Inclusion and Diversity in retail IS FOREVER!


As long as humans have been on this earth we have been diverse. Diversity is what makes us beautiful. However we struggle to see the commonality in all races, beliefs, personalities, and all the things that make us unique. We have trouble with judging, even subconsciously. I had a friend once explain I&D by saying we need to look at our “business personality” the way we look at a rainbow. When we look at a rainbow we never say “well that one color stands out to me”. We look at the unity of colors and say “wow what a beautiful rainbow.” Now how can we transfer that into a moral organizational responsibility. Not just training our people but structuring I&D into our DNA.

Today I was inspired by Microsoft’s focus around inclusion and diversity. They have an entire site based on how to get started on your I&D DNA. Its called the Inclusion Journey if you want to check it out. This site even has a full alphabetically designed library to help you. absolutely amazing!

This reminded me of an article I read by Accenture in which they were talking about this back in 2019. It points out how 42% of ethnic shoppers and 41% of LGBT shoppers would commit to retailer focused on I&D. They also point out 4 key factors that organizations should feel is needed to roll out this commitment.

  • What you sell
  • How you sell it
  • Where you sell it
  • Who sells it

What shopping can sometimes feel like

Those four points are not as simple as they look if you want to approach I&D holistically. Think about it . What you sell has to speak to your customer’s cultural needs. Example: My wife and I are hispanics in the suburbs. When we go to the local supermarket, we notice they have some of our needs, but we at times have to travel two towns over to find a supermarket that supplies our cultural cooking needs. Now the issue is hispanics make up one quarter of the population in my community. Without calling out this brand imagine how much more I would spend with them if they truly catered to our needs. To take it a step further, how many customers is this supermarket losing if an unknown, and potential large amount, of that one forth percentage decides “I’m never going to shop with this supermarket since they don’t identify with me”.

Now let’s talk about how that product would be sold. Lets go back to my local supermarket. I can’t even count how many times, as a Hispanic, I’ve had to look for something like “beans” for example at my local grocery store by looking at the aisle signs. I go to the aisle that suppose to have beans and I find Bush beans, Lima beans, Pork and beans, and the slap in the face Old El Paso Refried beans! Everything but Goya beans. Then I ask the clerk only to find out I should have been looking for the “International” aisle sign. Is that not saying your beans are not my beans? Do you think this is a potential situation where even more of that 25% says I’m taking my money two towns over, where my beans are everyones beans. Sounds silly right?! or does it?

Where you sell it? Well for my local grocery store I think that point was also proven. Its in the international aisle! Now let’s think a little differently, when was the last time you heard a multicultural playlist playing in a suburban supermarket. Or saw personal shoppers for the handicap? Or seen marketing with openly gay graphics.Not at my local supermarket! It really seems like they have some work to do huh?

And lastly who sells it? I think this not only comes down to demographic but hiring those who speak and relate to this I&D vision. My in-laws also live with me and shop at the same supermarket. One time my daughter asked them to pick up a canned food item they were unfamiliar with. Both my in-law’s first language is Spanish. This supermarket can easily employ well over 100 people. During this day not one person spoke Spanish. Not one person in an establishment that should hire 1 in every 4 workers as bilingual in Spanish. I think you guys are starting to understand why we sometimes shop two towns over, but should we have to?

So, how can you assure your brand is I&D conscious

Trust me, I’m no expert in Inclusion and Diversity but from my personal opinions as a leader it starts by living and working with a conscious mind daily. Its how you see every color of that rainbow and how well you point those colors out to others. As a leader you have to take this challenge head on. You have to be courageous enough to call out opportunity.

Addressing team opportunities

For example the next time one of your employees are watching a potential shoplifter by offering “outstanding” customer service, ask what made them single out that individual. If the answer is because they looked like a shoplifter, give them the shoplifter identification test. Ask them if a black male with a hoodie comes in and white male in a designer suit comes in, who has more of a potential to steal and see what answers you get. The answer is both have the potential to steal but your job is treat both as a valued customer. Assuming anyone will steal because of how they look is not the I&D DNA you’re trying to establish.

If you hear someone making remarks that can potentially offend someone, address it immediately, however do it as a conscious coaching. Ask them open ended questions like:

  • I heard you say this, do you think anyone might find that offensive?
  • What could you have said instead?
  • Going forward do you think you will be able to be more aware of other people’s feelings and beliefs? How so?
  • Are you aware this can cost us customers that may never come back? How would something like that make you feel as a customer?

Besides protecting your DNA you can also preserve it by doing things like

  • Assuring those with religious needs are accommodated and prioritized
  • During huddles have ice breakers such as two facts and one false about yourself. Knowing each other on a personal level builds respect and potential allyships.
  • Establishing a strong focus around EAP, open door polices, gender equalities, and all resources in place to include and support those with anxiety and metal heath issues, cultural privilege or covering, openly gay, religious, sex, race. Ultimately let your staff know you’re there, you understand their needs, and you will alway champion for them. And then do it!
Knowing your customer

While you’re building this wonderful Inclusion and diversity environment for your staff, you should be teaching them to pay it forward with their customer. They have to be prepared to meet the challenges of diversity on a customer to customer basis. They may encounter so many things, like customers having Covid anxiety and they may come across a “wearing a mask” issues. Can they address needs on both sides of that conversation? Your employee may be straight and needs to know how to build a staff to customer allyship with your gay consumers. Can that person set aside bias beliefs or fear or better yet be, or become, someone without them, and meet that customers needs head on with high level service? You have to be able to lead with your I&D DNA and train to sustain!

Knowing your customer can also mean hiring to meet that expectation. Do you meet the bilingual needs of your customer? Do you know what your customer’s needs and expectations are? Does your product and marketing speak to your customer? Does your employee’s culture coincide or relates to your customer? If you work within a corporation is this company understanding and accommodating to your customer needs? What can you do as a leader to let the customer know you and your business are their ally?

Not Easy!

By any means! But not hard if you’re a human who cares about humans. A human who cares enough to change the problem this country is dealing with today. Inclusion and diversity is not about one issues being more important. Its about humans getting along with humans. Human who are all diverse, accepting the diversity of other humans. What a beautiful rainbow that is!

Thanks again Microsoft for leading me through this joureny