Sage Franch on Fostering Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

by | Nov 18, 2021 | SaaS Founders

Sage Franch B.C. (Before Crescendo)

Sage Franch was the kind of child who found herself owning a jewelry-selling business at five years old. She’s had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as she can remember. This inherent passion for business, coupled with her love for STEM—and the bonus of attending a prestigious private school—meant that Franch found herself exposed to many tools and opportunities early on. 

But when Franch went to university to study computer science, she was quick to notice how ostracized she felt. “I was one of a handful of girls in the room, and people looked at me like I didn’t belong there,” Franch recalls. This was the first time she felt that she didn’t fit in, despite her passion and skill for programming. 

When Franch entered the workforce, that feeling of alienation only continued to grow. She suffered countless microaggressions while working as a software developer—whether it was a coworker questioning her abilities or making a comment about her appearance.  

“Discrimination is like death by a thousand papercuts,” Franch says. These shallow cuts grew in number until the pain was too much, and she ultimately decided it was time to leave her job.  

Despite Franch having been part of her employee resource group for women, those initiatives she and her coworkers worked toward “weren’t impacting the day-to-day experience that [she] had as a woman in the company.” She felt underrepresented—that she didn’t have the means to share her story and get resources to those who needed to change their behavior.  

Franch quickly realized there was an issue of scalability at hand and that creating an inclusive workplace with thousands of employees would be impossible without some sort of software. 

Crescendo—What Does it Do, and How?

It was at this point that Franch rose out of her pain and used it as inspiration to create Crescendo. Crescendo is a SaaS business that seeks to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into company cultures—through continuous, bite-sized learning that is unique to every employee. 

Franch asserts that issues like discrimination in the workplace still require conscious human work. But with the help of tools like Crescendo, people’s efforts are increasingly scalable, and the effective change is that much more impactful. 

Crescendo offers a range of products to help companies become more inclusive. Their microlearning tool “delivers personalized training to every employee and helps them to become more inclusive, more culturally competent, and more productive,” according to Franch. 

This microlearning product—called Crescendo Moments—conveniently integrates with Microsoft Teams and Slack, meaning your employees don’t have to go to a third-party portal to do their training. As Slack and Teams both offer chat-heavy interfaces, users can directly message Crescendo to get more content on-demand and “develop their learning journey in their own way as they go,” Franch describes. 

“[Crescendo Moments] meets [employees] where they are, both in their workflow and in their DEI learning journey. Every person is getting their unique learning journey based on their preferences—based on the way that they interact with the platform,” Franch goes on to explain.  

As employees begin their learning journey, another solution that Crescendo provides—Crescendo Analytics—can track their progress and report it back to your company’s DEI team. With these measurements, the DEI team can understand how their employees are learning, how their “organizational readiness” in relation to DEI metrics has evolved, and what specific insights can be pulled from that data. 

To effectively close the loop, Crescendo also offers live training—including custom training geared towards “[driving] specific outcomes that [the company has] seen a need for in those analytics,” Franch explains. 

How Pervasive is Discrimination in the Workplace?

According to Glassdoor’s 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Study, roughly 60% of US workers “have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on race/age/gender/LGBTQ status.” Although Franch’s encounters with discrimination are unique to her, it’s clear that diversity and inclusion is an ongoing battle within many—if not most—companies.  

Glassdoor’s study furthermore shows that over half of US employees believe their employer should do more to promote a diverse, inclusive workplace. What does this mean for you? It means that you shouldn’t take lightly the benefits of having a work environment where every employee is equally treated and respected. 

With Crescendo’s microlearning product, this bite-sized, ongoing training becomes integrated into your employees’ daily work—to the point where it becomes a second-nature habit. Developing this habit among every employee effectively sculpts and improves your workplace culture, because change can only be effective if all are on board.

Her Thoughts on Handling Microaggressions in the Workplace

When asked how to best handle instances of microaggressions in the workplace, Franch admits there are cases where the discrimination demands to be called out in the moment. “Maybe there are other people in the room who need to see that it’s being addressed,” she points out.  

But in the same breath, she is careful to note that calling someone out tends to create a defensiveness within them, which can inhibit their capacity to acknowledge their mistake and be willing to grow from it. This, in turn, is likely to worsen the temperament of your workplace.   

Instead, Franch more often recommends pulling the individual aside and empathetically listening to understand what motivated them to say or do what they did, and then “[trying] to help them understand the impact that it had and why that behavior should change.” When it comes to creating lasting change, education has proved to be a more impactful tool than shame. 

Although Crescendo was founded nearly four years ago, the SaaS business experienced 500% growth in 2020—with increasingly remote workplaces and reopened discussions about discrimination. Many companies wanted to take the necessary steps to ensure inclusive workplaces where each employee felt like they belonged, and Crescendo was ready to provide that solution. 

Her Advice for New SaaS Business Owners

When asked for her advice for other SaaS business owners starting out in this space, Franch advises to fall in love with the problem—not the solution. “If you fall in love and you get married to your way of solving the problem, then you’re not going to listen to your customers and you’re not going to be agile,” she states. Simply put, it will be the death of your business.  

But when you fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve, you will constantly be innovating and expanding—to search for better, more efficient solutions that transform the lives of others. When the problem becomes your focus and you’re not locked down to a single solution, your flexibility and open-mindedness create the palette with which you’ll paint all the wonderful colors of your innovative SaaS business. 

In Franch’s case, her firsthand experience with microaggressions in her field of study and workplace was the catalyst that inspired her to create Crescendo. She found herself falling in love with the problem that is the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, and she made it her mission to find a solution through software.  

It’s not necessarily what the solution looks like that matters. Rather, what’s truly valuable is how the solution functions in its efficiency to solve the problem at hand. After all, your customers aren’t concerned with what your solution looks like—just with how it makes their lives better or easier.

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