What Retail Leaders Can Learn From Taco Bell's DEI Initiatives
Employers across every industry should be creating equal opportunities for their frontline employees. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by adopting the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But what does DEI truly mean?
It can look different for each company, but essentially, as BuiltIn put it, "DEI is any policy or practice designed to make people of various backgrounds feel welcome and ensure they have support to perform to the fullest of their abilities in the workplace." This encompasses differences in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic background.
DEI initiatives like Taco Bell’s, which mandates that corporate employees have to train as frontline restaurant workers as part of onboarding, help to break down the barriers and hierarchies between different roles. These practices increase awareness of the lived frontline experience and reveal relevant opportunities to build a career. To truly foster a culture of DEI, retailers need to create paths for their employees to grow while providing fair outcomes and a sense of belonging.
A Level Playing Field
Employees want to feel important. They want to feel that they’re part of a team and have the opportunity to succeed in their role. Similar to the dynamic we see play out in sports, each player wants to have a chance to score. Demonstrating equity to frontline employees ensures that each person is provided the same possible outcomes. Initiatives like the one Taco Bell implemented shows leadership is looking for ways to give employees a chance to grow from frontline member to general manager to a corporate-level position. By physically placing corporate employees on the restaurant floor, it validates the frontline experience and makes the possibility of a management role that much more tangible. By having corporate hires learn the menu, work the cash register, prepare food, take orders, and clean up at closing time, it helps level the playing field and offers access to similar experiences, regardless of role, while providing visibility into issues that wouldn’t necessarily be understood unless they were observed firsthand.
Supporting Beyond Work
Businesses are constantly changing, therefore employees are constantly changing. Employees are the ones on the sales floor and are the first faces customers see. To provide customers with the best service possible, employees need to feel supported and included as a team member first. That starts with management realizing they hold accountability and are the source of feedback and support. For management, employee inclusion is about impact, and it’s up to them to see it through. People on your frontline need a way to know that they're able and encouraged to contribute what’s unique about them, and that it matters. Don’t just say it — create structures that make it happen. This needs to be ongoing and ingrained in what the frontline is learning and doing every day.
Companies are realizing that creating a culture of inclusion will retain in-demand workers and it’s time to implement initiatives that level the playing field. It’s incredibly valuable for frontline staff to see a vice president on the floor working, even if it's for one day. Frontline workers and a company's success will benefit from the implementation of these initiatives and investment in equitable training on all employee levels.
Jordan Ekers is senior vice president, business development at Axonify, the modern learning solution for frontline employees.
Related story: 'Less Tolerance for Talk Without Action': What Retailers Are Getting Right About DEI
Jordan Ekers is co-founder and COO of Nudge, the top-rated communication platform for frontline employees. He’s worked with many of North America’s leading retail brands to design transformative approaches for executing the brand promise and empowering frontline teams. Jordan is a Forbes Council Member and has been a speaker and conference chair at major industry events, such as NRF’s Big Show and the Future Stores series, as well as a guest on BNN Bloomberg.