The Salesforce Pitch for Equity, Equality

By Kris Dunn

Jan. 21, 2017


wf_website_blogheaders-17If you don’t like the answer, you can always change the question. Especially if you have money. Lots of money.

There are a lot of companies across America that struggle with diversity hiring. It’s under-utilized in multiple job families, and even as employers try to attract diverse talent, it hasn’t gone great.

After all, not everyone wants to work for your company. Throw in the fact that you can’t pay new hires anything they want without messing up your compensation equity, and most companies don’t make the diversity hiring progress they’d like to.

Salesforce has the same problems you do. But Salesforce also has innovation in their DNA.

So Salesforce did what any company with progressive DNA (and loads of cash) would do. They changed the answer, and thus the question. Turns out the answer isn’t more DIVERSITY, it’s more EQUALITY.

Confused? You’ll get it soon. TechCrunch recently reported that Salesforce named Tony Prophet the company’s first-ever chief equality officer. That’s equality, not diversity, and the distinction is important to note since the company said that a major focus for it was what it termed “the women’s issue.”

Initial interviews with Prophet yielded the following quote: “The notion of being chief equality officer — now that was very thoughtful and deliberate on Salesforce’s part and on Marc’s [Benioff] part versus being chief of diversity or chief of inclusion because you can have a diverse workplace or a diverse culture in many parts of America that are very diverse but are hardly inclusive and there’s hardly equality. We want to go beyond diversity and beyond inclusion to really achieve equality.”

Translation? Tech companies have huge issues finding enough females and minorities to work at their company, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Earlier this year, Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff revealed that his company spent about $3 million in 2015 to equalize compensation across the company, closing the tech giant’s gender pay gap.

Of that $3 million, the equity increases were smaller and more spread out than you would think. Salesforce reports approximately 6 percent of employees required a salary adjustment, and roughly the same number of women and men were impacted. The HR pro in all of us would assume there’s equity increases embedded in that number that impact diverse male employees as well.

A quick look at Salesforce’s workforce diversity numbers shows the following: 70 percent male and 30 percent female; 67 percent white, 23 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black, and 2 percent two or more races.

Translation: The company still has a lot of work to do, but by changing the conversation to equality, not diversity, they’ve effectively changed how they’re measured by the outside world.

I’m not saying diversity hiring in tech isn’t important. I am saying that Salesforce is working toward a related, equally important goal and now will be considered in a different light than other major tech companies, whom I would expect will follow suit soon enough.

Most companies subscribing to this publication can’t afford to write a huge check to support equality increases similar to the Salesforce initiative. But just because you don’t have $3 million lying around doesn’t mean you can’t do anything on the equality front.

The first and easiest action you can take is to make sure your offer process is less subjective. Most companies are turning over 20 percent of their workforce annually, which means you could be well on your way to resolving half your equity issues in three to five years.

The next tool in your pay equality arsenal is to stack rank the departments you want to fund equity increases for and start budgeting funds on an annual basis to take care of those over time.

If you can’t find enough diverse hires, it makes sense to ensure the ones you have (including women) are paid on equal footing to everyone else.

Then you obviously want to get your message out.

At Salesforce, that message includes the fact they’re changing the conversation from diversity to equality, with an emphasis on pay equity.

By focusing on pay equity/equality, Salesforce has created a masterstroke to relieve some of the diversity hiring pressure and is going all in, with first mover advantage and everything that comes with it.

I’m a cynic on most things. Even the cynic in me has to respect how Salesforce is controlling the narrative here.

Does this move from diversity to equality make Salesforce an employer of choice or a ninja/Jedi of public relations? I’ll let you decide.

Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.


Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor.

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