Sage North America

Diverse thoughts and experiences have made our team, and make every team, much better. Diversity elevates the level of engagement and uplifts the entire organization.

Judy Romano is vice president and CFO of Sage North America, an Atlanta-based technology company comprising 11,000 colleagues and local networks of accountants and partners worldwide. Sage serves millions of small to medium-sized businesses with cloud-based financial and business management solutions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, many organizations were caught off guard. What should business leaders remember in any crisis, and how can they ensure their teams are resilient?

Most importantly, we must remember that people are at the center of everything we do — in a crisis, certainly, but also in everyday management. We must be empathetic and understand the broader picture. It’s not just the delivery of the work that matters; it’s also the person behind the work.

I have always aimed to create a safe space for our team, where everyone can feel free to share their work or personal challenges without repercussions. This culture of openness and support drives connection, engagement, confidence and resilience. People remain committed because you provide that space for them to bring their whole selves to the job.

How can leaders keep employees engaged and motivated?

When carried out consistently, small yet important actions can engage and motivate employees. Notably:

  • Understand and recognize what every team member brings to the table. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know, but I have someone on my team with the expertise to answer that.”
  • Learn how people like to be recognized and thank them for specific achievements that have made an impact on the organization. When you let people know how important their contributions are, they are more likely to go the extra mile.
  • Be accessible, through meetings and casual communication. Give employees time to discuss their career goals, next steps and development. Demonstrate that you are invested in their careers.
  • Unite for a good cause. We offer employees five days a year when they can give back through our foundation. We are excited to all come together, away from the office, to make a real difference in the community.

How important is a culture of upskilling and continuous improvement? What are you doing to maximize development opportunities within Sage North America?

With COVID, the pace of change has accelerated many-fold. Delivering the same results doing everything the same way is not good enough. We must apply technology, data and knowledge to drive insight for the business. That requires learning new skills.

Upskilling keeps people engaged and enthusiastic about their work. At Sage, I bring in external training resources and the company invests in skill development. We have built technology expertise across our organization to run data and analytics that help all of us do our jobs better. We have also created centers of excellence to drive development and performance.

How do diversity and inclusion strengthen teams? How can companies increase workforce diversity?

Diverse thoughts and experiences have made our team, and make every team, much better. Diversity elevates the level of engagement and uplifts the entire organization.

If you don’t open the door to all eligible candidates, you’ll never have a diverse organization, and in the not-too-distant past, I needed to be intentional about making sure the CVs I pulled for various positions were diverse in terms of race, origin, gender, age and experience. Now I find that the diversity comes naturally — due perhaps in part to the reputation we’ve built for hiring diverse candidates. I share a lot about my team on social media; when candidates see the diversity of our group — from age to gender to race to religion — they can see themselves fitting in.

The World Economic Forum shed light on economic inequities when its 2020 Gender Gap Report predicted it will take 257 years to close the gender pay gap. What actions can women take to help close this gap?

Women can go a long way toward closing this gap by fearlessly pursuing their dreams, standing up if they see or experience inequities and having the courage to leave if they feel they are not being treated fairly. As women, we tend to strive for perfection; we want to know that we are 120% qualified, or performing at 120%, before we apply for a job or ask for a raise. Men will have that conversation at 80%. I know it’s easier said than done, but I encourage women to understand the market rate, know their worth, genuinely believe they should be paid equally and confidently stand up for themselves.