Erika Baker may have surprised attendees at #movethedial this week when, during her closing keynote speech, she said she wasn’t going to talk about diversity and inclusion.
After all, this was an event designed to help more women achieve leadership positions in tech companies. Baker, the senior engineering manager at Patreon, is well-known as a diversity and inclusion advocate. Why else was she there? Baker said she wanted to talk about “changing the world” instead — and rattled off at least half a dozen examples of technology firms who had, at one point or other, suggested changing the world for the better was at the core of their corporate mission.
“The good news is, we did it — Yay us!” Baker said, noting advancements in online shopping, communication, transportation and more. In terms of mentoring, championing and sponsoring women at work, however, she argued not enough change has happened. In other words, most companies still have room to grow in that regard.
When you look at diversity and inclusion as a growth area rather than some form of corporate social responsibility, it changes its urgency. The same is true when we look at other growth metrics beyond typical bottom-line key performance indicators (KPIs) such as revenue and customer retention. We’ve now reached the time of year when many firms are close to wrapping up their fiscal year or have already begun the next one. It’s a moment when goals around growth are very much top of mind. But as Baker suggested in her rather disguised diversity and inclusion speech, are the right growth goals top of mind?
Besides better representation across the workforce, I’ve started to hear many firms talk about using innovation as a growth metric. This may strike some as rather dubious, since innovation itself can be difficult to define. But if you look at the number of patents or trademarks filed, new products introduced, or even new processes that helped drive new revenue or reduce costs, innovation and growth obviously go hand-in-hand.
Among entrepreneurs, meanwhile, I’m noticing that describing yourself as a startup is far less a badge of honour than using the word “scaleup.” Depending on who you talk to, scaleup can be shorthand for “We’ve grown large enough that we’re less of a risk to do business with,” to “We’ve grown without having to add a lot of staff or move into a big fancy office that your investment with us basically pays for.” I suspect scaleability beyond just IT infrastructure will become a similarly attractive way for large enterprises to articulate their growth over the next year.
There are many other ways you can look at growth: a rise in employee engagement, the reach a company enjoys through myriad digital touchpoints, or even a shift away from legacy business models to new sources of revenue. I want to look at more of these variables over the course of November as part of what I’m calling ‘The Growth Issue’ on B2BNN.
In the meantime, let me suggest this: that all B2B firms attempt to better correlate the relationship between the “softer” metrics I’ve described above and their bottom line numbers. How can growth be measured more holistically, in a way that demonstrates not just managerial savvy but true leadership on a sectoral or even societal level? That’s my challenge to this audience. You can ignore it, or you can grow with it.
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