For the retail industry, improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts should be top of mind as just 26 percent of board positions in retail organizations are held by women. Furthermore, only 13 percent of ethnically diverse employees hold executive roles in retail companies. Not only does fostering an inclusive environment create a fair and welcoming workplace for all, but it's essential in improving retention, attracting new talent, and enhancing financial performance.
Over the past two years, the retail industry has been forced to navigate tumultuous times as almost 2 million workers lost their jobs during the pandemic. Companies now face the “Great Resignation” with 685,000 retail workers quitting their positions in September. Fostering an inclusive environment where all employees feel supported has become an even bigger imperative. Lever’s State of DEI Report uncovered employer and employee perceptions on DEI efforts, getting a true look into DEI and helping retail organizations understand where they must go from here.
The State of DEI in Retail
Lever’s report confirmed that retail organizations are falling behind on their DEI progress, with 24 percent of employees feeling their organizations have done nothing to improve DEI, and just 16 percent of retail leaders viewing improving DEI as a top priority. During the pandemic, most retail leaders were focused on keeping jobs and retaining employees, pushing DEI lower on their list of priorities. However, as retailers look to attract employees amid a time of extreme labor shortages, it's crucial they provide an inclusive and equitable work environment. The bad news and good news is that there's definitely room to improve in this area: Lever’s DEI report found that only 36 percent of retail employers are actively recruiting from underrepresented groups, and only 38 percent are sourcing from nontraditional outlets.
How Can Retail Leaders Improve DEI?
Recruitment is an essential part of improving DEI. In turn, retail leaders should begin to improve their efforts by revamping hiring practices to be more inclusive and equitable. Here are best practices retail leaders can integrate to build a more diverse pipeline of talent:
- Revamp job descriptions to impact descriptions. To attract more diverse talent, retailers can consider switching from the more standard job description format to using more of an “impact description” format. While traditional descriptions focus on a laundry list of qualifications and job requirements, impact descriptions tend to put greater emphasis on what someone in the role can expect to accomplish over time (e.g., at the three-month mark, six-month mark, 12-month mark, etc). Harvard Business Review reported that whereas men usually apply to jobs even when they meet just 60-plus percent of the requirements listed, women tend to apply only when they feel they meet 100 percent. By focusing on impact rather than background requirements, we help men and women see themselves here at a similar rate — in addition to giving candidates a much more concrete picture of what the role would look like.
- Proactively source diverse talent. On average, job positions attract 250 resumes, making it difficult to ensure applications are reviewed equally given the high volume. Retail hiring managers can ensure they're building a diverse workforce by proactively sourcing diverse talent. This can be done by filtering their hiring pools based on a variety of demographics, helping to ensure the top-of-the-hiring funnel is diverse.
- Remove unconscious bias. Retail leaders can minimize unconscious biases through tweaks to the process. For example, using technology to hide feedback so that interviewers can only see other people’s feedback once they’ve submitted their own reduces opportunities for groupthink. Furthermore, they can anonymously review resumes that hide candidates’ names and photos so employers can focus reviewing the candidate on their experience rather than appearance or implicit associations.
With retail employees quitting jobs at a record pace, maintaining an inclusive environment for all employees has become a necessity to retaining top talent and hitting business goals. For DEI to become infused into the fabric of an organization, retail leaders must get serious about setting concrete, measurable DEI goals and set forth an actionable plan to make progress toward those goals. Today’s employees want to feel they belong at their workplace, and companies that prioritize DEI are likely to win the fierce war on talent.
Annie Lin is vice president of people at Lever, recruiting software that helps your talent teams scale recruitment efforts and hire people faster.