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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Retail Trends in 2024

Shaping the Future of Retail: Six Key DE&I Trends for 2024 In an industry as resilient and people-focused as retail, the progression towards Diversity, Equity, and… View Article


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Retail Trends in 2024

Shaping the Future of Retail: Six Key DE&I Trends for 2024

In an industry as resilient and people-focused as retail, the progression towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) marks an exciting era of transformation.

The collective drive of individuals is finally reshaping the sector into a bastion of progress and inclusivity, reflecting the vibrant diversity of our society. With 60% of companies ramping up their financial and staffing commitments to DE&I, and nearly three-quarters of HR leaders acknowledging its critical role in their company’s future, the momentum is undeniable.

We look at six key DE&I trends shaping the retail sector in 2024:

Trend 1: Elevated Focus on Women’s Health in Retail

Retailers are increasingly prioritising comprehensive health and wellness programmes tailored to women’s needs, including reproductive health, mental well-being, and work-life balance. These initiatives aim to support women through various life stages, fostering an inclusive culture that recognises and accommodates diverse health requirements.

Tea Colaianni, Founder & Chair, WiHTL & Diversity in Retail, stated: “Retailers are recognising the importance of comprehensive health and wellness programmes tailored to address women’s unique needs, encompassing aspects such as reproductive health, mental well-being, and work-life balance. We are already seeing our members implement policies that not only support women during critical life stages but also foster an inclusive culture that acknowledges and accommodates diverse health requirements, and expect this to continue into 2024.”

Addressing menopause in the workplace is increasingly recognised as a crucial aspect of supporting women’s health and well-being. In the UK, it’s estimated that around 13 million women are either peri- or post-menopausal, equating to a third of the entire UK workforce. This demographic trend underscores the importance of incorporating menopause support into workplace health and wellness programmes.

Employers who acknowledge and support women experiencing menopausal symptoms can help mitigate the impact on productivity and job satisfaction. Menopause support can include flexible working arrangements, access to information and resources, and an understanding workplace culture. By addressing menopause openly and supportively, businesses can improve workplace inclusivity, retain experienced staff, and foster a healthier, more productive working environment.

For further insight into menopause support in the workplace, Irwin Mitchell provides detailed analysis and support here: Tackling the menopause taboo.

 Trend 2: Revolutionising Parental Leave Policies

Tea Colaianni, Founder & Chair of WiHTL & Diversity in Retail, emphasises the evolving landscape of workplace inclusivity: “We anticipate organisations will implement more progressive approaches such as equal parental leave, enhanced paternity leave, and broader support and infrastructure for carers too.” This reflects a significant shift towards gender-neutral parental leave policies within the retail industry, acknowledging the diverse needs of all parents and carers and demonstrating a broader commitment to equity.

Examples of Progress:

  • NatWest has made significant strides by revising its parental leave policies. From January 2023, all new parents at NatWest in the UK, regardless of gender, are entitled to a year off (52 weeks) – with half of that time (26 weeks) being fully paid, plus an additional 15 weeks at statutory maternity or paternity pay rates.
  • Spotify offers an impressive six months of parental leave to any permanent employee, irrespective of their gender, who welcomes a child into their lives. This policy applies to children born, adopted, or arrived via surrogacy, challenging the traditional ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ caregiver roles and fostering a more equitable approach to parental leave.

These examples underscore the retail sector’s commitment to adopting more inclusive, gender-neutral parental policies, crucial for creating an equitable workplace environment that supports diverse family structures.

Trend 3: Flexibility as the New Norm

The shift towards flexible working patterns, particularly the implementation of a 4-day work week, is revolutionising the retail sector. This trend not only acknowledges the importance of work-life balance but also reflects a significant move towards creating a more adaptable and inclusive working environment.

The benefits of such flexibility include improved employee well-being, increased productivity, and a positive impact on employee retention.

Streamlined Examples of Retail Flexibility:

  • Wickes’ approach to flexibility: Wickes introduced a four-day work week for store management, offering the option to work four longer days or flex hours across the week. Following a successful trial with Timewise in 14 stores, the initiative showed no negative impact on store KPIs, with a significant increase in manager satisfaction regarding their working hours.
  • Asda’s flexible working trial: Asda is trialling a four-day working week, responding to store managers’ needs for more flexible schedules. This trial, which includes varied working patterns for managers in 20 stores, maintains the same pay and benefits for a reduced working week, without cutting the hours of hourly-paid staff. Early feedback is positive, indicating strong support for these new, more adaptable working arrangements.

These examples from Wickes and Asda highlight the sector’s innovative steps towards flexible working. By adopting such policies, retailers are not only catering to the evolving needs of their workforce but are also laying the groundwork for an industry-wide shift towards more dynamic and employee-friendly working conditions. This commitment to flexibility is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent, thereby ensuring continued business growth and a more inclusive workplace culture.

Trend 4: Harnessing AI for Equity

AI is set to be a significant trend across various sectors and departments this year, including DE&I, as highlighted by Tea Colaianni, who stated, “AI tools are expected to play a crucial role in identifying and mitigating bias, enhancing recruitment processes, and fostering an inclusive workplace by leveraging data-driven insights to drive strategic decision-making in the pursuit of diversity and equality.”

AI technologies offer transformative potential to enhance DE&I strategies in retail by automating the identification of bias in job descriptions, ensuring diverse candidate slates, and analysing workforce data to uncover and address equity gaps. For instance, AI can analyse vast amounts of HR data to identify patterns of inequality or bias in hiring, promotions, and pay, providing actionable insights to create a more equitable workplace.

Example of AI in Action:

  • Gap Inc. has been utilising AI-driven analytics to assess and refine its hiring processes and workforce diversity strategies. By leveraging AI tools, Gap Inc. is able to identify unconscious biases in job advertisements and recruitment processes, ensuring a broader and more diverse talent pool. This approach not only helps in attracting a wide range of candidates but also supports the company’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive work environment.

This integration of AI into DE&I efforts demonstrates the retail sector’s commitment to leveraging technology to foster equitable and inclusive workplaces. By harnessing the power of AI, retailers can make more informed decisions, reduce biases, and promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of their organisations.

Trend 5: Personalised Inclusion Strategies

Personalised inclusion strategies are revolutionising the way retailers approach DE&I, by focusing on the unique needs and experiences of each employee.

Marcia Spiers, Head of People Strategy & Systems and EDI Lead at Sue Ryder, highlights the importance of this approach: “As one of the UK’s largest charity retailers, we understand the value of diversity in making our retail operation a success. This understanding has led us to focus on enabling individuals to feel they can be themselves at work and contribute their best.”

Sue Ryder’s commitment to personalised inclusion is evident in their innovative Inclusion Passport—a user-friendly tool that encourages employees to express their individual needs, facilitating open, supportive conversations with line managers. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to create an inclusive workplace where every employee feels valued and supported.

Spiers further explains the impact of these strategies: “We’ve made great strides in implementing our ED&I strategy by introducing our Inclusion Passport. Early in 2024, we will be rolling out our Race Equity Plan to further improve the work experience for our colleagues from ethnically diverse backgrounds. We predict that other retailers will continue to make DE&I an integral part of their strategy, not only for commercial success but also to retain good staff members.”

The approach taken by Sue Ryder, particularly with the introduction of the Inclusion Passport and the forthcoming Race Equity Plan, showcases the effectiveness of personalised inclusion strategies. By acknowledging and addressing the individual needs of employees, retailers like Sue Ryder are setting a standard for the industry, proving that treating everyone as individuals supports business growth and reduces vacancies.

Spiers adds, “We have clear actions in place to improve the experiences of ethnic minority groups in our organisation. The recent launch of our Reasonable Adjustments Guidance, alongside the Inclusion Passport, will facilitate discussions in our shops for those requiring adjustments, from physical support to different working patterns.”

This focus on personalised inclusion not only enhances the work environment for employees but also positions Sue Ryder as a leader in DE&I within the retail sector. As they continue to roll out these initiatives, including extending support to volunteers and offering EDI masterclasses to retail colleagues, Sue Ryder exemplifies how tailored strategies can foster a truly inclusive and equitable workplace.

Trend 6: Strategic Recognition as a Catalyst for DE&I

In the evolving landscape of workplace culture, strategic recognition has emerged as a crucial element in enhancing DE&I. Studies by Gallup and Workhuman have underscored that recognition should be as unique as the workforce it aims to celebrate, advocating for personalised and frequent acknowledgment that genuinely resonates with employees. Recognition has been shown to significantly boost workplace satisfaction and productivity.

Impactful Statistics on Recognition:

  • Employees who strongly believe in the importance of recognition within their organisation are 8 times more likely to feel connected to their workplace culture.
  • Those who receive high-quality recognition are 20 times more likely to be engaged compared to those who experience poor recognition.
  • 72% of employees who report excellent recognition experiences note that their organisation commonly acknowledges performance on “little things,” highlighting the importance of recognising everyday contributions.

The power of recognition in fostering an inclusive and equitable work environment is undeniable. Beyond enhancing personal satisfaction, appropriate recognition significantly influences employees’ perceptions of their workplace’s inclusivity and equity. This builds a culture where every individual feels valued and supported, contributing to the overall well-being and engagement of the workforce.

Call to Action: Recognising JEDI Efforts through Awards

In the spirit of recognition, one way retailers are taking positive action towards DE&I is through awards. The JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Award, part of the People in Retail Awards, exemplifies the industry’s commitment to celebrating organisations that actively work towards a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive retail environment.

For retailers committed to these principles, considering an entry into the People in Retail Awards under the JEDI category can be a meaningful step. It offers an opportunity to showcase your organisation’s dedication, progress, and innovative approaches to JEDI, while inspiring others in the industry to follow suit. This is a chance to highlight the measurable impacts of your DE&I initiatives, demonstrating how strategic recognition and commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion can drive positive change in the retail sector.

As we recognise the achievements and ongoing efforts within DE&I, let’s also embrace the opportunity to celebrate and share these successes more broadly through platforms like the People in Retail Awards 2024. This not only amplifies the impact of individual organisations’ efforts but also encourages a collective movement towards a more inclusive and equitable retail industry.

Deadline: 1st May, 2024. To find out more, visit The People in Retail Awards 2024.


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