How the Channel Can Foster Diversity and Benefit from DE&I

Channel businesses need to approach DE&I not as a mandatory compliance, but as a strategic tool.

Sara Wilkes, COO

April 18, 2024

5 Min Read
Channel diversity

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) have taken precedence on corporate agendas in recent years, and this is no different in the channel industry. Although the need to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace is stronger than ever, many companies’ progress has stalled.

In our recent Channel Trends report, which surveyed 250 U.K. channel businesses, we found that whilst leaders are acknowledging the importance of diversity in the workplace, strategies to improve DE&I were not a top priority, with over 25% of companies not looking to implement any diversity strategies this year, if at all. Statista also reported that women made up only 29% of the workforce with a further 22% representing ethnic minorities.

The slow speed at which diversity rates are improving across the globe highlights the need for bolder actions to be taken to create a long-lasting inclusive culture that promotes inclusive behaviour. As companies expand and innovate, DE&I can help create a dynamic ecosystem where diverse voices fuel collaboration and drive business excellence.

Introducing DE&I Across All Business Sizes

As a whole, I think we are talking about the issues more, which is great to see, but we need to start seeing more positive change across channel businesses of all sizes. In our latest research, larger companies were much more likely to be implementing diversity strategies. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of businesses with more than 500 employees have diversity training in place or are implementing it this year, in comparison to 56% of businesses with less than 100 employees.

Larger organisations are likely to have a lot more resources and often a dedicated person or department driving DE&I initiatives. However, smaller organisations should not see this as a barrier. DE&I can start small within an organisation. Using a blind CV approach can be an effective strategy to remove unconscious bias during the recruitment process and reviewing your policies to ensure they take into account different relationship structures, religions, races, genders and disabilities are just a couple of ways that can help attract and retain the best talent from a diverse talent pool. DE&I training can help empower underrepresented groups, enabling them to feel heard, recognised and supported. It can also help businesses bridge the gap between different cultural backgrounds and experiences.

But DE&I training doesn’t have to be a high-end, expensive programme – there are lots of free training and resources available. The important thing is that perfection doesn’t prevent progress.

DE&I training allows channel leaders to gather diversity data that can help inform where there are barriers that need to be removed and actions to be taken, to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Compulsory disclosure information, for example, can help but businesses need to aim to create an environment where people would feel the psychological safety to freely disclose their diversity information.

Diversity Wins New Talent and Customers

Innovation is key to success in today’s highly competitive landscape. Gartner reports that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperform gender-homogeneous, less inclusive teams by 50%, on average. I am a real promoter of cognitive diversity. If you get 10 minds in the room that all come from the same background, you’ll get a handful of solutions as an output. If you put 10 people in a room that come from different backgrounds, your solution output will grow exponentially. This highlights the need for channel businesses to consider diversifying their workforce and training their current staff on DE&I strategies.

To attract and retain top talent, channel companies need to create a positive culture that celebrates differences and fosters a sense of community. By investing in DE&I and committing to diversity in hiring practices, organisations can tap into a wider pool of talent and leverage diverse perspectives to drive innovation and fuel growth.

Companies that incorporate DE&I training into their frameworks also present a more attractive option to customers and investors who value diversity and inclusion.  By aligning their values with those of their stakeholders, channel organisations can strengthen their reputation and build stronger relationships with clients and partners. 

In addition to training, using online tools and language models can assist companies in assessing and identifying the presence of biased language within job postings. Establishing a level playing field helps to provide prospective candidates with the confidence needed to certify that the channel organisation to which they are applying is bias-conscious, which helps to eliminate further roadblocks in world-class talent acquisition.

Bringing Their Pledges to Life Through Action

When it comes to pledges, it is walking the talk that matters. Setting and holding accountability through the use of pledges can help to ensure underserved communities, within the channel, are represented fairly to better create a DE&I data-conscious organisation.

A focus on pledges for a more diverse and inclusive workforce equips companies with the tools needed to attract quality talent from all demographics early in their careers. This focus can help to upskill and train young talent directly for careers within the channel rather than later industry transition.

The additional benefits to introducing DE&I pledges are simple: a more positive and secure working culture can be established, trust and compassion can be fostered within the workplace, and they help to establish a C-suite more representative of society. A commitment toward new talent is presented and signals that their work is not tokenised or used simply to boost DE&I numbers, but rather to work toward a future spotlighting a career pipeline for underrepresented talent.

DE&I efforts should also go beyond physical differences, including candidates often omitted from strategic recruitment strategies, encompassing cognitively diverse people. Showcasing a secure and well-supported career pipeline cultivates bespoke channel talent committed to their future careers.

Leaders have a really important role to play. They must be visible and champion diversity, bringing pledges to life to demonstrate that they go beyond just words.

Making DE&I Matter

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not and should not just be buzzwords – they're essential ingredients for success. Channel businesses need to approach DE&I not as a mandatory compliance, but as a strategic tool for promoting inclusivity, collaboration and understanding in workplace environments and driving forward societal change.

By investing in DE&I, companies can create a workplace culture where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered. Channel organisations can harness DE&I strategies to improve decision-making, foster creativity, engage remote staff and thrive in an interconnected global marketplace. As the channel sector continues to evolve, embracing diversity and training will not only drive innovation but also ensure a brighter and more inclusive future for all.

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About the Author(s)

Sara Wilkes

COO, Agilitas

Sara Wilkes was appointed COO of the U.K.-based technology hardware specialist Agilitas at the beginning of 2024. She brings more than 15 years of experience in driving innovation to her role as Agilitas’ operational leader. She is responsible for strengthening the company’s customer experience strategy and ensuring the voice of the customer remains embedded in its culture. The driving force in Agilitas’ technology-driven growth, strategic expansion and employee empowerment, she works closely with department heads to execute the company’s operations and support the wider team.

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