Next week, Dreamforce, Salesforce’s big industry event, will fully resume for the first time since the pandemic. This is the 20th anniversary of the first Dreamforce, and they expect around 150,000 people to come to San Francisco, not far from where 2019 left off.
As I prepare to head west for Dreamforce, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lori Castillo-Martinez, Salesforce’s Chief Equity Officer. Salesforce has been a leader in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) with several initiatives sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Over the past two years, I’ve had several conversations with then-Salesforce Chief Procurement Officer Craig Cuffie (in 2020 and 2021) about the company’s efforts to increase minority growth in employment, leadership, supplier engagement, and risk Engagement efforts in capital investment. Lori joins me to discuss the company’s ongoing efforts in this area and share why she thinks the future of work will not only be changed by virtual technology, but also by bringing DEI deeper into the Get into the heart of business operations – and how it measures success.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. Click the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full conversation.
Brent Leary: I saw your recent video talking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as an important part of future work. I’ve never heard anyone connect the two like this before.
Lori Castillo Martinez : Our vision is to be the most inclusive company, you have to have a bold Target. You touched on a point earlier that it was so hard, it felt like the company was going forward and backward. But I don’t think you can ignore where you’re going. What we try to do is continue to focus on where we’re going.
The future of work is DEI as well as WFH
We have to evolve with the future of work. The only way to really do this is to make sure that when breaking/redesigning the process, you are thinking about inclusivity in the future versus inclusivity in the office.
You have to put equality at the center. So that’s something we’re thinking about from hiring to experience. We have to think about what this means in our recruiting process? If you’re going to have people telecommute from the office, how can we stay connected wherever we work so that we can be successful wherever we go?
How do you see these connections when we consider this in real actual reality? How do you make sure your culture stays alive? What are these strategies? I think for us it started with an equality-centric concept. But the question I get from most people is, well, that sounds great, but what do you really mean?
For me, it’s really about hiring and experience. It’s about how we attract people to work at our company? How do we ensure that what we say is what we do? And then from an experience standpoint, we want to make sure it’s not just about getting you in the door, we want you to stay.
We want to make sure we’re calculating our data, where are those barriers? How do we think about barriers to entry in terms of attractiveness? What are the challenges? God, this society is too powerful. I can’t even say months. It feels like years have passed now. So how do we make sure we’re thinking about what’s going on outside?
How do we prepare our managers for empathy and support? How do we make sure we are considering opportunities? How do we ensure managers have these new skills and competencies that we ask them to manage differently? And then how do we make sure we continue to listen deeply to our employees?
Because I can sit in my virtual square all day and guess what people want, but I actually need to ask questions, and then I actually need to listen. So it’s just an ongoing mechanism, you know, train yourself to do that, listen deeply, and then make sure we have those mechanisms to continue to bring that into the way we redesign work.
It could be everything from how we connect in the office, to how do you make sure you’re still accommodating those who might be on Zoom calls in two-thirds of the office and beyond A third are distributed in different time zones around the world. So all of these things combined, I would say, make sure we think about equality and inclusion when we think about the future of work.
Future jobs and growing black and brown technology opportunities
Brent Leary: How do you see the future of work impacting bottom-level opportunities and leadership opportunities? Those two tracks?
Lori Castillo Martinez: I think some of them, again, come back to experience and consciously pursue a career. A few years ago, we launched a program called The Warm Line. Very special attention to our Black, Latino, Indigenous, multiracial and our LGBTQ+ community, including women of all races. It’s an advocacy and belonging program that really sheds some light on what the barriers are. Why do people face challenges and why do they leave your organization? It’s really important to really make sure you’re paying attention and listening. I’ll tell you, the first thing that comes up is careers.
Sponsors and Mentors
So some of it is “How do I navigate? How do I find sponsors “? There’s a difference between a mentor and a sponsor who helped me with some issues. Who is that? The one who talks about me when I’m not in the room, the one who looks for opportunities for me. When we start hearing some feedback, part of what we’re doing is figuring out how do you actually engage with these projects consciously?
How do you teach leaders how to be sponsors? How do you teach employees how to have a conversation and be explicit about what they want their career to be like? Because I think we’ve realized that both sides are responsible.
This morning I was talking to a group I shared with, “Lori, I sometimes feel like an imposter — that ancient imposter syndrome. I’m not sure. Am I eligible. So I didn’t apply for the job”. We mean you applied for that job. Don’t wait until you are 100%. So some of them are building confidence, holding people’s arms, really being sponsors who are encouraging people and being their advocates, helping them prepare along the way so that they’re best prepared for these opportunities.
Give leaders the tools to lead DEI
Lori Castillo Martinez: On the light side, how do you really work with your leadership and say is your internal and external network diverse? We all have our own personal life experiences. As you mentioned before, we all appear in our naturally growing web, in the tech space. Our network may or may not be that diverse.
So how can we really consciously say, how do I meet people externally so that when those characters come up, I know who are those big names and what are the names in the industry? And then internally, how do we make sure we’re thinking about everything from succession planning to proportional lists? That’s what we’ve just started talking about a lot.
A lot of people used to like that we would have a woman or a person of color. That doesn’t work. We’ve known through a lot of research that it’s actually about proportionality, which means being conscious in your sourcing so you have a really diverse talent pool. So when these leaders open up these positions, what the recruiting team can do becomes more complicated. Our recruiting team is the best in the business and they have really gone through a full transformation of 22 different initiatives to ensure we are thinking about careers both externally and internally; so when our leaders are ready to hire, we’re really on-demand Consider talent. I would say it’s part of what we think about in terms of careers.
Both parties need to be conscious
Lori Castillo Martinez: The other thing I would say is that sometimes people are waiting for something big — like people move up the organization like this. Every day I tell all the middlemen affectionately known as mushy (those hiring managers, managers, senior managers, directors, senior directors) that each of you has the power to ensure your team is more diverse. So look around your team. If you don’t have broad representation, get out. If you don’t know what to do, ask resources within your organization for help. I guarantee someone in your organization knows where this talent is. Go find it and connect with it because it won’t be my place.
Brent, this actually changes it. Virtually every hiring manager in every organization makes different choices when it comes to hiring and promotion. This will actually change the makeup of our organization.
Do not follow the leader
Brent Leary: You guys have been doing these things over the years and the revenue is still increasing and growing. The business works well because you have it integrated into it. Is there a correlation? Do you feel like the business is in a better position because of what you do, even if you look at it through a traditional financial lens? Because it feels like from the start, companies see DEI as more of a cost than a core part of the business.
But you have done it and benefited from it. It felt like, well, if you guys did this and it was a huge success, why is the problem still there?
Lori Castillo Martinez: That’s a good question. Many people come to work at Salesforce because of our values; equality, sustainability or innovation or customer success. Our number one value is trust. So when we talk about why people come to work for us, a lot of it is because of our values.
I think it’s a balance of how you integrate it into the business. There should be no separation of what you do from your exact point. It has to be about how you do what you do. I was talking to someone recently and they said, “Oh my gosh. But you don’t focus on your inclusive language training, you don’t focus on…”.
Align DEI with business outcomes
I say yes to them, but I get from business Start, like where do we align with our business results? We knew our clients were looking for a more diverse sales organization, so we started tracking the representation of our account executives on a weekly basis. Not only did our sales executives report their numbers, they also reported their reps because we hired so many people.
This is an opportunity for them to share that, and we’re not only looking at, too, our business results, but we’re also looking at our reps. These are all part of our corporate goals. So when you put it side by side, you’re setting an equally important tone at the top.
NOT ONE MAN’S PROBLEM TO SOLVE
Lori Castillo Martinez: I think this is where it starts. Then there’s actually less sexy jobs with rolled up sleeves, one manager at a time, one employee at a time, in that mushy middle. That’s where you can do your best work. This has nothing to do with one thing fixing it. It’s really a combination of many things. And I think you have to really push yourself for those little victories, because those little victories. It starts to build your motivation. That’s what I hope other companies can learn from and learn from, because it really benefits our business.
See, this is not a personal problem. Each of us makes conscious and intentional decisions every day about how we recruit and how our employees experience our organization. These are the two most powerful things one can do. In your case, these are how you start adding value to your organization. It’s even harder to be inclusive when you don’t have representation. When you are representative, people can learn from each other and be curious about those life experiences.
This is actually the power of the job. That’s when you start seeing these amazing business results because you’re now thinking about solving your customer problems through the lens of many life experiences. Frankly, there isn’t a short-sighted way of thinking, and that’s its power.
This is part of a series of one-on-one interviews with thought leaders. Transcripts have been edited and published. For audio or video interviews, click the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.