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3 Ways to Build a Diverse Team of Lifelong Employees

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People, including me, who hold diversity and inclusion close to their hearts cringe when new research is published about the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities within the tech industry. Several recent studies, including one from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll, have found that sexual harassment, bullying and racist stereotyping are common in the technology industry, contributing to so-called “tech leavers.”

A young woman, person of color or someone with a disability reading these things about Silicon Valley is less likely to enter the tech industry, or stay long enough to contribute if they do. However, shedding light on the negative doesn’t by itself accomplish the change within the industry we all desire. We need to focus on action we can take today to change this environment.

So, let’s start with the positive. We know that companies are far more successful and innovative when they leverage diverse talent. In fact, lack of diversity holds organizations back from harnessing all available resources for innovation and growth. A recent McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry median. A 2015 study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies.

While moving the needle in workplace diversity is no small feat, transforming tech leavers into lifelong employees should be a strategic objective for all organizations. A diverse workforce enables a company to innovate, better understand its customers and maximize employee productivity — all critical issues for the technology industry.

Related: Why You Need to Focus on Diversity Before It’s Too Late

Here are three ways your company can improve diversity and inclusion efforts — and avoid “tech leaver” syndrome:

1. Get C-Suite buy-in.

Organizations need business leaders who accept and champion the idea that embracing diversity and inclusion efforts will create corporate return on investment. Statistics show, diversity can increase economic performance by as much as 2.2 times for profitability and two times stock valuation. To get that buy-in, it’s important to show how diversity and inclusion save money and boost revenue, while also highlighting the long-term value of these initiatives.

For SAP, diversity and inclusion efforts start at the very top. Diversity and inclusion are part of our strategy for the future. These topics are discussed regularly in executive and supervisory board meetings with HR leadership at the executive table. This is crucial to shaping the culture of the organization and being real advocates for employees.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Fail

2. Go back to the HR basics.

The greatest obstacle to embracing diversity and inclusion is often not the proof of their value, but resistance to change — both consciously and unconsciously. To combat bias head on, organizations need to re-examine their processes and redesign how they recruit, interview and hire candidates. Organizations must work to recognize, identify and eliminate bias to reap the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Consider a job posting for a candidate who needs to be “politically-savvy,” “aggressive,” and “assertive.” These words may not resonate with female candidates and thus, the response for the listing is likely to heavily favor for male candidates. Studies show that men apply for jobs when they feel 60-80 percent qualified for the position, while women apply for jobs when they feel 100-120 percent qualified for the position.

True digital leaders are using technology to identify and eliminate biased language in job listings, ensure that underrepresented colleagues have a voice and create opportunities at all levels of the organization for a more inclusive, innovative and bias-free work environment.

Related: How to Stop Unconscious Bias Before It Starts

3. Don’t focus on diversity, embrace inclusion.

Many companies focus heavily on diversity in terms of statistics but the better way to ensure a truly bias-free, equality-based effort is to focus on inclusion. Inclusion invites participation from everyone, and is the foundation of a diverse workforce. Employees who feel respected, no matter their background, will have the confidence to authenticly share their perspectives.

Inclusion is important in the efforts that we make personally to embrace all groups, each day. Recently, I was in Japan where I studied local customs and learned that it is appropriate to bow instead of shaking hands. However, my Japanese hosts reflected Western customs. While I was bowing, they reached for a handshake. The greeting may have looked awkward but we each made the effort to embrace the other’s custom. The interaction proved that, fundamentally, inclusion isn’t only about how you lead, but how you act every day.

To encourage inclusion and teamwork inside your organization, arrange group lunches or host conference calls to discuss common professional experiences, share best practices and build relationships. These will help create a stronger sense of community.

The path to greater diversity and inclusion is not easy, but an inclusive environment attracts more applicants to your company and enhances your existing employees’ experience. Happy employees are more productive and engaged, and less likely to become “tech leavers.” Considering how important innovation is to the technology industry, it should strive to foster the most inclusive cultures — not drive people away. By receiving buy-in from the top, using technology to confront unconscious bias and embracing inclusion, we can encourage an industry where all people can thrive!

A daily source of inspiration and information, Entrepreneur.com fuels the spectrum of game-changers that define what it means to be an entrepreneur today. That includes business leaders who launched something from nothing, content creators in the social influencer space, athletes pushing the boundaries of performance, and internal thought leaders innovating inside major corporations. Entrepreneur.com offers strategic insights and how-to guidance for the people that make things happen.

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One Visualization Trick You Can Use to Stay Confident Even When You're Broke

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In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Ben Angel explains a common phenomenon with entrepreneurs and all working people: how our confidence levels tend to rise when we have more money in our bank accounts. Angel breaks down how our money situation isn’t just connected to the way we see ourselves — it’s an essential part of our self-image. When we have more money, we tend to be more confident, and when we have less, our confidence drops.

However, through visualization and practice, you can lessen the gap between those two identities so that you remain confident even when you have a little less, thus giving you a better chance to bounce back.

Click play to learn more.

Related: Feeling Lost? Here’s One Way to Get Back on Track.

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EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on Amazon FireRokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

Click here to become a part of this growing video network.

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3 Relationships That Will Build the Tribe Every Entrepreneur Deserves

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Entrepreneurial success isn’t easy to achieve, and it’s even harder when you’re going it alone. Every entrepreneur needs to build a network of sustaining individuals who fill key relationship roles — — and LinkedIn is stepping in to help.

The business-centric social network is preparing to roll out Career Advice, a new service to connect its members with potential mentors. Users set preferences about the advice they’d like to give or receive, and LinkedIn suggests possible partnerships within their networks, schools or regions. Once connected, mentor and mentee can talk using LinkedIn’s messaging service.

How valuable are these connections? In a MicroMentor survey of more than 700 participants, entrepreneurs with mentors increased their business revenue by 83 percent; mentorless small businesses gained only 16 percent in the same period.

Life is a team sport, and we cannot succeed alone. Building healthy, supportive relationships is more than a cornerstone of life and dream fulfillment; nourishing ourselves with the words, advice, and caring of others is embedded in humanity’s very fabric.

A biological drive to connect

If I asked you to list humanity’s basic needs, you likely would include food, water and shelter. But that list would be incomplete without mention of social connections.

Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, has explored the psychological association between trusting social relationships and personal and professional success. Fewer than 5 percent of the 60,000 leaders he examined for his book described themselves as adept at both forming strong relationships and turning in important business results. The takeaway? Many individuals cannot easily bring ideas to market, and so leave innovations to “wither.”

I echo Lieberman’s sentiments: Building networks and leveraging the talent of a team of gifted persons results in major benefits. When you recognize and celebrate the strengths of others, you uplift people and reduce stress-producing interactions. Instead of seeds of doubt, you plant seeds of energy — and watch your true potential and greatness evolve.

Related: Relationships Are What Leverages Hard Work Into Success

Who do you need to be in your corner?

Although you might be great at connecting with your team at work, you need to branch out beyond your company or field to find new friends. Think about everyone in your life who plays a pivotal part in helping you get from today to tomorrow. Ideally, you should have each of the following personalities in your corner:

1. The cheerleader. Doesn’t everyone deserve to look to the sidelines and see someone rooting just for them? When the chips are down, this person says “Everything’s going to be OK” and makes the tough stuff easier. He or she is excited for your achievements and urges you to work hard — and this verbal encouragement will help you achieve your goals, just as it can help athletes perform better. No better tireless advocate exists than the cheerleader.

One way to attract cheerleader types into your sphere is to show appreciation for others. Comment on your colleagues’ positive behaviors and contributions, especially if you’ve neglected to say anything thus far. Send a handwritten note to a colleague or friend to thank him or her. The more you emit cheerleader vibes, the more likely you’ll magnetize these much-needed friends to your own corner.

2. The mentor. When you’re dealing with a startup’s ups and downs, you need someone you can call who has navigated similar hurdles. Find a person who exhibits the traits you covet, and ask him or her to be your mentor. If you can engage at least once a month to share ideas and get advice, you’ll start to see your confidence and business acumen soar. Just ask Bill Gates: He credits his mentor, Warren Buffett, with teaching him to change the way he thinks and with igniting his interest in philanthropy.

Related: 5 Famous Business Leaders on the Power of Mentorship

Finding and securing a mentor takes both audacity and patience. First, write down the specific expectations you have for a mentoring relationship. Then, seek out mentors from all your in-person and online business and social networks. Ask for an exploratory meeting to discuss forming a formal mentorship relationship. If you can get a commitment, make sure each meeting covers what you both need.

3. The foxhole buddy. The foxhole buddy is someone you can count on to be with you day in and day out. You need a partner who will have your back every day and whose skills complement your own. Consider the partnership between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of Apple: Wozniak was the mastermind behind the tech giant’s first offerings, while Jobs focused on building the future of the company. Wozniak has said that a combination of technological expertise and business acumen like theirs is key to overall success.

You and your foxhole buddy should be the “yin” to each other’s “yang,” able to combine forces and make an unstoppable team. Make sure you’re both headed toward the same goal and focused on the same future so you can get there together.

Related: Finding the Right First Partner Can Benefit You Over a Lifetime in Business

Bring the smartest, most optimistic people with real-world experience into your inner circle. The more intentional you are in your relationships, the more your investment in social connections will pay business and spiritual dividends.

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3 Tips for Turning Your Buyer's Journey Into a Reliable Conversion

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The 2017 B2B Buyers Survey Report from Demand Gen combines the insights of 283 executives and directors to show how the buyer’s journey has changed over recent years. One big finding? Buyers, from both the B2B and B2C categories, no longer wait for companies to introduce themselves: 75 percent of respondents said that they now use more sources to research and evaluate their purchases — themselves.

Related: Preparing Your Sales Team to Go Global

With so many research avenues at their disposal, in fact, customers are free to form opinions about a brand before their first engagement with the company. Brands therefore have less control over the message customers receive, which more and more is determined by market feedback, word of mouth and social media.

The message, then, is that to engage customers in this evolving market, companies must go to them — but, fewer than you’d expect actually do that. According to research from Corporate Visions, only 58 percent of companies surveyed said they have strategies in place to match engagement techniques to different parts of the purchase journey.

Without a tailored approach that accounts for buyers in all stages of the purchase — from content consumption to sales interactions — brands cannot reliably engage their prospects.

Content’s value in the modern sales funnel

Modern buyers no longer want salespeople to do their thinking for them and instead prefer a cache of relevant content, with a salesperson operating more as an optional guide.

In fact, customers, who typically seem wary of brand content on principle, value educational content over sales-oriented content because they often assume that sellers will put their own interests ahead of objective information. Thus, those brands that provide customers with high-quality research materials before a purchase are those that earn buyers’ trust, so long as those materials don’t attempt to hide the company’s desire to make a sale.

Related: The Sales Secrets to Using Content Effectively at Each Stage of the Funnel

In terms of the content’s substance, customers ultimately have two fundamental questions when approaching buying: How did the product solve other clients’ problems and help them run more efficient, profitable operations, and what does this mean for me? Companies that provide content replete with data points and case studies that answer these questions maximize their content’s value.

Still, content doesn’t replace salespeople, because salespeople often produce some of the most valuable content: sales presentations. Buyers prefer sales presentations over blog posts, ebooks and case studies. While those other types of content are important, sales presentations provide direct, no-frills summaries of how the product will add value to customers’ lives, helping them more clearly understand what a specific solution can do for them.

How to blend content with human conversations

Given what content provides customers in today’s marketplace, when prospects finally turn away from content and turn to live salespeople, they expect more than regurgitated statistics and information. Forcing salespeople to offer a specific product in customer interactions actually lowers sales for that product and decreases post-sale customer satisfaction, primarily because customers find this approach both redundant and unhelpful.

Instead, the best salesepeople are not number pushers, but solution providers who listen to and use a customer’s own research to provide recommendations that directly address problems that that customer might not recognize on his or her own. Despite the tons of data and market intelligence available, sellers are still in the problem-solving, people business. And when customers have access to both great content and salespeople who can guide them — not carry them — companies can turn drawn-out buyer journeys into reliable conversions.

Ultimately, customers respect companies that share information. So it’s smart to empower them with knowledge via strong content, and then offer advice as the seller positions a company as an authority and directs customers where to turn at each point on the buying journey.

Companies that want to follow this process and provide the content and sales experience modern customers want should follow these three steps:

1. Give up on message control. Thanks to viral content and social media, companies no longer have tight control over their own images and messages. Don’t resent this fact, though. Embrace it by sharing more information about your company’s strengths, flaws and products. The more transparent your company and the more you utilize the insights that your salespeople provide — both in terms of what they bring to your content and the value they offer your customers — the more customers will believe your message.

In fact, a survey by Cohn & Wolfe revealed that 91 percent of global respondents polled said they believed that honest communication about products and services is an important quality for companies to display — in person and in messaging. Companies that break down barriers and encourage internal departments to share information freely, then, will find that they can more easily distribute a consistent and authentic image that engenders customer trust.

2. Select brand attributes to champion. Tell customers what your company stands for, and ensure those qualities shine through every transaction, exchange and customer service interaction. If customers don’t see the company as unique or personable, they’ll turn to a competitor with more clearly defined values. For example, the ecommerce clothing company Stitch Fix leans heavily on the intimacy and personalization it provides for its customers through its very visible founder and CEO, Katrina Lake, and understands that such custom attention is what differentiates it in the marketplace.

Even less “cool” companies, like B2B businesses and banks, can still appeal to customers’ human sides without straying off-brand, by letting charismatic people within the organization speak through blogs, video presentations and other content, in order to provide a voice and face customers can trust.

3. Put solutions above sales. In this age of transparency, companies with authentic missions to help customers enjoy more loyalty and financial success than competitors that put sales above solutions. Salespeople in particular who understand customer needs and recommend only content and products that directly address those concerns are essential. Not only will this increase the likelihood of a sale, but also create a believable brand story that fits with your disseminated content — one that customers will also share with others.

Patagonia, famous for its on-point branding, regularly seeks to identify potential issues with suppliers and distributors to ensure that it doesn’t work with anyone who fails to uphold its high standards for environmental friendliness. This proactive approach resonates with customers, showing Patagonia lovers that the company believes in its mission and puts its message above profits.

Related: Working Remotely or in the Field, Salespeople Still Need to be Part of Company Culture

Don’t let online noise tell your company story and leave customers wondering, while your salespeople linger in the shadows. By controlling your message, advocating your company’s particulars and value solutions above sales through a blend of content and salespeople, you can curate a brand image, marketing strategy and sales philosophy that builds customer trust and leads to long-term financial success.

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