Inclusion is Good Business

Inclusion is Good Business

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 2:00:00 pm

CEO Coach Blog  2017-02-02


Inclusion is Good Business

 We interviewed Portland investor and TiE Global member Nitin Ray recently and he‘s ‘Bullish on inclusion’ in his own words. Well, everywhere I look now I see folks talking about inclusion, from big firms like Deloittte to venture firms like Kapor Capital to start ups like Asana.

 Nitin Rai told us our country is becoming a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ Nation, and I’ve got to say I’m a believer. So let’s break it down. There’s a growing trend among savvy companies from ‘diversity’ toward ‘inclusion’. Here’s why: ‘Diversity’ focuses on differences, while ‘inclusion’ asks ‘how do we bring different people together? ‘Diversity’ had become code talk for hiring underrepresented minorities and women – certainly worthy goals. 

 But, what about people with disabilities? Folks in rural areas? Less than ideal body mass Indices?  Boomers? “Inclusion means everybody,” said Nitin Rai when we talked to him.

“We all have something unique to contribute . . . skills, knowledge and viewpoints we need to grow in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.” That’s what Deb DeHass, Chief Inclusion Officer at Deloitte says. Yup, they have a C-level slot for inclusion. Asana and Quip too have lead positions with inclusion in the job title. I tell you, it’s happening! that’s why I am excited.

Inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business. Gillian, we have quoted a great deal of research on how diversity teams mean better bottom lines and return for investors.

Just like breeding. The mutts are always stronger. And biodiversity creates better farm sustainability too. But here’s something worth considering, since most of our listeners are not dog breeders or farmers. Deloitte CEO Cathy Englebert reports that companies that promote inclusion behavior are 70 percent more likely to report they captured a new market within the previous year. Inclusive companies are better able to attract and retain the best talent, and engage in diversity of thought and ideas.

Back to Deb DeHass, who says her idea of flexibility may be very different from someone decades younger. Managers need to address their cognitive bias about who has talent, skills and temperament to do the job for them.

Moreover, Cathy Englebert points out that soon we will have four generations shoulder to shoulder in the workforce, each with different motivations and expectations. By 2025, she says millenials will be 75 percent of the work force.

She says ‘change is the new normal’ in the work place.

  • Globalization finds leaders managing teams across borders
  • The need for new products calls for fresh perspective and new ways of thinking
  • The desire for mobility means skilled workers expect to be able to work when and where they choose.

So what does this mean for our start up CEO’s and founders listening? Plenty. Encourage inclusion in your culture and you will attract the best talent and jump leagues ahead with innovation precisely because you welcome more diverse points of view onto your team. 

The notion of welcoming different points of view onto your team or board may be threatening, especially in the early days when your startup is fragile. But the benefits, the advantages, the rewards are already documented. Inclusion is good for business in so many ways. No time like the early stage to set an inclusive culture. We’ll get to ‘how’ in a few minutes. First, here’s a bit more on ‘why’ you need to be inclusive, even on your board:

  • Board-level diversity supports strategy and innovation, and helps protect the business model against disruptive threats, says Sheila Penrose, chair of the board at commercial real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle
  • ‘Investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs can yield new ideas, markets and revenue streams that have been overlooked,’ says activist investors, Kapor Capita.  Sound like the accessible travel market? Kapor says, the earlier a company bakes in diversity and inclusion the more likely it will become a part of their DNA and drive development and success.Kapor asks all founders to opt into their Founder Commitment program that asks companies to:
  1. Establish diversity and inclusion goals that are appropriate for the company’s funding stage, employee size, customer base, and core business. Include progress on diversity and inclusion in quarterly investor updates.  
  2. Invest in tools, training programs, and/or resources that assist with mitigating bias in recruiting, hiring, and employment.
  3. Organize volunteer opportunities for employees to engage with underrepresented communities, especially those that reflect the company’s customer base.
  4. Participate in diversity and inclusion sessions to learn about what works and what doesn’t. These sessions will be hosted by Kapor Capital and will be made available for virtual participation as needed
  • Employee Retention – Listen to Brina Lee, full-stack engineer at Quip, “Diversity not only attracts good engineers, it keeps them. You want people who come from different backgrounds and have worked on different things, especially for Quip, which founders envisioned to be a productivity tool embraced by a wide range of people, not just Silicon Valley geeks. Refreshing, yes?
  • Customer focus - Your team should mirror your customers.
  • At Quip, Lee says, teams don’t feel right unless they are full of people which are different from each other. She recommends looking at your recruiting funnel. Name-brand schools and big companies only? Don’t be dazzled by marquee resumes. Ask ‘Can you code?’ ‘Can you communicate?’ ‘Can you think through a problem?’ and them have them show you.

 How do you strip gender bias from your hiring? Listen to Sonja Gittens Ottley, Diversity & Inclusion lead at Asana. She’s from Trinidad and Tobago and an attorney by training. When you have a diverse and inclusive team, she says, you get different approaches to goals and a broader set of knowledge and experience. She says far from being a distraction diversity recruitment and retention can make software even more gravity-defying, more disruptive to outdated ways, more mind-bogglingly profitable.

She says it’s easy to talk loftily about including different people on your team, but it’s not useful unless you are comfortable with it. It all starts with culture. Make sure yours is encouraging in real ways to any underrepresented group, such as with efforts such as active mentoring and evidence of career paths. “If their not seeing anyone from an underrepresented group in a place they would like to be at your company, they may not even apply.” She adds, your family leave policy says a lot about how much you value long-term employees.

More tips from Asana’s Ottley:

  • Evaluate software engineers on their coding skills, not their resume.
  • Use apps to remove gender and ethnic clues even from phone screens, such as
  • Reach beyond A-list schools.
  • Use gender neutral pronouns – they, them and their -- in internal feedback on candidates or ‘them

 At EventBrite, VP of Engineering Pat Poels says “I don’t want to hire only very senior people, I want to have a mix of new ideas and new developers as well. He suggests hiring some engineers with non-traditional training such as HackBright Academy, which runs 10-week courses and boot camps to teach coding.

Companies with inclusive teams are more likely to capture new markets. Inclusion mirrors our growing demographics in all areas including age; by 2025 millennials will be 75 percent of our workforce. Four generations will be working together.

Top tips

  1. Review your culture to make sure it supports and encourages all different kinds of people and provides ways to thrive, as well as honoring their lives outside the company.
  2. Make your hiring funnel inclusive; use apps to remove bias from screening, employ neutral pronouns when you talk about candidates
  3. Look beyond name brand schools and resumes.


 From a CEO Coach Podcast broadcast on January 23, 2017



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