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The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Retail

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The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Retail

Diversity and inclusion is an increasingly important issue in the modern world, particularly among consumers. People want to buy products and services from ethical brands and companies that share their values. Therefore, diversity and inclusion should be front and centre of any retail business. Besides being the right thing to do, D&I strategies possess a high return on investment, bringing with them a whole host of, often overlooked, business benefits. This article unpacks these benefits, as well as everything related to ensuring diversity and inclusion within the retail sector.

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What is Diversity and Inclusion in Retail?

Diversity in retail refers to the representation of different groups within the workforce, including, but not limited to, people of different race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and cultural background.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is the practice of cultivating a work environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported, so that everyone has the tools necessary to participate fully and thrive in their roles. Perhaps a better way to think of it is that diversity brings different backgrounds and perspectives into the mix, while inclusion ensures that these differences are heard by others.

In a retail setting, diversity means having a workforce that mirrors its customer base, which is predominantly achieved through targeted D&I recruitment practices. A supermarket that caters to a multicultural community, for example, would require a multicultural workforce to sufficiently serve its customer base. Specific cultural requirements, like halal meat or kosher products, require people who understand them to help with sourcing, stocking, and selling. After all, it takes a diverse group of people to understand the needs of one.

Inclusion ensures that all employees, once recruited, have equal access to facilities, employee benefits, and other internal opportunities. It is about ousting discrimination from the workplace and providing support for disadvantaged employees in order to level the playing field. This could mean recognising cultural holidays, allowing flexible work arrangements, or creating employee resource groups for different demographics within the company. Whatever the policy, the goal with inclusion is clear – create an environment where every individual can contribute to their fullest potential.

Online Accessibility and Inclusion Toolkit

This year we published our Digital Inclusion Toolkit that was developed to help businesses make a real difference to the lives of the millions of people around the world who encounter online barriers. The 40 page document provides practical advice covering the complete landscape of online accessibility from how to write an accessibility statement to our top tips for providing an inclusive recruitment journey.

mockup of the toolkit showing a page about colour contrast

Strategies for Diversity and Inclusion in Retail

Implementing D&I strategies within retail requires a multi-faceted approach. It is not enough to focus solely on recruitment, for example. Diversity and inclusion are two sides of the same coin, and a several pronged attack is needed to both achieve and maintain it. Some of the best practices for diversity and inclusion can be seen below.

Ensure Leadership Commitment

Promoting diversity and inclusion within the retail sector requires a top-down approach. So, before embarking on your D&I renaissance, you must first ratify the commitment of your organisation’s leaders to diversity and inclusion practices. With leadership backing in place, each subsequent D&I strategy becomes much easier to implement.

Once commitment is obtained, whether through written documentation or verbal agreements, it should be espoused throughout the company. Leaders can show their commitment by setting clear D&I goals, allocating resources to D&I initiatives, or holding themselves accountable to the rest of the company.

Implement Diverse Recruitment and Hiring Practices

Diversity in retail, like any sector, stems from the hiring process. There are a number of different hiring practices recruiters can use to make sure they are sourcing their employees from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Firstly, retailers should be using diverse channels to source their employees. This means posting available positions on job boards that are particularly focused on diversity, such as Diverse Jobs, or establishing partnerships with diversity-focused recruitment agencies.

Bias-free hiring, such as blind recruitment, is another hiring practice which seeks to remove discrimination and encourage diversity. Here, personal identifying information in job applications, such as name and nationality, are hidden from the employer so as not to subconsciously influence their decision.

discrimination in recruitment

Other methods include the formation of a diverse interview panel, training the recruitment team on how to mitigate unconscious bias, and incorporating inclusive language in job descriptions. You can see all of these different strategies in our inclusive recruitment checklist.

Provide Staff Training and Development

Regular training on diversity and inclusion can help employees understand the importance of these values as well as how to espouse them.

Cultural competency is a type of training that helps staff in the retail sector to interact effectively with a diverse mix of customers and colleagues. It teaches staff about cultural differences and communication styles while helping them overcome preconceived stereotypes or unconscious biases. Very often, this results in better customer service and improved employee relations – a win-win for business.

Build an Accessible Website

Another important strategy for diversity and inclusion is the building of an accessible website. In today’s world, where everything is digital, websites have become the shop front of yesteryear. Without one, you stand at a significant disadvantage to your competitors, especially in the retail sector.

Websites are the means through which prospective customers can browse your products, find out about new offers, and learn about your values as a company. Therefore, in order to attract a diverse set of customers, you need a website that works for them. What does this mean exactly?

An accessible website is one where the information and materials displayed on it can be viewed, read, and understood by everyone. It might involve translating website content into multiple languages, uploading relevant audio files, or displaying text in appropriately sized fonts. Recite Me’s Accessibility Toolbar is one example of how you can do this. Once purchased, it allows website visitors to customise your site in a way that works best for them, whilst ensuring your website is fully compliant.

Still unsure where to start? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), provided by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), are a great first port of call. Ensure compliance with the WCAG and you will have nothing further to worry about.

Develop a Diverse Supply Chain

Diversity in retail can be extended beyond just your employees and customer base. Think about bringing D&I into your supplier network by engaging with suppliers from diverse backgrounds. Given how much importance the modern consumer places on a company’s ethics and values, extending your diverse practices to your supply chain are likely to resonate with your customers, helping to retain the existing ones while attracting new ones. In addition to bolstering your employer brand, helping to attract the best new talent.

Customer Engagement

Engaging with a diverse customer base and ensuring an inclusive customer experience is crucial both for the local community and for business.

Ensuring marketing materials, such as social media ads, are representative of diverse groups is just one way in which retailers can reach a more diverse audience. They may even centre entire marketing campaigns around specific groups or cultural events, using language and symbols that are culturally significant.

Communication is one aspect of customer engagement that is indispensable. Translating product information or hiring bilingual staff, according to the needs of the community you serve, are two great examples of how to be inclusive with your customer comms.

Inclusive Workplace Policies

Developing and enforcing inclusive workplace policies is one of the best strategies for promoting D&I among staff. A whole host of policies can be implemented to safeguard against harassment based on the protected characteristics, as well as to mitigate pay disparities or simply make life more accommodating for disadvantaged individuals.

Flexible working arrangements could be offered to cater for single parents, access ramps may be installed for disabled members of staff, or significant cultural holidays might be recognised as paid time off. Non-English-speaking customers might even have important product information translated for them so that they better understand the offers available. .

illustration of man in a wheelchair discussing roles with recruiters

The possibilities are endless when it comes to inclusive workplace policies. All you need is a solid understanding of D&I, a spark of creativity, and the desire to cultivate an inclusive environment.

Free Accessibility Check of your Website

Detecting accessibility issues has never been easier than it is now. At Recite Me we offer a free automated scan of your websites homepage. This will identify and highlight any accessibility issues on your website. Followed by recommendations on how to implement the necessary changes to improve your websites accessibility score and standing.

Benefits of Good Diversity and Inclusion in Retail Organisations

Diversity and inclusion in retail is about more than just being ethical. D&I practices bring with them favourable outcomes for employees, customers, and business alike. Some of the most relevant business benefits for D&I are outlined below:

  • Broader Customer Reach: A diverse workforce can better understand and serve a diverse customer base. Having employees who speak multiple languages, for example, can facilitate communications with customers who do not speak English. This allows you to tap into a pool of potential clients that you may not have been able to otherwise.
  • Improved Employee Satisfaction: Efforts to make a workplace inclusive are very often met with increased rates of employee satisfaction. This is because staff feel valued and respected. Quite simply, happy employees are more productive and more likely to stay with the company, reducing turnover costs and preventing any knowledge drain.
  • Better Financial Performance: Part of having a more productive workforce and a wider customer reach is increased profitability. In this way, a retail company that promotes gender diversity may outperform its competitors because it attracts and retains top talent who then appeal to a wider range of customers, boosting sales in the process.
  • Enhanced Innovation and Creativity: People share ideas based on their lived experience, so the more diverse your teams, the more unique ideas you have to choose from. Within the retail sector, this could lead to the development of unique products and services that cater to a broader audience and help drive sales as a result.
  • Enhanced Company Reputation: Modern day consumers want to see that their favourite retailers share their own values. Therefore, if a retailer can demonstrate, through a proven track record of policies and initiatives, that they possess a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, this will resonate with customers, leading to favourable media coverage, customer endorsements, and increased brand loyalty.
  • Improved Customer Experience: As a customer base becomes more fairly represented among retail staff, they tend to be better catered for. This is because they now have people who understand them in charge of the products and services they wish to buy, lending itself to happier, more loyal customers.
  • Healthier Society: Promoting diversity and inclusion in retail plays a significant role in shaping social norms. It fosters a culture of respect and understanding, while helping to eradicate discrimination at the same time. Although set in the context of retail employment, these values tend to spill out from the nine to five and into family homes or other areas of life, helping set the foundations for a fairer society in general.

How to Measure and Evaluate the Success of D&I Strategies

Without measuring the success of D&I strategies, it is impossible to know what is working and what isn’t. Tracking your progress also helps you achieve your D&I goals by giving you a clear indication of where you are, so that you can orient yourself and figure out what is required to get where you want to be.

A graph showing a steady increase

Selecting D&I Metrics

With that said, before anything else, you will need to decide on your D&I goals. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound; for example, increasing the representation of women in leadership positions by 25% within the next three years. From this, you should have a better idea of which metrics you wish to track. Using the same example, this would likely require you to track the number of employees from different demographic groups in different positions, as well as things like hiring rates and promotions.

For a more inclusion-based goal, employee retention and turnover rates among different demographic groups should be looked at. These two metrics provide a quick assessment of the effectiveness of your company’s inclusive policies. A high turnover of female staff, for example, is a good indication that you are not doing enough to create an inclusive work environment for them.

Gathering & Measuring Metrics

For some metrics, gathering the data is easy. It is as simple as collating existing information you may have on your employees. Other metrics might require a bit of leg work. This is where various mechanisms, such as inclusion surveys, come in. Inclusion surveys are a way of assessing whether or not employees feel valued, respected, and supported. Customer feedback is another mechanism for collecting data, helping retailers gain insight as to whether or not their D&I initiatives are resonating with their customer base.

Comparing D&I metrics before and after an initiative is launched is a great way to see the progress you have made, but it doesn’t help to know where you stand in the wider market. For this, you need external benchmarks. Regularly compare your D&I performance against industry benchmarks to make sure you are performing well in comparison to your competitors. Obtaining certifications from recognised organisations can also validate the effectiveness of your D&I efforts.

UK Regulations for Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Retail

Many regulations exist in the UK for promoting diversity and inclusion across different sectors. Below are some of those most relevant to retailers.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 consolidates various anti-discrimination laws into a single act. It protects individuals from discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The act also allows positive action to be taken to address issues faced by disadvantaged individuals, as long as such actions are proportionate and justified.

header for a blog on eu web accessibility directive act

Disability Confident Scheme

The Disability Confident scheme encourages employers to recruit and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. For retailers, participating in this scheme means committing to inclusive hiring practices and creating supportive environments for disabled employees. This might mean providing training for staff on disability awareness or ensuring appropriate workplace adjustments are made, such as the provision of ergonomic workstations.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

Since 2017, UK companies with 250 or more employees are required to publish their gender pay gap figures annually. This aims to reduce the gender pay gap and promote gender equality in the workplace through transparency.

Download our Inclusive Recruitment Checklist

Attract the best talent for your organisation by becoming an inclusive employer!

Inclusive recruitment doesn’t have to be complicated. This checklist breaks down everything you need to know to attract and retain diverse candidates. Download your checklist today and get started right away.

Tools for Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Retail Sector

At Recite Me we offer a range of accessibility tools to help improve the diversity and inclusion of Retail businesses around the world. We do this through a variety of products including our Accessibility Toolbar and Accessibility Checker, of which more information about them can be seen below.

Accessibility Toolbar

The Recite Me Accessibility Toolbar is a simple software that installs on to your website to help make it more inclusive. This can be important for boosting the D&I standing of your organisation, as it allows users to customise your website in a way that works best for them. Some of the main features include:

  • Personalising font size, type, and colour options.
  • Choosing the exact colour contrast between the text and background.
  • Utilising the mask screen tool to help with focus.
  • Using the ruler tool to make reading easier.
  • Downloading content as an audio file as an alternative to reading.
  • Converting page content into over 100 on-screen languages.
  • Having the page read aloud in a choice of 65 languages.
  • Customising PDF documents or having them read aloud/ translated.
  • Zooming in on any part of a webpage.
  • Using the built-in spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus.
A graphic of the Recite Me Scanner.

Accessibility Checker

Our Accessibility Checker can help address inaccessibility at its root cause. As the tool performs a complete scan of your website in line with the latest WCAG standards and guidelines. By following a simple four step process to help improve your websites accessibility:

  1. Step 1: Scan Your Domains – Choose between scanning single or multiple pages.
  2. Step 2: Identify Accessibility Issues – Identify the locations of accessibility issues on your website.
  3. Step 3: Fix Accessibility Errors – Boost your accessibility score by prioritising fixes in line with WCAG Levels A, AA, and AAA.
  4. Step 4: Track Your Progress – Create and share custom reports with your team and roadmap the next issues in your fix queue.

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