Leveraging Diversity to Enhance the Customer Shopping Experience

diversity & inclusion

At Meijer, we are dedicated to enriching lives in the communities we serve. Fulfilling this goal begins with a focus on serving people—in the workplace, in our stores, and in our communities. Our approach to diversity and inclusion, as well as asset protection, impacts our ability to deliver on this goal.

As a result, our diversity and inclusion and asset protection teams challenged themselves to answer the following question: can we create an inclusive shopping experience that both is consistent with our brand and protects team members, customers, and company assets? Once it was determined that the answer was yes, we set out to identify what that looks like and, more importantly, how we get there.

In defining the “what,” we recognized a few universal truths. First, the intersection between diversity and inclusion and the customer experience is multifaceted and complex. Second, because our goal remains aspirational, we needed to prepare for a journey as opposed to a destination. Third, there will be situations where, despite acting consistently with our documented processes and procedures, we can be the subject of criticism and negative perceptions.

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Instead of deterring us, we allowed these realities to shape the design of our “how.” Specifically, we asked ourselves the following questions:

  • Can asset protection leverage diversity and inclusion to influence the customer shopping experience?
  • How has the public perception of law enforcement impacted the customer experience, and does it vary by the communities and customers we serve?
  • What is the role of law enforcement in asset protection, and does it vary by the communities and customers we serve?

Inherent in each of these questions was the reality that the answers often varied depending on who was responding. As a result, we resolved to dig deeper and explore the root of the disconnect.

Can asset protection leverage diversity and inclusion to influence the customer shopping experience?
The answer for us was a resounding yes. Asset protection leaders, like any other business leaders, can and should leverage diversity and inclusion to accelerate their businesses and drive outcomes.

It is widely recognized that building teams with the right professional skills and varied perspectives and life experiences is good for business. This is particularly true when the varied perspectives and life experiences closely mirror those of the customers and communities we serve. Representation, however, is but one facet of diversity. Representation without a voice undermines inclusion, limits the positive impacts of diversity, and weakens team member engagement. As such, we challenged ourselves to look at the diversity of our team and the type of environment we create.

We define diversity as the characteristics, traits, and experiences that make each person unique. But our diversity dimensions extend well beyond race, ethnicity, and gender to include, but not be limited to, age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, personality, sexual orientation, physical appearance, physical or mental ability, military experience, marital status, parental status, income, political beliefs, educational background, religious beliefs, language, location, work style, and interests.

Next, we examined the asset protection environment. Were we collaborative? Did we create a space where people felt comfortable bringing their true authentic self to work? Did we, as leaders, show a commitment to diversity and inclusion that our teams experienced? Did our team members feel heard and supported? In short, were our teams engaged?

How has the perception of law enforcement impacted the customer experience, and does it vary by the communities and customers we serve?
In digging into the varied responses to both questions, we acknowledged that the perceptions of and experiences with law enforcement are not the same among all communities and often split along racial or ethnic lines. Rather than debate the perceptions and experiences of these varied communities, we sought to account for them in our approach. At Meijer, we follow a fundamental philosophy of enriching lives in the communities we serve, and in order to embrace that, we need to lead and be accountable to all the lives in those communities.

Our Response

Based on our self-analysis, the asset protection and diversity and inclusion leadership teams mapped a course of action that is consistent with our diversity and inclusion focus, which is to drive diversity and inclusion by focusing on our teams, customers, and communities. But it is also authentic to who we are as an organization and aligns with our goal of enriching lives in our communities.

For example, when evaluating a customer-facing shrink initiative, asset protection leveraged a data-driven approach to identify a solution designed to have a significant financial impact, but that also had the potential to impact our customer experience. Rather than rely strictly on the data, the team sought input from diverse stakeholders, weighed the potential impact to various communities, and made adjustments consistent with creating an inclusive shopping experience that both is consistent with our brand and protects team members, customers, and company assets.

Similarly, consistent with the leadership learning and development investments being made at Meijer, asset protection challenged its leaders to assess their cultural awareness and learn about the impact unconscious bias can have, if left unchecked, on creating a diverse and inclusive culture.

While we are pleased with our initial efforts, work remains to be done. More importantly, we recognize the value of the partnership between asset protection and diversity and inclusion and are committed to leveraging it to drive improved outcomes for the business. As noted above, our goal is aspirational, and we are prepared for the journey.

About the Authors

Timothy Williams
Timothy Williams

Timothy L. Williams, Esq. is vice president of diversity and inclusion for Meijer. He previously served as Meijer’s vice president and assistant general counsel, managed the litigation and labor and employment law groups, and supported the supply chain and food safety teams. Prior to joining Meijer in 2015, he worked in various roles with Winn-Dixie. and practiced labor and employment law in private law firms.

Paul Jaeckle
Paul Jaeckle

Paul E. Jaeckle, LPC is the vice president of asset protection and safety for Meijer. He joined Meijer in 2017 after twenty years with Walmart. He has led several teams in asset protection and operations, both in the field and the corporate office. He is the chair of RILA’s Asset Protection Leaders Council, a board member with the Loss Prevention Foundation, vice chair of the University of Florida’s Loss Prevention Research Council, a member of NASP Retail Advisory Committee, and a board member of Silent Observer.

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