Founders and sales leaders come to me all the time wishing that they could bring more diverse people onto their team.
But it’s no simple task, given the historical context of the sales industry.
According to the US Census Bureau, 78.3% of the people working in sales are white. On top of that, 61% of all salespeople are male and a 2015 national review found that black men and women represent less than 8% of the white-collar workforce in America.
And to be clear, when I’m talking about “diversity” I don’t just mean getting more women and people of color on your team.
Diversity means building a dynamic team of people who come from all different backgrounds and walks of life.
This includes people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, gender, religious beliefs… the list goes on and on.
Because the truth of the matter is that diverse sales teams simply perform better.
In fact, McKinsey found that companies in the top 25% for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry average. And those in the top 25% for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the average.
It boils down to concentrating on building a team of people with unique perspectives.
The big problem is that hiring managers are often stuck looking at their immediate need to hire more diverse people INSTEAD of planning to build that team with a long-term outlook.
Hiring a Diverse Team Starts Well BEFORE You Initiate the Hiring Process
Before you hire anyone, it’s important to take a hard look at your company from a birds-eye-view. Namely, how you’re presenting yourself to the world and your potential candidates.
Unfortunately, the white male “bro culture” of sales is still very prevalent today, even if you think you’ve taken steps to be more inclusive.
John Barrows did a study on it which revealed some telling stuff about the industry.
My heart broke when I read this because I’ve seen it all first hand…
“I had the challenge of not being ‘bro enough’ to the point that there was a rumor that I was gay…which I found out about months later. It’s 2018, this shouldn’t be happening.” – Male respondent from John Barrow’s survey
We’re living ‘out loud’ in this digital age, so what story are you illustrating to potential candidates?
One of my followers relayed his experience on my recent LinkedIn post about this:
For starters, take a look at your website. What kind of language are you using? Is it the same old tried-and-true white male lingo, or does it truly appeal to a broader audience?
Every published word tied to your brand contributes to telling its story, it’s important to ensure that all of the content you put out aligns with your corporate values. As I like to say, choose wisely…
But it’s not just about the words themselves. Your website also represents the initiatives and causes that your company – and its people – support.
Here are a few things to look out for when auditing your website:
- How do you support the parents on your team? Do your benefits reflect maternity/paternity leave?
- Do you openly support programs that help your employees get involved and support diversity in the community?
- Do you have internal ERGs (employee resource groups)?
- Have you included any videos/bios to give people a real glimpse into your company? Need some inspiration? Check out how team Suuchi is walking their talk.
Building diversity into your company’s foundation makes hiring significantly easier.
Does your Leadership Reflect a Culture of Inclusion?
Imagine how it feels to be LGBTQ, a woman, or a person of color applying for a sales job. Then every website you browse says the same story with the same white men… read.rinse.repeat.
Not very encouraging…
People of diverse backgrounds are simply not interested in working at a company that doesn’t advertise their existing diversity. In fact, a study by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers use diversity as an important factor when considering companies and job offers.
This is what I mean when I say that building a diverse team starts well before you’re ready to hire.
Remember, diversity in leadership = better results across the board.
Harvard Business Review found that employees at companies with diverse leadership are “45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”
It starts at the top. When you have a diverse leadership team, the message sent to potential candidates is powerful. From there, you have a great opportunity to build a robust foundation of diversity.
Which in turn, leads to more long-term hiring success.
The big problem that I’ve seen is that hiring managers are often stuck looking at their immediate need to hire more diverse people INSTEAD of planning to build that team with a long-term outlook.
Ideally, you want to create a ‘feeder’ system that gets people into sales and retains their talent for the long-term. For this, onboarding and training is key.
Unfortunately, the diversity stats of experienced salespeople and leaders are not in your favor when it comes to hiring. The only way to fix this is to bring people into the profession and nurture their careers by offering everything they need to grow and thrive.
It starts WELL before someone like me gets involved to help you hire enterprise sellers and sales leaders.
So if you want more diversity on your team, what are you doing to bring them into the profession in the first place?
A Word About Job Descriptions – Focus on Ability
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as they say. And for most of your potential hires, your job description is exactly that.
For many candidates, a job description is the first interaction they have with a company.
So it’s paramount that the content of your job description doesn’t deter any potential candidates from the jump. You need to keep it free of inherent biases.
For example, many women won’t apply to a job if they think they’re not 100% qualified. Meanwhile, men will continue to apply regardless.
So when you list out a ridiculous list of required skills for a job you’re shutting out a huge portion of your hiring pool (and potentially missing the best candidates for the job).
Melissa sums it up well from one of my LinkedIn posts on the topic:
The moral of the story here is to focus on the absolute must-have skills to do the job well.
A great tool that I recommend for job descriptions is this free gender decoder tool. Other tools like Textio and TapRecruit are also helpful to ensure your job descriptions are inclusive before you publish them.
Be Cognizant in Your Interviews Too!
Systemic biases always find a way to weave themselves into job interviews.
This is especially the case in unstructured interviews – which I’m surprised that so many companies are still doing today.
While this might seem like the “friendlier” way to interview someone, the hiring success rate is abysmally low.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the validity or predictive power of a typical unstructured interview is around 20%. That means unstructured interviews lead to a good hire in just 1 out of 5 cases!
And considering that a bad hire can cost between 5-27X their annual salary, it’s a mistake you don’t want to make.
So, don’t conduct your interviews based on “feeling” or guesswork. Instead, build a system that ensures you make all your hires based on merit, not how much you liked the person.
Keeping the interview focused on the task at hand versus a popularity contest veiled behind ‘cultural fit’ eliminates an avenue for bias to creep in.
The status quo is begging for an overhaul and the power of a hiring scorecard removes bias while reducing your margin for mishiring error.
I designed this scorecard to make sure you’re selecting the very best person for the job.
Building a diverse team starts with rebuilding the fabric of your company to align with that goal.
This type of foundational change won’t happen overnight, but each step in the right direction is progress toward a more diverse team and long-term growth.
Sharing is caring, what’s helped you create and build an inclusive team, and what are the benefits you’ve seen first hand?