Diana Cruz Solash joined global business cloud software company Infor last year in the newly created role of VP, Inclusion and Diversity. Previously she spent more than 20 years at EY, finishing as director, Global and Americas Diversity & Inclusiveness.
You’ve worked in I&D for a long time, what makes you so passionate about it?
It’s both the macro and the micro. At a macro level, I truly believe that inclusion and diversity drive better business results. When there are better business results, it means the pie gets bigger for everybody.
At a micro, human behaviour level, I find much joy in the ‘aha’ moments that people have when they realize the impact they have on other people’s sense of belonging and make an intentional decision to change their behaviour to be more inclusive and seeing people who traditionally are underrepresented in business thrive.
The workplace is one of the only places where people are compelled to work together across differences. So I see the work that I do as meaningful. If I can help people change mindsets so they are curious about and embrace differences, and they carry that back into their communities, then I get jazzed about that.
What drove Infor to create a senior I&D role?
Charles Phillips, our CEO, and the leadership team realised that, while Infor had pockets of activities to build the pipeline of female and underrepresented minority talent, the programmes weren’t all connected and optimising the power of inclusion. They felt they needed someone who does this for a living to help bring it all together.
How have you gone about connecting the dots?
Lots of things. But first and foremost, I wanted to understand the current state. Both quantitatively -what our data is telling us, and qualitatively – what our people are telling us about their experience. We’re a global company of 17,000+ people in 168 locations, so I wanted a holistic view of what was going on throughout the organisation.
At the same time, I was very clear to say that inclusion is about creating a culture where each person feels safe, trusted and valued for their unique perspectives, identities and backgrounds; and one that invites a diverse pipeline of talent.
I wanted to ensure people understood that diversity encompasses ‘all differences’ as often, globally, it is viewed as a ‘Western thing’ — and as a notion that tends to put walls up between people.
What was the reaction?
It was interesting. After I explained that I&D was broad and could be about cultural differences between countries or working remotely versus in the office; and that it was also, of course, about men and women, and minorities and non-minorities, many people said ‘oh, now I get it, I can see’.
What initiatives have you introduced?
As I said, my first year has been about understanding the current state, what we want to achieve and putting a framework around our strategy. This is built around three pillars: creating an inclusive workplace, enriching the diversity of our workforce in line with the market, and having an impact in the market, beyond our four walls.
That said, the quick wins have included rolling out inclusion and diversity learning for all our people, which also consist of a series of online sessions. These are supported by ‘team talk’ listening sessions that enable teams to discuss what they have learnt and how they will apply it in the business.
I’ve set up an inclusion board of over 30 executives from around the world who represent each region and function in the business. They will help me further shape the strategy and be my lead adopters. Their first mission is a simple one: ‘have a conversation with five people you don’t know to ask them what makes them feel included, feel like an outsider, and what they would do differently’.
The Women’s Infor Network (WIN), which existed before me joining, has been refocused to have a strategy around the workplace, workforce and marketplace, and our Veterans Infor Network (VIN) is focused on recruiting talent.
And, I’m working with our recruiters to put together hiring guides — rules of the road, to ensure we have in place things like diverse interview panels, standards and agreed criteria before we even talk to anybody. We’ve also been using our own tool called Infor Talent Science, which provides an objective view of somebody’s behavioural profile and how that matches the behavioural profile of the role. We have found that Talent Science improves not only the retention and performance of the hires but also gender and ethnic diversity.
How important to I&D is gathering, analysing and communicating data?
It’s hugely important. Data matters because while you may have a gut feeling about where you think the problem lies, the data may confirm this or actually suggest something else. Robust data helps us not boil the ocean and really pinpoint where we’ve got hotspots, as I would call them.
One of the challenges for I&D professionals is getting buy-in at the C-suite level. How have you tackled that?
In many ways, one of which has been to focus in on the hard dollars. For example, I compare the growth in the business with the savings we can achieve through retaining our talent. I also highlight the financial gains that can be made through higher engagement and higher productivity.
I use a lot of those stats because inclusion and diversity, rightly or wrongly, can be viewed as a soft topic. People say, ‘you’re going to tell me to do this because it’s the right thing to do’. I say, ’yes, but it’s also good for business’. So, numbers matter.
With our leaders, I ask them who on their team matters, who do they listen to and how are you going to ensure your female rising stars continue to want to stay here? Getting them to think about their talent and individuals in this way sometimes changes their perspective and makes them feel accountable.
I would encourage inclusion and diversity professionals to talk to each other. It can be kind of lonely because we tend to be one of one or one of a few in a company. Having those networks is important.
Do you have performance-related measures for I&D?
Yes, we’re working on that right now. Year One was setting the framework, talking about the strategy, and Year Two is getting those hard metrics and making KPIs really clear to managers and leaders.
How do you build something that’s going to be adopted and believed in by all?
During the current state assessment, I held 40 listening sessions around the globe. Some were in person, and some were virtual. I asked the same questions that I asked my inclusion board members to ask. What makes you feel included? What makes you feel like an outsider? What do you think we could do better? There were definite themes that cut across all our locations. Things like cross-cultural, cross-country norms being different and how we work together across those norms. There were some concerns that the hiring pipelines are not as diverse as we would want them to be, which is a challenge in tech overall.
It was about listening to the organisation and reiterating that the muscle we use to recruit and include women and minorities, is the same one needed to include people across departments and cultures. I try to make it relatable and translatable in many different places.
The gender pay gap and too few women in tech roles have been hot topics in the UK. Has there been an impact on what you’ve been doing at Infor?
We’ve had a continuing focus on equity in pay, doing reviews and figuring out where the gaps are, and where we need to make improvements. We need to look at what causes a pay gap, which is typically a symptom of something else.
We ensure that we do talent reviews and succession planning in a way that is equitable and that we have a wide lens and use standard assessment and promotion criteria consistently across the workforce. We have also been focused on attracting more women into tech through our Women’s Infor Network and GenOne programmes, and retaining them for higher level, higher-paid, leadership positions.
What’s the percentage of women working at Infor?
Globally, we’re about 33% women. Our development and our [SaaS] groups are 30% women, which quite frankly surprised me because I’m so used to seeing these bleak numbers for tech. Now that’s not to say we don’t have work to do. But we’ve got a good starting point.
How are you tackling the issue of race equity in Infor?
I think companies are microcosms of society at large. Tech has been known as a “[bro] culture” where the majority are white men. This is in part why we’ve started our GenOne programme to build a more diverse talent pipeline for tech. We partnered with an organisation called YesWeCode, which Van Jones founded. And we did a pilot last year where 20 individuals – primarily ethnic minorities – completed a three-month intensive programme. It was focused on development or enterprise software sales. Afterwards, we helped place them either at Infor or with customers and partners. Fourteen of the GenOne graduates are now at Infor.
It can be intimidating to break into an industry, where intentionally or non-intentionally, you’re different and in the minority. At Infor, I feel we’re making strides, and I think credit goes to Charles Phillips for really starting many of these things without prompting, seeing the opportunities, where we have gaps and where we can make a difference.
Are your BAME employees still struggling to move up the pipeline or understand how I&D works for them?
This is a challenge in the tech industry overall. It’s not just an Infor issue. There’s this natural sense of belonging uncertainty. ‘I don’t see many people who look like me, so do I even belong here?’ There’s the worry that you’re going to confirm a negative stereotype about your group, so you hold back, or you become insular. That can hurt. Also, there is, of course, unconscious bias.
How do you include people who are disabled, be it mental health or physical, at Infor?
Diverse abilities are included in our definition of inclusion and diversity. There are so many opportunities, whether it’s in coding or a support function; the way we work is so flexible too. But it is an area where we need to get better.
What initiative are you most proud of?
It’s early days, but I think the listening sessions, and really defining for people what inclusion and diversity are has been important. I can see it in people’s eyes.
What will success look like?
One of the things I have learnt in my time doing I&D is that the ‘representation’ numbers tend to move slowly. So spend more time looking at numbers that can change more quickly, such as our hiring numbers, inclusion and retention to assess whether there’s progress.
I think we will have been successful when retention and engagement are high and no different across demographic groups, and that the demographic mix of our hires matches the talent pool in the market.
What are the main challenges for you and I&D professionals generally?
I don’t necessarily see it here at Infor, but I think for I&D professionals in general, it’s understanding how to build allies. Inclusion and diversity should own nothing but influence everything. I think it’s that balance of how you get everybody in the organisation to see inclusion and diversity as their responsibility versus ‘oh, we have the head of XYZ, and she’s got it covered’.
Finally, what do you enjoy most about the role?
Being in tech, but largely it’s being at Infor. It’s great that once I can provide the numbers and business case, I have the trust and support of the leadership team, our CEO, COO and the rest of our C-suite, to really innovate and blue sky.