Research has found that diversifying your team can boost productivity by 35% not to mention reduce employee churn.

A diverse workforce is more likely to relate to and understand a broader range of your customer’s needs; include a bunch of different people in the conversation and you’ll generate a variety of different opinions, ideas, and perspectives.  

Kalina Bryant, Global Head of Customer Advocacy at Asana and Founder of UnapologeTECH Platform and Podcast hosted a panel discussion at this year’s Future of SaaS Festival, outlining the importance of a diverse workforce and why it’s worked out so well for our panelists:

  • Cynthia Hester, Director, Global Customer Programs at Google Cloud
  • Marco Carrubba, EMEA Director of Cloud Customer Success at VMware
  • Sara Puppis, Smart Collaboration Business Development Manager at Lenovo

In this snippet below, the panel discuss:

You can access the full, unedited version OnDemand with a Future of SaaS membership plan.

Q: What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Cynthia: To me, diversity means having lots of people at the table, lots of different voices, while inclusion is listening, hearing, and acknowledging those voices. Equality is how you create a sense of belonging so that people not only show up, but they show up and they feel valued, they feel empowered to share their voice.

The more people feel a sense of belonging, the more they bring all of their energy, all of their opinions, and all of their perspectives. When you feel like you belong to part of a community, part of a group, whether that's work, friends, family, just as you move around the world, I really believe you bring a much stronger and authentic energy to the table.

Marco: For me, diversity is about understanding and respecting differences. And then obviously, there's the conversation about inclusion, which is also about allowing those voices to be heard and including them in a way forward or a solution.

Sarah: In my opinion, it's not about treating people the way you want to be treated, but it's more about treating people the way they want to be treated. It’s about embracing different things, not just emotional intelligence and active listening, but also cultural intelligence, and how to be aware of the bias that we all have, in our professional and in our personal life.

Q: What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion? Why do you need them both?

Cynthia: Diversity is inviting everyone to the party, and inclusion is everybody gets to dance. Everybody has a space where they can join in and belong in their authenticness.  They don't have to change. If you have to change to be part of the conversation, then it's not a diverse or inclusive conversation.

Q: Where does equity come into the equation from a leadership perspective, when you're managing a team?

Marco: Equity is very important. It's about constantly and consistently recognizing and redistributing power. So it could be economic power, it could be decisional power.  

The concept of equality is that you give everybody the same things. Equity is different, equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances or a different history and allocates those resources that are useful for those individuals to participate fully in the conversation or in the decision process, or in the voice of the company.

Q: We all manage different people on our teams. When you're thinking about managing a large team, how do you make sure people feel included and that their voices are heard?

Marco: So first of all, it's a relentless war, right? There's no recipe that you can use and change things from one day to the other, it just takes time. It certainly starts from the leadership team, you have to embed diversity and inclusion into what every leader does. And you can do this in many ways: you can obviously open up the conversation, you can come up with programs that help leaders understand the value of how to be better, inclusive leaders.

It’s not about having a checklist of things that you have to do; this is about changing the culture and changing the mindset of everybody.  You can start with your team, and you can do amazing things. And this is not just for making sure that your team becomes better humans, it's also because it's good for the business, and it's good for your customers.

You have to create an environment, a safe environment. Some of us call it psychological safety, and this means you have to ensure that people are happy and don't fear speaking up. When you do that, you do it because you can establish programs like an allyship program, so you institutionalize it, you ensure that employees help each other, you can foster or ensure that there are groups of employees that get together many ways of doing it, but really is about respecting people, it's about ensuring that everybody can speak up and bring their own voice.

Sarah: Every brain has unconscious biases and if we ask questions, and actively listen, it can help us to understand better, know better, and be more respectful. Sometimes you don’t consider something that’s relevant to others because it’s not a part of your culture, your religion, or your ethnicity. We have to see color and embrace diversity to know more about each other.  

Cynthia: I agree with what Marco and Sarah have said. We've been talking a lot about the things we can see, but there's so much intersectionality of the things we can't see. So if someone has difficulties with their hearing, you can't necessarily see that physically; they’ve created and adapted to the moving world. Sometimes, it may be even less visible in instances when they're not using sign because they read lips really well.

And I think it's really important to know that just because you can't see it doesn't mean there's not a difference there. And that, to me, is where the really rich work comes in. We’re having that one on one contact that Marco was talking about.

We have people who are more introverted than extroverted. And presenting and talking in front of people is like one of their biggest fears, I think there's been research done that death and taxes are something like the top things that people really fear. And when you think about that, sometimes they have really important things to say and great ideas, but they're just shy. So how do you connect with them one on one, and encourage and give them a space to be able to do that?

So I think all of those things go into really exemplifying why this is so important. Because we can't always see the bias to Sarah's point, we've all got unconscious bias. And you just never know when to come up. And kind of you know, tap people on the shoulders, like, wait a minute, was that what you thought it was?

Sometimes I have an immediate reaction to something, and I challenge myself to take a step back, think about it, and then lean in again. Because sometimes our immediate reaction is really a reaction based on our bias and not based on our true intent. If you pause and think, and ask a question that can start to uncover that knowledge and just give you the ability to grow.

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