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While many organizations have a sincere and genuine interest in fostering inclusive leadership, it’s easy to let such missions falls by the wayside. With the right mindset and a high level of commitment, however, it can be done.
Three Twilio executives discussed this very topic on July 28 at SocietyCast: Unleashing the Power of Inclusive Leadership. In a conversation led by Twilio Manager, Latin American & Caribbean Sales Melissa Toledo, Twilio Latino leaders Daisy Peña, Director, Sales – Mid Market Retail, and Tom Martinez, SVP, Go-to-Market Operations, shared their perspectives on what it takes to facilitate meaningful change to help all employees feel comfortable, valued, and engaged.
Here are key takeaways from their conversation.
Keep In Mind: It’s a Journey
Recruiting diverse talent is a journey and requires constant vigilance and reminders to keep it a top priority. It can be easy to lose sight of the importance of fostering inclusivity in the context of rapid growth, Martinez noted, hence the need for frequent dialogue and a close review of candidates who apply to open roles.
“We can’t let that happen,” Martinez said. “So you have to follow up and make sure that it remains a topic of discussion, a focus of reviewing the candidate slates, and [asking whether it represents] a diverse population or a given role. Particularly when you’re talking about senior level hires, are you only seeing white males or X, Y, Z, and then challenging that if that’s all that is surfacing.”
“Unless you have the career support, you’re not going to excel the way that you want to,” Nieves explained, adding that it’s important to have those relationships “as you get to the higher levels of an organization. It’s that sponsorship—that at times can seem like mentorship—that’s going to help you continue to grow.”
Partnership Is Key
Leaders need to work closely with their recruiting teams and look at different options and best practices to invite and attract a more diverse pipeline of talent. Additionally, leaders must avoid having the mentality of “the pipeline is what it is” when studying their rosters of applicants.
“You have to change the game and you have to change your recruiting tactics and how you go about making it happen,” Martinez said.
To this end, leaders must partner closely with their talent acquisition teams, he said: “Again, keeping that very active dialogue and ensuring there’s commitment across the board to what we’re trying to do. That’s how I go about trying to influence it across my team.”
Check Favoritism at the Door
Twilio executives noted: we’re all human, and therefore it’s easy to connect organically with certain people more than others due to like-minded interests. This, however, should not get in the way of your organization’s mission to foster inclusive leadership.
“It’s ensuring that I’m not treating people differently,” Peña said. “That I’m treating everyone equal and that I’m open and honest with the fact that look, I have to check my favoritism at the door. I lead a team. I have to ensure that everyone feels like they’re treated equally and ensure that people feel like they have a unique voice and that they’re working to develop that personal brand, if you will.”
She makes a special point of checking in with her mentors, providing updates on what she’s up to and (where possible) sending them resources that relate to projects they’re working on. “I try to make sure that I’m not just taking, but also figuring out a way to support them and the things that they may be engaged with,” she explained.
Utilize Survey and Exit Interview Feedback
Regularly surveying employees can go a long way in helping organizations gauge whether their inclusion efforts are working. Twilio executives noted the company sends out an employee engagement survey every six months. Questions include “Do you feel safe?” and “Do you feel like you belong at Twilio?” Toledo said.
“And those results go all the way up through different managers,” Toledo said. “And if they identify a group who’s having challenges or who doesn’t feel inclusive, they come to the ERGs and they come to different leaders and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re hearing. How can we work together to fix it?’ We don’t always have the answers, but at least we know that there’s the intent to try to improve it. So, people feel more comfortable and there isn’t necessarily that bitterness amongst the company.”
Exit interviews are also a good time to gain valuable insight. Martinez described exit interviews as “critically important” to get to the heart of what drives an employee’s departure. He also cited regular roundtables as highly valuable resources to pinpoint where the organization struggles as a community and what the company can do better.
“And if you put all that together, it’s really about the dialogue that you’re having,” he said. “That’s really hard to do if you don’t have the building blocks in the first place, the foundational trust, to actually get people to show up and share. So, it all comes back to that.” He added: “No one’s going to confide their challenges, their feelings, their complaints, their concerns, their fears to someone they just don’t trust.”