Alexander Group recently surveyed senior commercial leaders in North America to assess their investments in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs.

Responses to this survey indicate two main drivers of DEI investment:

  • Improving Employee Experience (EX) – Nearly 100% of leaders leverage DEI programs to acquire diverse, best-in-class talent as well as stem heightened attrition and improve overall company culture.
  • Improving Customer Experience (CX) – Fostering an engaged, informed and supported salesforce can materially impact revenue. Around 50% of leaders are investing in DEI programs to improve CX and reach new buyer groups.

Watch the video and read the transcript to learn more about the drivers of DEI investment and what tactics commercial leaders can take to enhance the employee experience. Contact us to learn how your organization can improve DEI programs.

Full Transcript:

Deima Tankus: Hello and thank you for joining this video series on Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the commercial organization. I’m the Deima Tankus. I’m a business analyst at the Alexander Group. I’m joined by Priya Ghatnekar, a principal at the Alexander Group and one of the leaders of the firm’s DEI strategy. We’re also joined by Kyle Uebelhor, principal and head of the manufacturing practice at the firm. Kyle has been instrumental in exploring the topic of DEI within the manufacturing industry and recently published an article in Manufacturing Today on strategies employed by companies to decrease turnover and win the race for talent. In our first video, we want to explore why and in what capacity commercial leaders are investing in DEI initiatives with a special focus on the employee and customer experience. Priya, could you give a quick intro into the Alexander group and why this is of special importance to us?

Priya Ghatnekar: Absolutely. Thank you. The Alexander Group is a management consultancy, and we are focused on helping organizations drive topline revenue growth and that means we tend to work with marketing, sales and post-sales arms of the business. And when I think about all of the different industry verticals that we work in, this topic of DEI is very much top-of-mind. It’s coming up in all of our conversations here in project work. What is your point of view on BEI, what are you doing at the firm about the initiative? So, as we know, DEI has been growing in prevalence. Google Trends suggests that business-related searches for DEI over the last five years have tripled in the United States. Companies are starting to pay attention to the employee experience and the customer experience more than ever before. In fact, coming from our research, we found when we speak with commercial leaders, 97% of them have said they’re investing in DEI programs specifically to attract and retain best-in-class talent here. So, Kyle, I’ll ask you. You’ve done a significant amount of research in the manufacturing and distribution industry around this race for talent. What do you, in your experience here, what is driving the increased attention to the employee experience?

Kyle Uebelhor: Yeah, Priya, great question. And I tell you, obviously the stats are right in front of us every day but as we dug deeper into actually what’s happening with that attrition or what we consider to be the root cause, it can be driven by three major things. Fatigue, burnout. It was a thing and it still is a thing. We have to be very cognizant of that. And that is to say that we’ve all been through a lot lately and as we think about our teams, our talent, fatigue is real and we have to be very aware of that. The second thing, I think this is where it becomes a little bit more tangible for us as we start thinking through possible solutions, and that is a lot of folks, as we did the research who are leading their organizations, they’re pointing to a lack of a career path. A lack of a clear next step. We all work hard. We’ve known that, causing some of the burnout. But whenever we work hard, we need to know what’s next for us. And I think that’s a big piece of the puzzle for many of the folks that really cause a lot of these high turnover rates that we’re looking at. And I think the third and more important thing as we really dig into issues that we can solve for is the lack of transparency from the top down, from that strategic vision to the tactical execution. Transparency comes in a couple of different ways. It’s that lack of a transparency around how we are paid, lack of transparency on how we’re rewarded, and maybe some of the lack of transparency on what’s next in that cultural element – what’s the purpose of the organization. So, thinking about it, it’s three major things. It’s fatigue and burnout that is real. It is a career path issue that we have to solve for and then making sure that as a leadership team, we’re very clear on our purpose, our vision, our strategies connected to the behaviors that we want that helps people understand how they get paid appropriately.

Priya Ghatnekar: Yeah, absolutely. And I think when we’re talking about attracting talent, one of the topics that comes up quite a bit is what are you doing about this return to office? So, Kyle, what are you hearing from your clients around what is the path forward?

Kyle Uebelhor: Yeah, I tell you what Priya, it’s been fascinating just to read the news lately. We all know what’s been said about return to office behaviors. I will tell you, the one thing that is not working quite well for most commercial organizations is rigidity or lack of flexibility. I think the one thing we do know – that virtual environment we all went to is not permanent. There does need to be some means of flexibility in how we actually go back to work. Back to office environment is somewhat relevant, but I think it’s relevant, especially for your commercial organizations, is the one thing we did learn. Relationships do matter. We still have to have that connectivity. But when we think about the employee and our individual contributors, we have to think about their issues and how do we help them make the best choices for the balance between that work-life and absolutes no longer work. We have to think about what’s the best sort of hybrid or flexible model to go forward with.

Priya Ghatnekar: Yeah, absolutely. And this is one of the topics that we asked about in our research. So Deima, what came out of that study?

Deima Tankus: Yeah, we’ve run the study for a couple of years now, and we’ve seen the percentage of companies that are not implementing any flexible work programs actually increase from around 12% of firms in 2021 to around 17% in 2022. So although most companies are asking their employees to return to office in some capacity, those commercial leaders that aren’t offering any flexible pathways, they run the risk of both hurting employee engagement and also losing employees to companies that are able to meet their employees and give that extra flexibility.

Priya Ghatnekar: So let’s talk about the fact that employee engagement directly impacts your customer experience. Kyle, what are you seeing with your clients?

Kyle Uebelhor: You know, Priya, what’s interesting is that this idea of customer experience (CX) is so interlinked with our employee experience (EX). That EX translates to CX. We’ve been measuring CX for quite a while now, but we know when CX is impacted negatively, we have a downturn in our revenues, our profits, our capabilities. And so much so, we just had a recent engagement where Tracy Robertson spoke at one of our events, she’s a global vice president of experience at Kimberly-Clark. And she had said that they’d done some research and 80% of their customers were more interested in a good buying experience than just the product alone. That’s crucial for us to remember that a good employee experience drives a good buying experience which then translates into CX, which drives our top and bottom lines.

Priya Ghatnekar: Yeah, absolutely. And when I think about employee engagement, I also want to make sure that we address this topic of turnover. Turnover is higher than we’ve ever seen, therefore, it’s going to have an impact on both of these things. So what is your perspective on that, Kyle?

Kyle Uebelhor: Yeah, exactly. High turnover means lack of continuity of sellers. This idea of a vacant territory or an individual area that’s not covered creates a huge missed opportunity for revenue and revenue growth, meeting our expectations. And then if you compound that with the cost of actually onboarding and finding new talent, where we know that on average about six months is the ramp time for most organizations to get their individuals up to full capacity. There is a tremendous cost as well. So, losing individuals has a much bigger effect than just talent loss. It’s that loss of revenue and the cost associated with it that we’re very concerned with.

Priya Ghatnekar: What can companies do to solve this very material problem?

Kyle Uebelhor: This idea of diversity, equity and inclusion is really important, and we have to have that program built-in to begin to address a lot of the issues of the systemic issues that I talked about earlier. So just starting out with a good program and having that charter is crucial and making sure that we lead from the top with this program. And that is that something that’s not just said as a project, but a part of our culture.

Priya Ghatnekar: And what tactical actions can commercial organizations take to improve employee experience?

Kyle Uebelhor: Yeah, I think as I mentioned, we have to start at the top. The decisions cannot be made in isolation in an ivory tower. We have to be not just making sure that our L1, our executive leadership team, is bought in. But as we’ve oftentimes said, the most important job in your whole organization is your front-line leadership team, your front-line sales managers. They have to have a clear vision and then support that vision with good coaching, good mentoring and the expectation that they’re really responsible for the health, well-being and the employee experience at the end of the day. I think a third thing that really matters is we have to recognize and reward employees. Not just in that cost-benefit analysis for sales compensation and rewarding them with a clear vision on how they can actually earn their money, but also recognize and reward individuals who are contributing the right way. Set up programs that truly acknowledge above and beyond behavior. Lead from the top. Make sure your middle understands the vision and make sure that they’re coaching appropriately and then create those reward and recognition programs. And Priya, I think I’d end by saying all of this wraps around the idea that what is the purpose of your organization? Make sure that you’re very clear on why you’re doing this and why it matters. And at the end of the day, not just why it helps your employee, but also why you’re there for your customer.

Deima Tankus: Thank you, Kyle and thank you, Priya, for this color on why companies are leveraging initiatives to improve that employee and customer experience.

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