When Building Retail Teams, Experiences Are as Important as Experience

Building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace is only essential for those businesses that want to be successful. If growth and relevance are nowhere among your goals, read no further. But if they are, there’s work to be done.

We all know that successful teams are ones made up of individuals who complement the skills and experience of one another. Job descriptions and resumes exist to help identify complementary team members. But managers don’t hire resumes; they hire people who show up to work each day with professional skills, as well as countless insights, qualities, and biases that result from their unique personal experiences. Recognizing the value and opportunity of the whole person, not just their resume-worthy skills, is critically important when building effective teams. Consider your own life experiences. How have they shaped your world view and the way that you approach your work, your colleagues, and others? What skills do you have that spring from those experiences but don’t show up on your resume? I suspect the list is as long for others as it is for you.

Quite simply, when fully embraced, diversity within teams helps engender better understanding among team members and ultimately with customers, resulting in better interactions through all facets of the business. This bears out in the data, which shows that companies that maintain a diverse and inclusive environment perform better than those that do not.

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The relevance of diversity to asset protection leaders is obvious. Today, a bad interaction with a customer can go viral quickly and cause lasting damage to a retailer’s brand. For asset protection leaders, this risk is ever-present and cannot be wished away. Action is essential. Staff training is an important start, but embracing diversity and inclusion within asset protection teams is the next logical step to substantially reducing the risk.

Leading retailers recognize that building teams made up of individuals with the right professional skills and perspectives based on varying life experiences is good for business, especially when they closely mirror the makeup of their customers. Leading retailers also understand that their diversity and inclusion task is not complete when team members are hired. In fact, it’s just the beginning because truly unlocking the tremendous power of a diverse team requires that the work environment encourage team members to freely draw upon their unique experiences to do their jobs.

RILA Initiative
Recognizing the desire among retailers to excel in this area and the complex challenge of doing so, RILA launched the Retail Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in 2018. The goal of the effort is to help companies advance their efforts in this area by:

  • Working directly with retail practitioners to reflect the industry’s unique needs,
  • Supporting retailers at all points in their diversity and inclusion evolution, and
  • Emphasizing meaningful progress rather than a standard definition of success

Over the past year, the effort has blossomed to include more than thirty major retailers. The effort, which is driven by D&I practitioners and retail CEOs, is focused on four key areas.

Quantifying the Business Case. Businesses perform better when their products, services, and experiences reflect what consumers want and need. As consumer demographics shift, expectations do so as well. Consequently, quantifying the tangible business results of diversity and inclusion on financial performance and risk mitigation reinforces the imperative of diversity and inclusion in how retailers operate.

Organization-Wide Participation. Everyone in the organization is engaged and intentional about the diversity and inclusion imperative and feels and/or wants to be accountable for driving a positive impact. Thus, diversity and inclusion become self-sustaining priorities across the entire organization.

Intentional Succession Planning for Diverse Talent. Increased representation will drive business success when it informs all product and team development throughout the organization to create a more inclusive and holistic customer experience.

Societal Impact. Retail stakeholders expect us to reflect their values, making silence on issues an unsafe position and creating an opportunity for leadership. Retailers must be engaged, authentic, and transparent with communities they serve and be prepared to talk to stakeholders about their concerns in a way that reflects the unique characteristics of each business.

To support retailers’ efforts in these areas, the initiative has developed a variety of tools, including maturity models, case studies, and a mechanism for tracking employee sentiment across the industry. As a result, retailers can better set goals for advancing their practices and measuring their progress.

The effort has also provided a platform for cross-departmental dialogue around diversity and inclusion. This collaboration was on display this spring in Denver at the RILA Asset Protection Conference, when diversity and inclusion practitioners presented with their asset protection colleagues in a series of sessions to share individual case studies and highlight the importance of a commitment to diversity within the asset protection practice. Not surprisingly, the discussion revealed that asset protection leaders understand the importance of diversity and inclusion to their practices and their companies, but no one believes that they have mastered the task. So the discussion will continue.

If you have read this far, perhaps you, like the asset protection professionals who gathered in Denver, believe that success is important as is diversity and inclusion. So get involved. Reach out to your diversity and inclusion specialist and consider how best to collaborate. Contact your asset protection peers and find out what they are doing. And reach out to us and get involved. The importance of diversity and inclusion is self-evident, and the opportunity to reduce risk and effect positive change is yours to seize.

Brian Dodge

Brian Dodge is the chief operating officer for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). As CEO, he oversees RILA’s public affairs, legal and compliance, human resources and administration, membership, and financial operations. In addition to guiding the development and execution of the association’s public affairs strategy, Dodge is responsible for identifying industry challenges and opportunities, building consensus among member companies, and coordinating activities among partners to achieve shared goals. He can be reached at Brian.Dodge (at) rila.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The LPM team wants to make this Diversity & Inclusion topic an ongoing column in the magazine. We hope to hear from both retailers and solutions providers who would like to contribute to this discussion. Please contact us if you would like to write about your point of view and experience with D&I in your organization.

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