Diversity In The Channel: No Longer Just A Compliance Play

Beyond achieving compliance, new research from The Channel Company finds that channel organizations are starting to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion to attract new talent and to stay in-tune with new end customer and employee requirements.


Diversifying the workforce is becoming increasingly important to leaders that want to build a financially sound organization that’s in touch with the desires of its current and perspective employees and end customers, and not just for the sake of compliance, according to a 2022 study conducted by The Channel Company on the state of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the channel.

“We know that there is high interest in deepening and developing and diversifying the workforce, not just for those today, but also thinking about the pipeline that’s up and coming as the demographics of the country change,” said Adelaide Reilly, The Channel Company’s senior vice president and general manager of digital media, speaking at the Best Of Breed virtual conference on Tuesday. The Channel Company is the parent company of CRN.

“In 2021 … most of the things that were in place were simply around compliance,” she added.

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The Channel Company’s 2022 survey included 382 self-selected respondents, the majority of whom -- about 76 percent -- were C-level executives. About half of respondents were between the ages of 41-56, followed closely by individuals aged 57 and older. The survey found that although there’s high interest from channel organizations in developing or formalizing a DEI program, those efforts are still primarily led by vendor organizations, which are only beginning to carve out leadership roles for DEI, Reilly said.

[Related: Diversity, Equity And Inclusion In The Channel: Where We Are And Where We’re Going]

Many channel organizations in 2021 didn’t have formal DEI programs in place, but many indicated they were starting to put plans into motion. In 2022, while many of these firms still don’t have established programs, about 70 percent of the channel organizations surveyed said they had efforts in place that went beyond meeting compliance requirements, Reilly said, including employee resource groups or were hosting informational seminars.

“It’s a huge jump from 2021 where it was just the beginning of the conversation, so we’re excited about the direction this is going,” Reilly said.

Beyond compliance, many channel organizations want to prioritize DEI because it helps with employee retention and attracting new talent, especially in light of current trends such as the Great Resignation and the talent gap.

“These equity and inclusion programs do so much for organizations really looking to retain their workforce so that they can have that work life rhythm that so many of us desire. It just bodes well for us as an ecosystem to continue in that in that trajectory,” said Cass McMann, The Channel Company’s DEI community leader.

SADA Systems, a solution provider that was founded by immigrants, continually looks for new ways to foster an inclusive, diverse, and supportive environment for its employees, according to Narine Galstian, chief marketing officer for SADA Systems.

Starting with recruitment, the Los Angeles-based firm uses machine learning technology to screen job descriptions for bias. In terms of training and development, SADA provides listening opportunities to its employees through chat advocacy groups and internal trainings on DEI topics by our team members and special guest speakers on topics such as Women‘s History and Black history.

The last piece, said Galstian, is culture. “We weave DEI into every facet of our culture. We ensure that everyone has a voice and just as importantly, that everyone knows how to listen inclusively,” she said.

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Make it Formal

One of the biggest roadblocks to DEI for many companies, Reilly said, was in finding best practices and information to help companies tailor their efforts in a way that is mindful of blind spots that might exist so they can start a more formalized approach to tackling DEI thoughtfully.

“I think [partners] are looking for a way to find a central resource or a hub that can give them some guidance, because truthfully, the information is so desperate, it’s exhausting to look through,” Reilly said.

Many employees have begun looking outside of their own organizations for these resources if their companies don’t have them in place, McMann said.

To that end, The Channel Company on May 1 launched its Inclusive Leadership Network, a new community that will bridge the gaps for companies that want to start and further their own tangible DEI strategies. The community provide spaces for continued conversation about the importance of equity and inclusion, as well as offer tools and training that individuals can take back to their companies, McMann said.

“There’s a big constituency of folks that are looking outside of their organizations to either expand on their knowledge build different knowledge base or even just personalized what they know about equity and inclusion and how to be better for their individual learning,” McMann said.