Of the many seismic changes that have taken place in the last year, the collective shift towards developing truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) organizations has been the most inspiring. With the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the chief marketing officers of CMO Huddles have made it a priority to educate themselves, to lead by example, and to commit fully to driving DEI initiatives across their companies.
Reflecting this commitment, last month we hosted a bonus huddle on DE&I with special guests: Cassandra Blackburn, Sprout Social’s Director of DEI; Cory Haynes, Talkdesk’s VP of Financial Services Strategy and Executive Sponsor and leader of DEI Initiatives; and Elisa Vincent, Skillsoft’s VP of Global Talent Enablement. Below you’ll find 5 actionable takeaways drawn from the discussion, primed by Cassandra’s spot-on assertion: “True DEI allyship is not a destination, it’s a journey.”
Drive Accountability Internally
No matter where you are in the DEI journey, it’s time to participate in the conversation even if you’re not where you want to be. As Cory Haynes analogized, “If your tire is stuck in the mud or the snow, there’s no gradual way out of it. You have to do a sharp turn.”
Start by establishing strategic initiatives supported by an Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to initiating conversation, funneling feedback, and prioritizing bold action. Your ERG should be supported by executive sponsors, and it doesn’t hurt to bring in specialized coaches to help build comfort for those leading these initiatives.
Map Out Diverse Recruiting Sources
You can’t diversify your teams if you aren’t diversifying where you source talent from. It’s time to expand your search beyond your common circles and pursue places where talent exists in underrepresented collegiate, racial, and economic areas.
Consider hubs with large minority populations like Atlanta, GA, and Columbus, OH. The Thurgood Marshall Fund qualifies top-tier candidates at HBCUs; Handshake is a recruiting platform supporting over 180 minority-serving institutions; and organizations can avail of the growing gig economy to offer valuable contract and temp opportunities to the diverse talent pool there.
Be Transparent About the Path Ahead
Recruiting has always been about finding a culture fit, now it’s time to flip the script. Recruit instead for your next culture add. Critically rethink how you word job postings, review resumes, and discuss compensation.
Some tips: Instead of ‘Master’s degree required,’ try ‘Bachelor’s degree preferred.’ Offer equitable and fair compensation based on data. Be frank with candidates about your DEI growing pains throughout the interview process to let them make a wholly informed decision and build trust.
True sponsorship and advocacy mean casting off outdated expectations for a candidate to bend themselves to a company’s culture, inviting them instead to bring their whole selves to work and allowing them to truly thrive (which should be the end goal for any employer).
Pack Wisely and Expect Delays
Prioritizing diversity when hiring means it may take a little more time to find the best “culture add” for your organization—one company reported 90-day fills for new hires under a concerted DEI effort. To make things more fluid here, democratize recruitment in your organization.
As CMO Jamie Gilpin of Sprout Social said, “Leadership and manager layers need to take ownership by building their own networks of diverse talent.” Cassandra also encouraged leaders to make themselves available as a resource publicly—a small step that can ultimately lead to a deeper and more diverse talent pool.
Follow Your Brand’s North Star
Transformative change cannot be a coat of paint (e.g.., a rainbow logo during pride month); it must be an investment in real structural change that empowers underrepresented communities and builds cultures where they can thrive.
Each of our guests described how their DEI efforts tie in directly to the overall brand, and as marketers, we all know how much brand informs everything from culture to product to revenue.
As Haynes explained, “I think it absolutely is indicative of the brand, and it’s good business. We have software and some our companies are asking, “What is your DEI initiative?” There’s a top-down business push as well when you’re putting out RFPs.”
Blaze the Trail to Democratization
Now, for the unique and integral role that the CMO can play as an ally for underrepresented groups. Start with educating yourself, but don’t be afraid of starting conversations and spearheading strategic initiatives as you go.
All three guests spoke to the strong support they’ve received from their organization’s CMOs, but I’d like to highlight Elisa Vincent’s experience working with the Skillsoft CMO Michelle BB, “The greatest feedback that we’ve received from our employees is how Michelle has singlehandedly changed the feeling and the organization, because she amplifies the voices of the employees and represents them externally.”
If you’re a B2B CMO and would like to learn more about CMO Huddles, do let me know.