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Making Progress: Partner Builds Diversity with Mentoring Mentality

There is no easy fix to the diversity challenge the Microsoft partner channel faces. Most partners would like to hire more women and minorities, but without big recruiting budgets, it's difficult to reach a larger, more diverse audience.

One partner making strides towards a more balanced workforce promotes a culture of mentoring -- both internally and externally. The strategy appears to be working. 

"I recently heard someone mention that we, at Planet, really have a mentoring mentality across our company," said Scott Tucker, president and CEO of Planet Technologies. "We work hard to establish a culture where really smart people unselfishly share their experiences and knowledge with each other. That makes us a more valuable partner for our clients, but also a better company."

Tucker attributes a decade-long practice of discussion groups to instilling Planet's culture of mentoring. "We have real-time discussion groups on topics like cloud and cybersecurity and Office 365, where employees can reach out at any time for help on an issue, posting a question," explained Tucker. "It goes to over a hundred consultants at Planet Technologies, and you might see five or six people immediately respond. The process is very basic, but it is highly effective and allows everyone to participate equally."

The mentoring philosophy contrasts with the way many partners have been managed in the past: A few experts hold specific knowledge and dole it out when needed on a project. That mindset protects the expert's value to the company, but doesn't help grow the knowledge of the entire staff, which will benefit the organization as a whole.  

In Planet's discussion groups, engagement is so active that Tucker uses it as a sales tool. "I show our customers the activity when someone from our team reaches out," said Tucker. "I tell them, 'You're not getting an individual, you're getting a team. Even though an individual or a couple of people might be supporting your project, you really have over a hundred consultants behind the scenes also giving feedback and sharing knowledge.'"

Mentoring at Planet extends out to the community, as well. Individuals across the organization participate in Women in SharePoint, DigiGirlz, Women in Technology and more. Planet encourages employees to participate in the community, building connections whenever possible. Connections can come from anywhere -- especially when you are tuned in. For example, Tucker had a conversation with his son's coach at a recent school event. The coach mentioned his daughter was an aspiring coder. Tucker set up a meeting with one of Planet's women executives, and now the young woman has a female mentor and is building connections in the tech community.   

There isn't one factor that Tucker attributes to Planet's success in building diversity, but he thinks the culture is fundamental. "I do think that our participation and our culture, which is inclusive, valuing the individual, celebrating the individual and the team, I think those help," said Tucker. "We promote our involvement in these organizations like Women in Technology. We promote the individuals. Women or men, we highlight, we celebrate and we're pretty good at it, both internally and externally."

The benefits of a diverse workforce translate to both the customer and company level. "The approach, the perspective, the experience, the challenges that each individual has faced no matter what their background," said Tucker. "I think those experiences, when brought into the professional environment, bring significant value to our customers and, just as importantly, to our company."

How are you building diversity in your workforce? Send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 06, 2017