How to Hire for Diversity in Retail

Diversity should be at the forefront of conversations around hiring — and not just because it’s politically correct or timely to talk about. The fact of the matter is there is a lack of diversity in many workplaces. Employers must take steps to ensure that candidates, regardless of their race or gender, get an equal opportunity to be considered for a job. 

Plus, it’s been proven that being more inclusive with your hiring practices is good for business. Industry data shows that companies with higher-than-average diversity saw 19% higher innovation revenues. Companies with high racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their peers. Unsure where to begin to hire for diversity in retail? Here are six best practices to consider.

HIRING for Diversity in retail: Why it’s important

Inclusion and diversity are particularly important in the retail sector. Consumers are increasingly aligning themselves with companies that promote diversity in their products and people. 

Research from Accenture found that in 2018, 41% of shoppers moved at least 10% of their business away from retailers that don’t promote inclusion or hire for diversity. Accenture also found that 42% of ethnic minority shoppers and 41% of LGBT consumers would switch to a retailer committed to inclusion and diversity.

Hire for diversity: accenture percentage examples
Image credit: accenture.com

These numbers are bound to trend even higher in the coming years. And with the retail landscape being more competitive, you need to make sure that your stores reflect the diverse communities in which they operate.

A big component of this lies in recruitment, and the following pointers will help you implement more diverse and inclusive hiring practices.

1. Do your research and prepare to have hard conversations

It’s tempting to jump into new hiring practices with both feet. Before you implement anything, make sure you’ve done your research. First, work to understand the experiences that women and people of color have had in your company, industry, and the world in general. Then keep those insights in mind when designing your hiring practices or when making cultural shifts in the business. 

You should also involve your entire team in this process. As Amelia Ransom, the senior director of diversity and engagement at Avalara, says, “before trying to remove bias from the application process it’s important that your company has done some work to make sure the company culture and managers are ready for inclusion.”

Part of doing that means having difficult conversations. It also means owning up to any mistakes (even unintentional ones) that your business has committed in this area. 

“Bringing diversity to the workplace can be difficult for some companies. Especially those that already have a majority group of a certain employee, which is usually white males,” says Nathan Robinson, the founder of Neighborhood Square

Robinson continues, “In order to have diversity, companies must first acknowledge that their workforce is initially not so diverse and must work proactively to change this situation. If your organization lacks diversity but is actively working to change that, it’s important to be upfront about your deficiencies rather than ignoring the obvious truth.”

It may also help to assess your biases by taking implicit-association tests (IAT). Project Implicit, a non-profit group that aims to educate the public about hidden biases, has a number of IATs that you and your team could take. This is so you can be more aware of your biases and work to combat them.

Hire for diversity - Project Implicit example photo.
Image credit: Project Implicit

2. Write inclusive job ads

Crafting a job ad is one of the first and most important steps for recruiting new employees. So, make sure your postings are encouraging minority groups to apply. Many companies unwittingly turn off women and people of color with the words and style they use in their job postings. 

“The tonality and wording of your job ad are highly suggestive of your gender tolerance as a company,” explains Michael D. Brown, director at Fresh Results Institute.

Brown continues, “Many companies inadvertently throw off people of color and women from the role they advertise because the job ad is laden with more macho-leaning terms in the description. When you use terms like ‘dominate’, ‘fearless’, [or] ‘determined’, you involuntarily suggest a work environment less accommodating of women.”

Address this by being more neutral with your job postings. You can also use software to improve your listings. 

“To optimize our job postings for diversity, we use various tools, including Textio, shares Martin Seeley, CEO at MattressNextDay. “It helps us to reword job postings to attract a diverse pool of candidates. Since we made our job ads more compelling, we have seen a significant increase in female candidates.”

Compliant IA retail inspection app supports diversity and inclusion.

3. Diversify your candidate sources

If you’re struggling with attracting women, people of color, and other minority groups, it could be a case of a lack of company visibility within these groups. Perhaps minorities are not frequenting the platforms or channels that you’re using to hire new people.

The best way to fix that? Diversify your candidate sources to hire for diversity. Find new websites, staffing firms, and platforms to make sure you’re postings are reaching the right people. 

Jesse Silkoff, co-founder and president at MyRoofingPal, recommends using various sources, “including those known to have a more diverse candidate list.”

“Don’t just add a note that you are committed to diversity in the job description, then use the same hiring companies you always have and wonder why all of your applicants look the same. You have to make an effort to branch out,” Silkoff adds.

Matt Scott, the owner of Termite Survey, echoes this advice. “Don’t depend solely on the very same channels over and over again when searching for new applicants.” 

Go to where the Candidates are

His advice? To hire for diversity find candidates where they usually hang out. 

“For instance, there seem to be a variety of websites of women’s technology groups. That might be a valuable source to reach and communicate directly with high-quality female candidates, rather than just waiting for any of them to discover you through platforms like LinkedIn. The more you take the first step to discover these platforms, the more likely your talent pools will be diverse,” Scott says. 

And if you attend job fairs or networking events, set your sights on those that promote diversity. That’s what Rex Freiberger, the CEO at Gadget Review, does. 

“In terms of networking, we reach out to groups that advocate for the employment of racial minorities in California and attend career events for minorities to ensure we’re positioned as a small business that’s looking for diverse hires,” Freiberger shares.

4. Keep your hiring team diverse

As much as possible, make sure you have a diverse team of people implementing your recruitment processes. Your efforts in diversity will be much more successful and well-executed if the people behind them are from diverse backgrounds. 

A team of people from various backgrounds also helps minority candidates feel more comfortable. As immigration attorney Jacob Sapochnick remarks, “in creating a diverse workplace, it is a must that it should be run by diverse people. In this way, candidates can really see how diverse your company is and this can encourage them to do well in the hiring process.” 

5. Consider blind resumes

When viewing resumes, remove details like the applicant’s name, gender, or age so you can focus solely on the candidate’s experience and skills. This also removes affinity bias. Stevie James from the recruitment platform Be Applied, defines affinity bias as the tendency of people to hire individuals who remind them of themselves. 

“By removing any details from applications that give an indication to a candidate’s gender, age or ethnicity, retailers can ensure that they are hiring based purely on skills and merit. This has been proven to increase the number of women and BAME candidates being invited to interview,” James adds.

You can do this manually by having a team member block out certain details from applications. Do so before showing resumes to the hiring manager. If you prefer a more automated process, there are a number of apps that can help you implement blind candidate evaluation. 

TalVista has a feature for Blind Resume Screening. This enables you to redact details like the applicant’s name, school, and company names. Thus, hiring managers can focus on reviewing an applicant’s skills.

There’s also Blendoor. This platform anonymizes candidate information and provides analytics to help you identify where biases happen.

6. Don’t hire for diversity just for the sake of doing so

Engage in diversity hiring because you’re committed to change. You’re serious about extending employment opportunities to a wider group of people. 

“The obvious pitfall for companies is diversity hiring for the sake of diversity, and ending up shoehorning diversity hires into positions that aren’t suitable for them. The goal should always be to hire the best person for the job, but the idea is to make sure that the opportunity for a diverse hire to be found to be the best person is available to them,” comments Jenna Carson, HR Manager at Music Grotto.

“The whole point is that the hiring process is carried out with special care to ensure that it is free from biases regarding a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. It is not a tick box exercise to achieve a “diverse” workforce; it is a way to make sure that the perfect candidate won’t be excluded by a too narrow shortlisting or screening process,” she adds.

Final words: How to Hire for Diversity

Hiring for diversity isn’t always easy, but it’s meaningful work that’s certainly worth doing.

Making an effort to be more inclusive opens up your business to a wider pool of individuals. These individuals bring new perspectives and experiences into your company — which can ultimately enrich your culture. This helps you perform better in today’s modern and forward-thinking world. 

Compliant IA is an app for inspections and communication. It runs on mobile, tablets, and laptops. It combines task management, social collaboration, smart checklists, action plans and photo verification to ensure programs are communicated and executed on time, in full, in all locations.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.


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