diversity and inclusion

How SaaS Companies Can Make Diversity and Inclusion a Priority

The dialogues that consciousness-raising movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #Time’sUp have sparked in recent years have exposed the inequalities hiding behind familiar veneers widely accepted as social or business norms. In the business world, fostering a diverse hiring practice is not just the right thing to do given the current cultural climate; diversity and inclusion make moral and business sense. A widely-cited 2015 study by Global Management Consulting firm McKinsey & Company found, “When companies commit themselves to more diverse leadership, they are more successful.” Data based on research in the US, UK, Central America, and Canada show how ethnic, racial, and gender diversities correlate with better business results, including higher than industry-average earnings. Clearly, companies hoping to grow should begin by examining how they incorporate diversity and inclusion into their day-to-day operations.

There’s no question that diversity and inclusion are important across all industries. So why does the tech sector still lag behind? And when it comes to ethnic and racial diversity, sustainability consultant group Dalberg advisors determined that “Black people, Latinos and Native Americans are underrepresented in tech by 16-to-18 percentage points compared with their presence in the U.S. labor force overall.”

To many, the “right fit” also needs to have the right age, right look, and degree from the right school. As a result, SaaS hiring managers frequently default to that of familiarity, searching for candidates who embody the narrow characteristics expected by the industry. But familiarity cuts both ways. A growing populace clamors for and deserves representation that also feels familiar. So, how do we incorporate and accommodate this growing movement for inclusivity and diversity into our workplaces?

We have clients that have achieved tremendous gains in their diversity models; others have dramatically under-achieved. Looking across their programs, there are three areas the most successful programs share:

  1. An authentic and lasting commitment from the CEO and rest of C-suite to prioritize D&I and to hold the organization accountable.
  1. Objective Metrics. A brutally honest assessment of the current state at an organizational level and a personal level, often accomplished through outside consultants, provides a means to objectively measure improvements. Many companies use third-party D&I assessments to create a baseline against which they can understand progress as well as identify opportunity areas.
  1. Move quickly into execution mode. Specific actions include:
  • Assigning top-thinkers to D&I leadership roles to seek their thoughts and perspectives as well as to participate in the talent acquisition process.
  • Leveraging local organizations connected to populations to engage directly in hiring. Some include:
    • Diversity.com: Companies may post an opening on this jobs board which seeks to match a diverse workforce with career opportunities.
    • The Lighthouse for the Blind: An organization that not only employs blind people, but helps blind people and prospective employers create a mutually beneficial match.
    • Deaf Job Wizard: Post a job specifically targeting the deaf community.
    • Society for Human Resource Management: This provides resources for employers looking to onboard someone with a cognitive disability.
    • Source America: This organization’s goal is to help people with significant disabilities find jobs.

According to Katherine W. Phillips, in her article How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, “Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.” That is as compelling a factor as any to make a plan for diversity in hiring practices. Yes, it may seem like hard work to shift gears into a new way of thinking and operating, but the depth of reward points to the value in hanging with the growing pains.

Guide to Hiring

Jennifer Bell
Jennifer Bell

Jennifer Bell is the CEO of Bespoke Talent, a boutique sales recruiting firm focused on revenue related roles in the pre-IPO SaaS sector. Jennifer founded the firm in 2015 after seventeen years in enterprise software sales with companies like PTC, LivePerson and BloomReach. Bespoke Talent was founded to address the challenges of attracting top talent to pre-IPO companies with complex solutions in a candidate’s market. Jennifer has enjoyed the deep partnerships she and the team form with Bespoke customers and candidates, representing over thirty firms and speaking to over 2500 candidates a year. She’s thrilled to see the former-sales-turned-recruiter model flourishing adding additional experienced sales leaders, Ken Larson and Holly Gordon to the team. Outside of serving her clients and candidates at Bespoke, Jennifer is an adoring wife, mother of two children and enjoys riding her bike in the rolling hills surrounding Madison, WI.
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