Inclusion by design

Back Inclusion by design

Much has been written about how to attract more diverse talent into the technology ecosystem. And many companies, including Salesforce, have made good progress with innovative approaches and programs that reach people from non-traditional backgrounds. Folks who are returning to work after a period away as example, or those looking to have a change of career.

As a company we have given this a lot of focus, and our Trailblazer and Trailhead communities are great examples. We believe this needs to be a perpetual and continuous activity, in order to normalise the technology industry for everyone, and break the perception that it’s only accessible to certain people or to those with a Computer Science degree.

We have to hold ourselves accountable though, and truly question: ‘are we committed to equality and sustaining diverse talent throughout the whole of our business?’

Or do we attract desirable diverse talent only to lose it quickly when that talent doesn’t stay with the company?

For the majority of my career, I have been either the only woman, or one of very few women in the room at any time. And I have had more than my fair share of misogynistic and demeaning comments, regardless of the role I was in. Many of them were without conscious malicious intent, but were no less impactful.

To be fair, I am in a very privileged position. I’m a degree educated, native English speaking, white woman. I may have been asked to make the tea far more often than I thought acceptable, but I was still included.

Imagine if you are not.

Imagine if you worked so hard to get into a great company who wooed you with a shiny onboarding program, that made you feel heard and desired. Only once you are inside, you realise that company had a glossy exterior with a broken interior.

At Salesforce we believe the feeling of real inclusion can only come if it has been designed into every part of how we do business and every one of our policies.

It's in a fair and transparent promotion process, that focuses on the competencies of a team member, and not a gut feel if they are ready or not for the next role.

It is in the ability for any one of the team to request part time working to care for a loved one, or, because perhaps after decades or working they want a different balance in their life. It's also in how we normalise the so called “taboo subjects” that prevent people from being able to be themselves.

At Salesforce, we are trying all of these things. And the launch this year of our “Life Skills” series within our Professional Services practice, that focuses on a different taboo subject each quarter, such as the Menopause, Men’s Mental Health, and Domestic Abuse, has lowered the barriers and increased the feeling of inclusion.

This is part of a three-year plan we designed, that began with activities focused on winning the hearts and minds of our team. Many of our team understood the need for diversity, but had no emotional connection to it, or the positive impact it could have for them. Feeling it as well as understanding it was important. Year two of the plan focused on turning intent into action by making real change to policies and ways of working. This was much easier with the team and leadership now on board with us on the journey. Our focus for year three and onwards is in making it part of everyday life. Living it as every interaction and every process.

We are seeing the positive results in our hiring demographics, and in our employee surveys, where we see the scores around feeling of belonging and inclusion increasing. But there is no doubt we have much more to do, and certainly we’ll mis-step along the way.

Yet, if we can truly design for inclusion, and normalise that across our entire business, imagine the impact and the growth possible in our industry, and the incredible depth of talent we can attract and retain.