Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is becoming more and more important as the world continues to shrink and the demographics of the workforce grow and change. This clearly holds true within the retail workforce, where individuals carrying a multiplicity of different traits, cultures and backgrounds come together to drive a successful business. Learning to respect and support our human differences has helped us to better understand each other and recognize the unique contributions that diversity and inclusion in the workplace can provide; creating a positive and nurturing work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees.
As the work environment continues to change, our companies must persist in their evolution as well. A growing awareness and understanding of the issues that arise due to our differences can only serve to empower us all, spurring the creativity, flexibility and commitment that will make us better people, more effective employees, and a more viable and productive organization.
The Concepts of Diversity and Inclusion
“Diversity” is a broad term that reflects the vast variety of human qualities that makes each one of us unique. It is the rich and varied individual characteristics of people and the wide spectrum of traits that make up who we are. Dimensions of diversity may include but are not limited to age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disabilities, culture, educational background, lifestyle, national origin, geographic origin, family status, physical abilities and attributes, socio-economic status, language, personality, cognitive style, citizenship, military experience, work experience, tenure, job classification, political beliefs and any and all other ideologies, styles or traits that make us unique and distinctive.
Inclusion, on the other hand, involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources so that the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. It puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create greater value. An inclusive environment promotes and sustains a sense of belonging. It values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of everyone involved. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.
Often we tend to focus on the superficial or shortsighted perspective of diversity and inclusion in the workplace—those things that which we can easily see and differentiate such as gender, race or ethnicity. However, there is a deeper layer of diversity that we must also take into account, those that reflect meaningful, multifaceted issues that can be more difficult to recognize—and often more difficult to understand. Differences in cultures, values and belief systems are also a significant factor in our diversity and inclusion issues, and must be considered as well.
This only further underscores the need to modify our way of thinking in order to deal effectively with the issues of communication, tolerance, adaptability, variety and change. It not only encompasses how we perceive others, but also how we perceive ourselves; and those perceptions will have a direct effect on how we perform individually as well as how we interact with each other. We need to build a culture of respect where both attitudes and actions will encourage mutual understanding, creating an environment where people of all attributes and backgrounds can be valued and successful in the workplace as well as throughout our communities.
Recruiting For Diversity, Leading by Inclusion
As we look to bring new candidates into our department, we must begin by creating an environment where diversity and inclusion is considered to be an important aspect of our workforce. There must be a commitment that is reflected throughout the department; understanding the value of diversity and inclusion and providing an environment where all types of individuals are not only welcome, but one where they might flourish.
As we are looking to bring new individuals into our loss prevention departments, there are several steps that we can take to reinforce these concepts in our recruiting efforts, and within the culture and mindset of our programs as a whole:
- We have to communicate the value of diversity and the importance of inclusion; why it is important and how it can bring a different dimension to improving the overall success of the department. Ownership is important, and employees are much more likely to support programs that they understand and believe in.
- We must broaden our perspective of diversity; recognizing the value in bringing all types of talented individuals into our teams.
- We must learn to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, and the cultural evolution that must take place in the working environment. This must include everyone, including those with diverse backgrounds.
- We should look for ways to identify potential mentors that are currently part of the organization; those with diverse backgrounds that can provide support and help welcome new team members into the company structure.
- Identifying and supporting external channels that champion diversity and inclusion efforts is another way that we can help support our employees. There are several professional organizations designed to help specific diversity groups or individuals in general with such issues and transitions that can provide guidance and support.
- We should welcome the opportunity for current diversity associates to help recruit talent into the organization. Bring diversity candidates to recruiting functions, job fairs, and other events in order to communicate their experiences with the company and support the recruiting initiative.
- Utilize social media and related channels that support diversity groups to post employment opportunities as a means to bring additional diversity talent to the forefront.
- Get creative. Be willing to look in what might be considered “non-traditional” areas (business programs, the military, etc) for potential diversity candidates.
- Welcome and seek out referrals from other employees that may help identify a potential candidate or talent pool that can be a valuable recruiting source.
- Provide a work environment that is more conducive to a diverse and inclusive work environment.
- We have to learn to be more sensitive to the diversity perspective. This may refer to team dynamics, work/life/family issues (for example, a sick child and family care), and other factors that can accentuate our differences.
- Focus on retention. It does us little good to put effort into attracting diverse candidates into our department if we don’t provide the environment or the resources that make those candidates want to remain as part of our team.
As loss prevention professionals, we must make every effort to champion diversity and inclusion efforts by example and in practice. The way that we approach our working relationships and the way that we interact with each other should reflect a spirit of inclusion and acceptance. Ideally, loss prevention departments should echo their company’s goals and standards with regard to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Within the loss prevention department, we should promote a balanced and diverse team. We should be represented by both men and women on the staff, and promote an environment that encourages and welcomes individuals from all races, cultures, creeds, ethnicity and any and all diverse backgrounds. We should provide an environment where all opinions and ideas are welcome, and all individuals feel comfortable, accepted and appreciated. This should be practiced in our recruiting and hiring practices, and as part of our everyday attitudes and culture.