For my latest #MindTheTechTalentGap post, I spoke with Ashley Kegan, Director and Head of Corporate Development at Accelerated Growth Advisors (AG), a provider of financial and operational expertise to entrepreneurial organizations. What I really appreciate about this company is how it honors the philosophy that putting its team members first results in better customer service and more positive outcomes: for everyone.
An employee-first model has particular relevance for tech companies, where hiring talent in a tight labor market has become increasingly challenging. When employees know their skills are in demand, it’s hard to keep them around by dangling raises and career advancement opportunities. Instead, tech executives should consider AG’s approach of creating a culture that is equitable, inclusive, and diverse. Recently, the company implemented new policies and programs designed to bolster these beliefs with concrete action.
Leverage Innovation and Diversity to Propel Ideas Forward
Developing corporate policies can be a dry affair, but something Ashley mentioned really struck me. She said that the beauty of being a high-growth company without current policies meant that AG was not burdened by what already existed. Instead, they were able to be innovative when crafting policies and programs because they weren’t bogged down in bureaucracy, and it shows.
Ashley also mentioned that successful policymaking requires a diversity of thought, which is only achieved by having a team with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. She explained that one of AG’s core values is “Has a Story,” which means that each person has a reason for being there. It may not be clear on day one, but in order to achieve success, team members need to understand their personal “why” and celebrate their unique journey with the company.
Identify a Real Need, Then Create a Solution
Two years ago during her decision-making process to join AG, Ashley had many conversations with Bobby Achettu, the company’s CEO and founder. Those discussions focused on the company’s lack of gender diversity and policies to support female team members. Throughout these discussions, Ashley was inspired by her potential to make an impact as AG’s first female manager and soon to follow the first female director, shareholder, and member of the senior leadership team.
Right out of the gate, Ashley and Bobby came up with “Women Who Accelerate” – an internal research-based group for team members identifying as female to discuss topics relevant to them. Within the confines of a safe space, the group has explored topics such as gender communication differences; mentorship vs. sponsorship; the cross-section of race and gender in the workplace; and imposter syndrome, to name a few. Throughout the discussions, the group answers three questions:
- What can each of us do?
- What can we do at our clients?
- What can AG do to start implementing micro-changes based on our learning?
The company also addressed pay inequity head-on by undertaking a payroll audit to ensure that there was no pay disparity for anyone in the firm. AG is proud that the audit found there was no disparity. They made sure to publicly announce the audit and its results, and will continue to perform one annually.
Focus on What Matters to Employees
When developing policies and programs, it’s important that your eye is always on the end-user – your employees. For instance, AG recognized a real need for a parental leave policy, but not just any policy. It had to be in keeping with the company culture and the needs of its team members. From the outset, Ashley and the team took into consideration the many layers and nuances of parental leave, and prioritized what was important for AG team members, including:
- Strong support of paternity leave. AG felt this was not only a great time for fathers to bond with their child and support their significant other, but it leveled the playing field and destigmatized maternity leave.
- A clear return to work path. AG understands that after welcoming a new family member, returning to work can be a difficult adjustment. As a result, its policy includes a menu of services and products that team members can choose from such as cleaning, meal delivery services, pump upgrades, and sleep consultants.
- A truly flexible, flexible work schedule. One of the most significant benefits AG offers its team members is flexibility, and the understanding that flexibility is different for everyone. For some, it means a weekly cap on hours they can work, while still earning a salary and achieving their career goals. For others, it means working from home or not starting the day before 9:30 a.m.
First-Rate Policies Lead to Healthy Corporate Growth
Ashely is very proud that the AG team is now near 60 team members, of which 45% is female and 43% is diverse. Leadership has also grown to include five females, representing over 40% of the leadership team. She finds this to be a remarkable advancement considering when she started two years ago she was one of only three billable female team members and the only female manager. I find this remarkable too, and a testament to the entire company’s commitment to value its employees and always move forward.
What has this meant for AG as a company? In the last two years, AG has more than doubled its team size and its run rate. During this growth, the company has made a concerted effort to focus on recruiting based on its core values and putting the right people in the right seats. The company also launched its Research and Delivery Center in Bangalore, India, and has organically maintained gender parity and a dedication to diversity of thought.
Do you have any policies or programs that your company recently launched to help build a more equitable environment for its employees? Share your experiences and the results on social media with the tag #MindTheTechTalentGap, or just comment below. I look forward to hearing your thoughtful ideas!