depth and perspective when your leadership is diverse. This behavior will trickle down throughout the company ranks.
- More chance of seeing a positive change: Executives from diverse backgrounds are more likely to make decisions that will actively increase diversity. For example, a diverse leadership team is more likely to successfully execute an inclusive workplace model.
- The ability to attract top talent: Every company needs to attract new talent. Having a diverse leadership makes that possible. It takes a lot of effort to build a diverse leadership team, but the payoffs are worth it all.
- Better employee and customer relationships: When a company has a diverse leadership team, it enables the company to have better customer and employee relations. That’s because it creates an engaged workforce, the foundation of any successful company.
Everything begins with solid leadership. So whether you’re looking to build an excellent soccer team, a political party, or a company that thrives on diversity in the workplace and inclusivity, you’ll need to start from the top.
4 – Provide sponsorship programs
Major U.S corporations, such as Bank of America and American Express, have created programs to increase the career growth of women and people of color. However, research from Harvard University found that having a mentor isn’t always enough to ensure success in careers.
In fact, meaningful advocacy from a sponsor can make all the difference. Further research from Harvard University found that 81 percent of women of color are happier with their career progress if they have a sponsor. As sponsors will stick by employees for the long haul.
Despite an increase in women working in the sector over the previous 20 years, only 26% percent of people in the computer technology industry are women. By having a sponsor, more talented women can join without having money gate-keeping great opportunities. Best of all would be if senior executives took towards sponsoring women. By doing so, it would provide these women with a stronger voice within the company.
There’s no better way to encourage inclusivity than by sponsoring women and people of color to succeed in the company. Companies must educate their staff on the importance of diversity in the workplace and inclusiveness. In fact, BWOSS and Garage Capital recently announced a scholarship for women & women of color interested in tech sales.
5 – Emphasize the business case for diversity and inclusion
Although creating a society that treats everyone with respect is essential, companies should focus on the strong business case for diversity. According to research from McKinsey, the link between diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and increased financial performance is big.
McKinsey researched over 1,000 large companies in over 15 countries worldwide. They found some staggering findings. For example, the greater the representation of women in leadership ranks, the higher the likelihood of high profits.
Moreover, companies with 30 percent female executives would outperform companies with only 10 to 30 percent female executives. The business case for ethnic and cultural diversity also remains very strong. McKinsey found that companies with a more diverse leadership were more likely to outperform companies that lack leadership diversity.
Furthermore, the World Economic Forum has also discussed the overwhelming business case. In it, they mention the Boston Consulting Group study. During that study, they found that companies with above-average diversity scores scored a 45 percent average innovation revenue. In contrast, there was a 26% average innovation revenue in companies with below-average diversity scores.
In 2025, over 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials. 74 percent believe that an organization is more innovative when it’s more inclusive and diverse. Plus, a 2016 survey found that 47% of millennials are looking for workplace diversity when looking for prospective employers. If millennials think it’s important, that’s a telling sign!
Sales will change with the times
The world is becoming more diverse and multicultural. The companies embracing it are achieving better results. Once businesses realize the financial importance of building an inclusive workplace, it will become a key aspect of many companies.
In conclusion, the moral case for diversity is clear. But for many, the business case is less clear. Companies enjoy an enhanced corporate reputation and financial performance. They also benefit from reduced employee turnover. Is there anything worse than losing your best sales staff?
It’s important to speak about the moral and business benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. However, the business argument will encourage many leaders to take this more seriously.
Uvaro Can Help
As we progress through the 21st century, the need for a diverse workplace will only get more important. The world is changing, and your sales department must change with it.
Companies need to focus on diversity in their current workplace. Today, it’s essential to talk about the societal importance of diversity in the workplace. But it’s also important to talk about the business benefits of diversity too.
Uvaro provides companies with a diverse range of candidates. If you’d love to know more about our diverse pool of sales graduates, feel free to get in touch with us. And if you’re looking for a job in an industry that priorities diversity and inclusion, apply now to Uvaro and get started today!