Analyzing workforce demographics to represent a diverse spectrum of identities has been on the corporate to-do lists for many years. More recently, the business impact from a lack of diversity has been clear — not just internally, where data shows that diverse teams are more innovative and productive, but also externally, as customers look to see themselves reflected in the businesses they support with their hard-earned money.
Corporate efforts to turn diversity and inclusion into a product have made some skeptics see them as an earful of overtly capitalistic nonsense or a marketing ploy to convince customers that those businesses care about people as much they do with improving their bottom line. The mere hint that these efforts are disingenuous and your D&I initiatives will be seen as meaningless to your customers.
But when consumers look around, and they see the words put into action through a staff that reflects their local community, working in a store that sells products from diverse suppliers who manufacture the goods they want and need, the process of building a relationship with your brand begins.
Diversity as a Brand Value
As you look at how diversity and inclusion efforts play out for your business, creating a “diversity product” comes down to strategies in recruiting, product research, scheduling and analytics. For companies with stores across a large geographic footprint, the branding isn’t just the people they see but the goods they can buy.
Every location is different, and locally produced goods are part of what gives it an identity. Local farmers, artisans and suppliers have become a staple at grocery store chains that have gone from boutique to mainstream shopping options in just a few years.
One reason is that consumers value corporate social responsibility (CSR) more than ever, seeing it as a way to “put their money where their mouth is” and supporting organizations that take CSR seriously. Some key components that consumers now look for to inform them of your organization’s approach to CSR include:
- A diverse team of satisfied and empowered employees
- Comfortable physical spaces
- Sustainably sourced products
- Educational materials on hand
- Products tailored to the location
The people are a big part of it, and the demographics of a given location are important to take note of. If, for example, there is a significant Hispanic/Latinx population in a neighborhood where a store is located, yet no frontline employees speak Spanish, the store is leaving a huge market segment underserved or even untapped.
Data informs where stores are opened, the insurance risk associated with a specific location, the level of investment necessary to open a store there, how many employees are needed, and what sort of supply chain costs will be associated with getting goods onto shelves. As part of your data analysis, it’s crucial to look at race, ethnicity, gender and neurodiversity within a local population and begin adjusting your recruiting strategy to see your employee population mirror the community.
This use of data doesn’t end at recruiting, however. Good managers and workforce development strategists are cognizant of keeping their fingers on the pulse of the data because the demographics of a given area are prone to change. Whether the business is retail, hospitality or sales, the relatability of its workforce and how that shifts over time will go a long way toward defining the community’s relationship with the company.
A recruiting strategy that incorporates your analytics and meets the community where it is located will help you build the workforce you’re looking for. For example, if you’re near a university, you may want to attend campus job fairs. In other places, you may want to hold open house interviews or even work with other businesses that have hiring needs to host a job fair.
One strategy for recruiting diverse candidates, which is beginning to pick up steam, is a move away from the traditional résumé. The traditionally constructed résumé is not always the best barometer of vital skills in customer relations and people operations. Instead, they can act as gatekeepers for people whose past experiences and academic achievements may not reflect their work ethic and ability to help your organization.
Additionally, companies should begin looking beyond academic credentials to examine a person’s growth mentality and potential based on soft skills that will make a difference in customer-facing roles.
While you can’t predict the workforce schedule based on the need for a diverse slate of faces, if the company develops an appropriately diverse workforce profile across all of its teams, the situation will be easier to sort out than you might imagine.
Look at staff diversity in the same way you look at skills diversity. You wouldn’t schedule staff for a day comprised of only people who know how to work the cash register or an entire floor of inventory specialists. In the same way that any storefront would need a blend of skills and roles to run and function, you need diverse identities to drive customer engagement and satisfaction.
Prioritizing diversity in this way will help customers sense inclusiveness and create familiarity with your brand in a way that will drive loyalty and confidence. In the end, diversity is not just an initiative or corporate responsibility but a tangible form of representation that a growing number of consumers want as much as the items on your shelves.