Written by Sonal Malavia
WECAN Network Member | President, Cloud 9 Infosystems
WECAN Network Member, Sonal Malavia, is the President of Cloud 9 Infosystems where she implements business models in multiple verticals, including healthcare, financial services, insurance, communications and education. Responsible for Inside sales marketing, website designing, creating business partnerships and reseller relationships.
Cloud 9 Infosystems (Cloud 9) is a software consulting and product-development organization. Cloud 9 is also a Microsoft Cloud partner and one of the first Azure Circle partner. We develop mission critical and business critical applications in the cloud, supporting Dynamics ERP, CRM and BI applications leveraging a global delivery model to deliver cost effective solutions.
Cloud 9 Diversity & Inclusion Story
Cloud 9 Infosystems is a modern example of how a committed small business leader can build a more diverse and inclusive organization while at the same time fostering a culture of innovation and improving financial performance and growth.
Women’s talent has taken a hard hit because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. One in 5 workers in the U.S. knows a woman who has voluntarily left the workforce during the pandemic because of the juxtaposition between caregiving and job responsibilities, according to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management.
Lack of flexible working conditions, role models, gendered career paths, and challenges accessing sponsors and influential networks were already holding women back.
A real challenge in our Technology industry is that if you were not “Digital skilling” and participating in associated programs during the recession or the pandemic and are looking for work now, you are three years behind the market curve.
Cloud 9 Infosystems recently produced a paper publishing the methods of their success in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, including appointing women to higher positions, recruiting talent with hidden disabilities, and supporting employees get the certifications they need to fundamentally understand the technology to remain competitive in the market.
Read more to get an overview on the situation in this post-pandemic work era, and make sure to download the paper to learn more about Cloud 9’s “leading-edge” success model.
Addressing the Post-Pandemic Workplace
Prior to the pandemic, women had been making steady advancement in the workplace: increasing leadership roles, board presence, organization visibility, and more. COVID-19 has all but halted that progress.
An international study of business executives has revealed that the global pandemic has severely limited workplace advancement opportunities for women, and that leaders feel restricted in their abilities to step-in and help due to other COVID-19-fueled business challenges.
To address these challenges, business executives need to act now by taking prompt tangible action to redefine long-held constructs of what work means and looks like to create a post-pandemic culture where women can thrive.
This requires a more human approach to all facets of leadership and consideration as to how we work, where it happens, and how we collaborate. Leaders should explore new success indicators, adopt different models of working, with more emphasis on quality and speed of work, than on time spent in the office.
Leaders must also take allyship and mentoring to the next level and go beyond expressing support. They need to take personal responsibility for creating a more inclusive workplace and ensuring there are opportunities for career progression across the organization regardless of their current workplace.
As many women were blatantly impacted by workplace challenges during the pandemic, with job loss and resignation rates both higher than men, Egon Zehnder’s survey uncovered that these setbacks hold the potential to disrupt women’s leadership, advancement, and work-life balance in the long-term. Such a ‘she-cession’ would not only undo the strides made toward gender diversity in recent years but would jeopardize future progress as well.
Here are some ways that companies can grow in the post-pandemic era and support women advancement:
Supporting ‘Flex’ Work Schedules
The chaos of watching women juggle school closures, virtual learning, quarantines and their jobs could lead to more empathetic workplaces. Some companies are thinking creatively about how to build more flexible work arrangements for their employees.
Experts say flexibility is key to employee retention, particularly for women. The companies that offer flexible hours and remote work, are going to be the ones that retain women.
As a result of the flexibility provided with remote work options, women with child-care needs are 32% less likely to leave their job if they can work from home, compared with women with child-care responsibilities who don’t have access to remote work.
However, some survey reports suggest that two-thirds of millennial women also believe they will miss career opportunities by not being in the office and 40% said they feel more pressure to go back in the office if they know their male colleagues are.
While all businesses are different in terms of size, leadership style and company goals, a good starting point to even out the playing field for all employees is for company leaders to create “a performance model that fairly defines and evaluates performances, regardless of time spent in the office.”
Implementing Digital Skilling
As the digital transformation trend steers the world into a new era of growth, organizations today are struggling with the need to invest in new technologies and find the right talent to drive this change. Digital skilling is being recognized as a key solution by the industry. Companies are Investing in e-learning platforms for technology such as Cloud, Analytics and Cybersecurity to keep current. A blended approach of learning in instructor led classrooms along with online video training and hands on training, as well as micro or macro learning has become critical.
Industry expects the demand for 2.3-2.7 million digitally skilled professionals to grow to 2.3-2.7 million by 2023. Given that, enabling a digital mindset at the leadership level and up-skilling are just as important as hiring experienced talent from within the industry.
Therefore, digital skilling is set to become more important than ever. Getting it right will prove to be a big differentiator.
Supporting Continual Education
Companies can better support continual education by encouragement, promotion, monetary incentives, and reimbursement of the full or partial cost of obtaining further education in information technology.
Lack of growth opportunities is one of the key reasons for employee turnover, and 87% of millennials say professional development is important in a job. Continual education allows employees to keep up with new operating systems, database software tools, network management ideas, and evolving best practices that must change as new systems come to market. That’s why almost all organizations require those in information technology to pursue ongoing education. They can focus on new technologies through platforms like Microsoft Learn, Coursera, Conferences, Webinars and more. In this way, a requirement to seek continual education for IT benefits both the company and those who have a significant interest in always performing at the highest level.
Impement a Diversity & Inclusion Program
Implementing an effective diversity and inclusion program requires leaders to be active listeners, vigilant on setting examples for their employees, able to identify potential pitfalls within the Inclusion strategy, and able to process and implement changes. Leaders must communicate with employees the impact of their opinions and actions upon the organization’s success.
Surveys, focus groups and one-to-one conversations are all good ways to create that baseline, with surveys being most effective.
The Inclusion journey is not a singular event. It requires continual reinforcement and implementing the following:
- Survey reports done periodically across the organization
- Recruitment and Retention Metrix, Diverse Network Leadership,
- Assessment tools to identify DE&I related risks or misalignment and Implementing tracking indicators to stay focused on DE&I goals and better transparency with stakeholders.
Partnering with Organizations like WECAN
For me, it was important to join a board or network that intentionally values equity, diversity, and inclusion for women. Lani Phillips, VP of US Channel sales from Microsoft spearheaded this cause and founded WECAN focusing on why women leaders are crucial for a company to reach its full potential.
Being an authentic and fierce advocate for women leaders myself, I could not wait to join her. WECAN will be a powerful platform to uplift women to leadership positions. A strategic board of executives with diverse experiences and influence was created to address the disparity of women within the tech industry. WECAN offers advisory, mentorship, and educational programs intended to elevate more women into technology leadership roles.
This initiative sparked my inner dream, and it is my honor to join such an authentic cause.