Sharon Ehrlich, EMEA Senior Director of Readiness and Enablement, at Citrix, joined DACH Regional Host, Britta Lorenz to share her viewpoints on diversity and inclusion in Enablement.

Sharon brings such a rich viewpoint on this based upon being a minority most of her life, in New York where she grew up, to Austria where she has worked for the last twenty plus. years.  She has also taken a rigorous program from Cornel about diversity and inclusion, further rounding out her views and insights.

Why is this all important, beyond the moral and ethical reasons which should be apparent to all of us?

1️⃣Innovation goes up by roughly 20% when you have diverse teams.

2️⃣Diverse teams are proven to be far better at identifying risk.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Britta Lorenz
happy to welcome Sharon Ellie from Citrix with me today. Sharon, welcome to the show. Oh, I’m

Sharon Ehrlich
really happy to be here with you today, Britta.

Britta Lorenz
Thank you for joining. Sharon, can I just briefly invite you to introduce yourself and tell us your story of life and how it made the Sharon you are today?

Sharon Ehrlich
Well, I don’t think we have that much time. So I try to give you a really sanitized version. So I am really proud to say that I’m a native New Yorker. So I was born and raised in New York in the Bronx, actually. But I’ve been living in Europe for almost 22 years now, specifically in Vienna, Austria. And it was an amazing love story that brought me here, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners might might enjoy listening to at another time, maybe when we do cocktails together. To make a long story short, I actually started my career in hospital administration. And so I have a lot of passion for all issues related to health care, particularly women and children’s health care. But of course, when I moved to Europe, I had to reinvent myself, and I ended up in it and ended up in sales. And, and yeah, and then the rest is kind of history and then somehow made it to enablement. So we could talk about that a little bit if you’d like.

Britta Lorenz
wonderful story. And I’m actually super excited to welcome a true New Yorker on my desk. So How exciting is that? I mean, and how global are we right now? Who would have thought that it might that happens? Five or 10 years ago? Wonderful. All right, Sharon, before we dive into our topic of today, diversity and inclusion in enablement, you already described your path of your professional development. But what is really an interesting thing for me to ask all the experts joining the show? How did you actually get into enablement? What was the trigger moment where you said, that’s what I really want to do?

Sharon Ehrlich
Yeah, it was really specific, actually, I was working, leading a very smaller $100 million subscription and support renewals business in out of Bratislava. And so I had a really huge team, it was big call center there. And every time I had new hires, they came to me prepared have different levels of preparedness, as one might say. And I started to get really curious about their onboarding process and their induction, although I had been in sales, I can hardly remember what the induction process was for me when I had gone through it, you know, a decade and a half before. So I actually asked if I could join the onboarding process for sales, because I wanted to observe it. And after observing it, I got so excited about it, I started to volunteer. So I started to volunteer, besides doing my normal job, I would attend these sessions, in the role playing role. So I would play a customer or I would play, you know, anybody they wanted me to play to really help the sellers develop the narrative around the solutions that they had to sell. And then I just I made a decision, I said, I have to get into this business. This is so important. Of course, I had the advantage of working for a very large company. So it was a very well funded readiness and enablement program. I was traveling around the world, I was meeting all of these motivated, diverse people who just want it to do great things and to sell. And I got to be a part of that. And so that’s how that’s how it really started.

Britta Lorenz
That’s it’s such an amazing story. Just listening to you how you describe how your passion was born, we can see how your eyes start to sparco. Wonderful, great. Thanks for sharing this amazing journey into enablement with us. Sharon, one thing that’s absolutely fascinating to me is when I look at your LinkedIn profile, but you prompt that facilitating meaningful customer engagement in the digital space.

Sharon Ehrlich
It’s a big one, huh? Yes.

Britta Lorenz
Can we explore that just a little bit more for myself, as well as for our audience? I think they’re also really intrigued what’s behind this front?

Sharon Ehrlich
Yeah, I mean, you know, so So what it’s about is basically, if you think about how people purchased, how customers purchased years ago, and how they purchase now, it is just evolved so much. And so that the customer buying journey is completely different than what we were teaching when I was doing onboarding 10 years ago. And basically what we understand now and you can look at research from Gartner, and from all As you know, huge, huge companies that are looking at these kinds of things is that customers spend about 85% of their time researching online, looking at different journals, when they had the possibility to actually meet people talking with their colleagues, and only about 17% of the time actually talking with a vendor or supplier. Right. So where does that put us? Where does that put us as people who are trying to prepare sellers to go out there and sell something? And so we have to meet the people where they are, and they are online, right? And the only way that you can really get to them is first to be there, right? And so where are you going to be is your platform, LinkedIn? Is your platform Twitter, or if you’re working in duck region, maybe it’s saying or maybe some, it’s something else if you’re in Asia Pacific, but you have to find out the platform where your customers and your prospects are and your business partners as well. And then you have to be there, right? And being there is not easy, right? And it’s not natural, because being there means that you have to be present, you have to be engaged, you have to know how to do social listening. And in order for all of those things to happen, you actually need a strategy, right? It just doesn’t like, yeah, it just doesn’t happen. Although I think a lot of organizations Say, say, hey, when my people are on LinkedIn, you know, they’re out there. No, that’s not it. And you know it, and I know it. And there really needs to be a strategy around it. And the strategy has to be even for drilling down to personas, you know, so what is your strategy, your digital digital strategy for getting your executives engaged in showing the thought leadership? What is your strategy for your insight, sellers? And what is your strategy for your system engineers, and so on, and so on, and so on. And that strategy requires thoughtfulness. And it requires investment. And it requires execution, like any other big investment, and then it needs metrics behind it, and you need to follow it. Yeah. So so that’s what I meant by that one little sentence. And I’ve been quite involved in those kinds of activities over the last couple of years as well.

Britta Lorenz
Thank you so much for this great insight into, I almost call it a little framework you have created there have been where your customers are, how to engage being thoughtful, even applying metrics to show the impact of what you are doing on those platforms that you’re really engaging with your customers.

Unknown Speaker
This is

Britta Lorenz
a new framework, maybe something we can write down

Sharon Ehrlich
what I mean, I think the other thing to think about is that, like I said before, it, not only does it not come natural to us, but many of us don’t have the skill set to do it. And so oftentimes, you do have to seek a third party professional to help you on that journey, not only to kick it off, but to give you the structure and to give you the ideas, because it’s still so nascent for so many organizations, that it’s better to employ an expert, and have them help you develop your strategy and advise you than to do it yourself. Because it could be quite a painful experience. And you lose a lot of time by just not being efficient in where you’re investing in your activities.

Britta Lorenz
And it’s actually a strength to ask for the support, not just to say I can do it, I can do it all by myself. And then afterwards, as you said, realizing wrong investment, resources, time, and even maybe sometimes the motivating people. So ask for the help you need in order to further develop. Also those skills, Grant. Absolutely. So Sharon, we met through wise, and also on LinkedIn, which was our first touch point, if I remember correctly, which is really, really nice. And it leads us to our core topic of today, because from previous conversations we had invited and also offline. I know that diversity inclusion is a near and dear topic to your heart. Do you mind sharing something more about that, how that happened? And some things like that?

Sharon Ehrlich
Yeah, well, I mean, if you just look at me, you can tell that by identifying with probably multiple diversity groups, you know, for so first off, I am a woman. I am a minority woman in the country that I come from the United States. I would identify as Afro Latina here in Europe, I just identify as American, you know, so. So, diversity is important to me, because me and my community are very diverse. I’ve been living in Europe for 22 years and my circle of friends here in Vienna. They come from everywhere. And when I was living in New York and going to university, my circle of friends and my university colleagues, they from everywhere. And what I started to understand is that, you know, DNI as everybody is calling it really started to get a lot of press in the last few years, you know, organizations were actually making it imperative that the leadership team and that the board have more representation from underrepresented groups. So not just not from genders, but also from all sorts of underrepresented groups. And I found this absolutely fascinating to the point where I really wanted to understand and to develop a lexicon around this as well. And so I decided to take in my spare time, the little spare time that I had, I started to take a course with Cornell online, and in a diversity and inclusion program, and it’s a really rigorous course. But what it provided me with was not only the the, the words in the vocabulary to talk about things that I even experienced myself or things that I had seen others experience, but also to put business business. KPIs and to understand how DNI really affects productivity and how it affects take, you know, their ability to take risks, and so on, and so forth. And so, I mean, I put a put a lot of myself into it, just from my own knowledge. And, and I like to talk about it. And so any opportunity, I have to talk about diversity and inclusion, it I try to take it and i and i cannot impress enough upon your listeners that the two cannot be handled separately. You know, diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, you can have a diversity program without having people feel like they’re included. So it is one in the same they go together.

Britta Lorenz
Absolutely. One thing I just heard, when you describe the whole journey of your education you did on diversity and inclusion at Cornell, you went to KPIs for businesses? Can you share some examples, what you really mean worthy, and I have an impact?

Sharon Ehrlich
Well, of course, I haven’t committed all of the KPIs to, to memory. But for example, when you think about innovation, I think I can’t remember which source it comes from, it might be devoid, but it might be another, they called a number that innovation goes up 20%, when you have diverse teams, when you have diverse teams, they are able to identify risk a lot better when you have non diverse teams. So this reduces risk in the organization by 30%. So I mean, build some big numbers, right. And it goes on and on and on and on. You know, so you know, it’s not a feel good activity, it may make you feel good when you do it. And you have a program that really is authentic, and that is really doing the right things to include people and to grow them and to develop them. But it also hits the bottom line as well. And that’s why you see that so many organizations now have have something about their diversity and their inclusion and the gender mix and all of these other variables in their, in their yearly reports now because it’s become that important.

Britta Lorenz
Thank you for sharing those examples, Sharon, I know it was off guard, but it has caught my attention. I wanted to ask you a little more. So when we come back to enablement per se, what are some best practices for enablement with DNI? I mean, we heard innovation already. But what are specifically to enablement activities? How can we intersect DNI into enablement?

Sharon Ehrlich
Well, you know, when I think of diversity and inclusion, I think about voices, right, that all voices need to be heard somehow. And so if you’re creating learning in vacuum, meaning that you’re creating learning without talking to the boots on the ground, and those you know, and if you’re a an international organization, those boots on the ground, are in Asia, they’re in Africa, they’re everywhere, right. And so having, you know, an advisory council is one way that you can ensure that your programs really are talking to your entire sales force, right, as opposed to you know, having a core team of people sitting in one room in one geography, developing your readiness program. So that’s one way that you can do it. You know, when you think about just some easy wins, easy wins when you when you have content that is describing sales scenarios such as scenarios are relatable to everybody irrespective of where they are right. And so if there is a sales scenario that does not work in a certain geography It behooves you to find one that does work in geography so that the sellers are engaged. Because what happens is if you start to present them with training, and they say, Well, that doesn’t happen in my in my country, or that’s not something that we see in our geography, there are those the wall, there goes to disengagement, right. And so those are things to think about. Also images, right? When you have when you’re producing content, and the images don’t represent people who are part of your selling community, this is another point to think about. So.

Britta Lorenz
So again, it comes basically down to listening to your customer of enablement, what’s their feedback, and really listen and understand what they need, and then adjusted accordingly. Even though thinking about it beforehand, already, but sometimes we just miss it. unintentionally.

Sharon Ehrlich
Yeah, I mean, and then there are other things to think about. It’s, you know, how do you how do your people consume learning? are you forcing them to go to a specific platform that they can only access from their laptop computer, you know, that that’s not being very sensitive to the way that people live today. Also, if you think about neuro diversity, people learn in different ways. So you know, if you want to impart a message, you may have to approach three or four different ways to impart that message, so that it really speaks to this specific learning style or learning preferences for individuals as well. So I mean, there are lots of different dimensions that you can think about, if you want to really be authentic and, and create a program that’s considering your entire population.

Britta Lorenz
I already jumped start before a little bit. My next question is with the KPIs beforehand, but I want to come back to that, from your point of view, Sharon, thinking of gains for the company? What are the biggest gains we can think of? Or dream off? If we really live DNI and not just speak about it? I mean, we see it so many times are we do we have DNI, we lived in AI, but nothing really happens, words don’t match action. So from your point of view, what would be your ideal scenario, your dream scenario, a different scenario of a company and its gains by doing that?

Sharon Ehrlich
Well, here’s the thing. When you have an organization that is comprised of people, from all different sorts of groups, they start to understand when your attempts at diversity and inclusion are authentic, or when they’re feel good activities. If you’re having you know, let’s have this international food day where everybody brings in their, their, their specialty dish, and that’s considered, you know, your DNI activity, people will have fun, they will eat the food, but they won’t think anything more, that has any teeth to it, you know, it’s it’s not, it’s not going to help people advance their careers, it’s not going to help people get a seat at the table. You know, this is what we always talk about, it won’t help some women lean into, you know, as Cheryl Sanders said, into their careers, because they won’t be given those opportunities to do that. And so, in the first instance, your program has to be authentic, and it has to have teeth a minute, it really does, because what the what the result will be is that you end up having your underrepresented people becoming disengaged. And I think there’s enough data out there for us to understand how dangerous disengaged employees can be for an organization, right. Okay, so now we have the perfect world and we have a really great DNI program. So what can you expect? And I actually I have to cheat here because I wrote down some notes because I couldn’t find it remembering that there are a few things right. So if you have an inclusive culture, right, so it’s not only diversity, remember before but I talked about the inclusion part is really important. So people are two times more likely to meet or exceed their financial targets. So think about that, when you’re an organization selling something, services or you know, or commodities, whatever it is, that is a big deal, isn’t it? Three times as likely to be high performing and both dimensions work. So also nothing to sneeze at. I mean, this is really significant, six times more effective at being agile and innovating. And, you know, with the rate of speed that everything is changing, you know, every organization just think about from last March till now has had to somehow reinvent their business. In this model, you cannot underestimate how important it is for your people to be agile and to innovate. And so I mean, that’s just a few of a laundry list of dozens of different metrics that can be positively impacted by having a real diverse and included workforce.

Britta Lorenz
super great. Thank you so much for sharing that. And absolutely no problem that you’re using your notes. I mean, that’s why we always, always have this preparation. I think it’s super. And it’s authentic. Again, why learning it by heart? I mean, we are here, we’re humans, we have to learn it on we have to do. Wonderful. Sharon, from your experience. As we heard, in every situation of your life, DNI has been a big part. What would be your number one tip, if you notice something does not go down the line of DNI, it has been promised to you or you just want to stand up for DNI and say, Hey, stop, that’s not the way to go. What’s a tip from your side?

Sharon Ehrlich
Huh? Well, you know, I think sometimes companies authentically and genuinely believe that they do have a culture of diversity and inclusion. I don’t think that many organizations are malicious, and say, we’re just going to exclude people. I don’t think that’s the case. I think in many instances, it’s just really, the culture has evolved into what it is. And all of a sudden, you have people who you know, are part of some underrepresented group and feel like I don’t belong. I can’t be myself, I can’t wear my hair the way I want to wear it, I can’t speak the way I want to speak. I feel that if I say something, that there are going to be repercussions. And if there are enough people in the organization that feel that way, somebody has to be bold enough to go to HR, which is usually the owner of diversity and inclusion, to talk about it. And usually those someone’s, by and large, has to be people who are in leadership positions, because those who are in leadership positions will be listened to and will be heard. And that’s usually the first step is just really having a conversation about what is the current reality? And is that acceptable to us? And does that really jive with our values as an organization? And if the answer is no, or we’re not so sure, then put together a group of people to talk about it. And then if there’s more that comes out of it, you can take it further and further, but has to at least start with some sort of a conversation. And then some real authentic self examination, this is quite important.

Britta Lorenz
So it’s really there to stand up and make it visible, what’s really happening. And voicing your concerns,

Sharon Ehrlich
voicing concerns. And I think the other thing is, you again, you have to be a bit gracious bent, and it’s you voice your concerns, but they’re not accusations, right? They’re like, Hey, you know what, I realized that there’s not one single woman on our leadership team, is there some reason for that, right? Or I realized that, you know, although we live in a community that is 80%, black, that there’s not one single black person working in this office. But those are the kinds of things that you can just raise and ask questions about. And you know, be curious and ask the right people and continue to ask until you start to get the answers that that help satisfy your knowledge, and helpfully move some activity to try to at least change things a little bit.

Britta Lorenz
So far. So that also comes down again, to use your communication skills, actually, by listening, questioning, observing, and also mirroring the situation, what’s really happening right now here, and just mirroring what’s going on and trying to create awareness,

Sharon Ehrlich
creating awareness. And also, I mean, let’s not also forget about insight, right? Sometimes it’s really hard for people to understand things without you presenting an example of where it’s happening, and where it’s working well, right in your industry or in your sector. And that’s and you know, that takes homework, right to figure out I mean, we all have friends and colleagues who are working in similar industries, and you can talk with people and say, so how is it your organization right? And that little bit of insight that you bring might be able to just awaken one person or just get one person to sit down and have that coffee with you with a virtual coffee with you and talk about that a little bit. Right.

Britta Lorenz
Sharon, I really want to be cautious of time. I love the topic and I think we can speak about it for another ages.

Unknown Speaker
I’m not even

Britta Lorenz
but as I said I want to be cautious of time I know already it’s after our for us in Europe or in via in Austria. So, coming back to a little bit more personal question for you.

Unknown Speaker
Okay.

Britta Lorenz
What’s your favorite book or podcast you can recommend to our audience and why? And it doesn’t really have if it’s related to DNI, awesome, but doesn’t have to be something you really want to share.

Sharon Ehrlich
So I’m a huge podcast listener, I love podcasts, because we do a lot of walking. And so when I’m walking, I always listen. So, and I’m a huge lover of storytelling. I think storytelling is so important. It’s so underestimated as a tool for communicating messages. And so there is a podcast called the moth, m o t, H. And it features storytelling and storytellers from all around the world. And it’s amazing. I mean, sometimes these stories will bring you to tears, and sometimes I’m laughing, and it and it’s just amazing. So I really love that

Unknown Speaker
for

Sharon Ehrlich
a different kind of story, snap judgment. I mean, I like to be entertained, it can always be about work all the time. So there’s one step judgment, I also enjoy reading the Harvard Business Review, because I do like numbers. And I like data. And, you know, I learned this trick that if you put something in Google and then put PDF, you get really wonderful reports from Deloitte and KPMG that are available, and you don’t have to pay for them. And you can learn a lot more about whatever the topic is that you’re interested in. And so that’s where I get a lot of my information, my recent research information when it comes to the topic of diversity and inclusion, to be honest with you. And then in terms of books. Yeah, I mean, at the moment, I’m reading David Sedaris, because he’s just a humorist. And I think this is a time in my life where I need some humor. It’s very stressful, and this whole pandemic situation and the lockdown and everything. And so it’s really nice to escape into somebody else’s, you know, crazy spin on the world.

Britta Lorenz
Thank you so much for sharing them. And I just had this little, I don’t know how you call it in English, but head movie, when you explained how you are listening to your podcast, and you’re walking, and you start to laugh or even start to cry, sometimes maybe it’s tearing you up, and somebody crosses, you’re like,

Unknown Speaker
Oh, my God, I would love to

Britta Lorenz
see this picture of the situation. I think that’s so you being authentic and sharing what you really feel at this moment of time. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that sharing. How can our audience get in touch with you if they want to speak with you about anything that’s on your heart, DNI enablement? Or if they just want to get to know you? How should they get in touch?

Sharon Ehrlich
I’m on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn, I don’t use the other platforms very much. So I think if you want to find me on social media, LinkedIn is the right place to find me and all of my coordinates are there.

Britta Lorenz
Cool. Super. Sharon, thank you so so much for joining me today for sharing your insights and best practices and tips and tricks. And yeah, I wish you a wonderful evening. Thank you so much. And already looking forward to speaking to you soon again. Thank you.

Sharon Ehrlich
It was absolutely My pleasure. And you can invite me anytime you want. You can tell that I have no shortage of words. I love to talk. So thanks again for the invitation. Appreciate it.