How can retail HR promote diversity & inclusion in the workplace?
From headquarters to shop floors, promoting diversity and inclusion in the retail sector is essential for businesses to thrive. The benefits of a diverse workforce are obvious for all to see – attracting broader talent pools, encouraging innovation, increasing employee engagement and responding to your customer’s needs (to name just a few). Yet while 84% of retailers state that diversity and inclusion is a top priority, almost half of retail employees feel it’s not sufficiently high up their employers’ agenda.
So how can you close this gap? We’ve identified the 6 solutions that will help you build a truly inclusive retail workplace, along with some excellent diversity in retail examples to inspire you.
How effective are diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives in retail?
When it comes to tackling diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the retail sector is lagging behind other industries. Let’s look at ethnicity as an example. After health and social work, the UK’s retail sector has the second-highest number of non-white workers. But only 3.3% of FTSE 100 retail business leaders have a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. Most non-white retail employees work on the shop floor and are around twice as likely to be working for agencies, on zero-hours contracts, or in temporary work.
Many retailers make commitments to improve diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. But if these words aren’t followed with effective action, they can have a negative impact – particularly on employee engagement.
So, what does it mean to deliver diverse and inclusive environments in the retail workplace? Diversity and inclusion should be much more than just some annual mandatory Human Resources (HR) training. From cultural, gender and religious diversity to varied backgrounds, viewpoints or abilities, you need to foster a workplace where all employees feel represented and genuinely valued. And this won’t just happen of its own accord, with one-off programmes or by taking a generic approach to diversity and inclusion initiatives.
If retail diversity initiatives are going to be effective, they need to be targeted. Your starting point should be understanding where your organisation is now – identifying your key metrics, measuring current diversity and inclusion and having an open conversation to gather colleagues’ views. The diversity initiatives you develop then need to be embedded in policy and processes throughout your organisation.
Retail HR diversity and inclusion solutions
So, how can you develop effective diversity and inclusion initiatives in your business? Here are 6 retail D&I solutions you should explore:
1. Increase diversity during hiring
Having a diverse and inclusive workforce begins with your hiring process. See more diverse candidates from the start by taking a data-driven approach. Pre-employment assessments that are designed to prioritise skills can help reduce the impact of unconscious bias around factors like education, race, sexual orientation, age or disability. This will focus decisions on the skills required for the role rather than assumptions about what’s in resumes and performance at interviews.
2. Promote pay equity
The retail sector reduced its gender pay gap last year, but there’s still work to be done. Use analytics to identify whether employees in similar roles are paid equally. If you identify pay gaps, explore the reasons for these. Think critically about whether they’re justified. Pay disparities may highlight other underlying diversity and inclusion issues which you will need to tackle.
3. Provide diversity training to everyone
Diversity and inclusion training should be provided to everyone – leaders and employees. However, you will only see the benefits, if this training is implemented effectively. Don’t just provide lots of passive reading. Help people confront their unconscious bias and get them on board with your company’s shared values, so they feel invested in improving feelings of inclusion. Rather than a one-off check box exercise, deliver these messages consistently and via a variety of channels.
4. Create more inclusive workplace policies
Policies and procedures are an essential part of every organisation. Providing employees with guidance on everything from recruitment to development, they offer a road map for day-to-day operations and ensure compliance with regulations. Don’t assume that people understand the importance of workplace diversity and inclusion. Or, that they know how to reinforce it with their actions. You may need to amend current policies or even create new ones to support positive values and behaviour.
5. Gather employee feedback
Listening to employees is one of the best ways to improve diversity and inclusion in any organisation. Distribute regular anonymous surveys to encourage people to talk more freely and share their concerns. This not only helps identify and solve issues but also contributes to a greater sense of inclusion. If your people feel their views are being heard and concerns are acted on, they’re more likely to feel like valued members of your workforce.
6. Track and share your progress
You will only know how successful your diversity and inclusion initiatives are if you measure your progress. Don’t expect to see dramatic changes immediately as it takes time for an organisation’s culture to shift. Monitor the effects over a longer period and set benchmarks to measure success. This could involve gathering targeted employee feedback or monitoring the methods used in specific processes (such as recruitment, onboarding, and learning and development).
What are the best diversity & inclusion examples in retail HR?
Effective retail diversity and inclusion solutions can transform your business. But what do they look like in practice? Here are some examples of great company initiatives that can inspire diversity and inclusion work in your organisation.
Wellbeing at Pets at Home
Pets at Home want to engage with their colleagues as whole people, not simply as employees. They have structured their approach to well-being into four dimensions: physical, mental, financial and nutritional. With roles ranging from veterinary specialists to store colleagues, Pets at Home recognise the diversity in their workforce and focus on different dimensions for different areas of the business. This means partnering with relevant bodies, such as the Retail Trust, Port of Call and Mind, to offer the right support at the right time.
Tesco’s colleague network
Tesco’s colleague networks underpin their strategy for diversity and inclusion. They have established a wide range of employee resource groups, including Armed Forces, Disability, LGBTQ+, Parents and Carers, Race and Ethnicity and Woman at Tesco. Not only do they offer colleague support, but these networks also act as strategic business advisors and ensure diverse viewpoints are heard by management.
Acting on commitments at Walgreen Boots Alliance
Walgreen Boots Alliance publicly shares their top D&I priorities each year. These are more than a guide. They are hard and fast commitments with clear associated actions. Last year this included leadership team accountability, data and insight, visibility, supplier diversity and ongoing education. With measurement and reporting in place, their employees and customers can see they are serious about making progress with diversity and inclusion.
With many consumers ready to turn their back on retail brands who don’t match their values, promoting diversity, equity and inclusion are not a ‘nice to have’. Retail businesses that don’t make changes, won’t survive.
This isn’t just about making commitments, but following up on them with effective diversity and inclusion initiatives. It requires a robust organisation-wide approach that’s embedded in policies and processes. As you’ve seen, when this is done well, it makes employees feel heard, seen and valued, fosters diverse teams and results in great business benefits.