Building a More Inclusive Workplace

NACS 2021 HR Forum spotlights the importance of workplace diversity.

March 15, 2021

Diverse Team

By Pat Pape

ALEXANDRIA, Va.— Events of 2020—from a deadly pandemic to a combative presidential race—impacted the way people think and feel about many aspects of American culture.

Following Black Lives Matter demonstrations during the summer, inclusion and diversity “have been a critical top-of-mind topic for corporations and organizations,” said Stephanie Piimauna, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Seminole Hard Rock Support Services, in her session “Building a More Inclusive Workplace” during the NACS HR Forum. “’Diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ [are] actually one word. It means possibilities.”

Today, the public is asking businesses to “show us what that means,” she said. “What are you doing to minimize bias? What are your hiring practices? What do your directors look like? And corporations are revisiting their strategies when it comes to diversity and inclusion.”

There are five reasons inclusion is important, she said.

  1. It’s the Right Thing to Do: That attitude should inspire businesses to identify what gets in the way of an inclusive environment and determine what shapes the culture of the organization.
  2. Changing Demographics: The world is changing both democratically and generationally. Today, some people identify as two or more races. Gen Z will soon be coming into the workplace and will have different needs and attitudes than past generations.
  3. Providing a Safe and Productive Environment: When people are distracted by their environment, they can’t produce quality work. Bullying doesn’t promote a safe, productive environment that builds trust and produces growth and productivity.
  4. Risk Management: Inclusivity helps maintain the company’s image and reputation.
  5. Strategic Advantage: Inclusivity allows us to position the organization as an employer of choice. It improves organizational performance and reduces lawsuits and complaints.
Going forward, Piimauna sees 10 trends that human resources professionals and company leadership should consider when strategically looking at diversity and inclusion in the organization. They are: 
  1. Fatigue, Being Overwhelmed and Cynicism: Employees are suffering physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion because there are so many things to consider in daily life. There could also be “diversity fatigue” in the organization because the needle is not moving fast enough, or leaders aren’t making decisions.
  2. Data, Data, Data: Companies, like Walmart and Microsoft, are now publicly reporting their demographic data. Demographic data, self-identification data and focus groups tell the narrative and can impact an organization’s ability to be competitive in the talent wars.
  3. Executives: When it comes to inclusiveness, executives may be oblivious, scared, frustrated or committed.
  4. Distributed Teams Across the Globe: Many of today’s organizations are global, and leaders must bring them all together by moving forward with the right strategy for diversity and inclusion.
  5. Integrated and Skills-Based Inclusive Leadership Training Programs: Many companies are openly discussing race. Some—such as Walmart—have even adopted virtual reality to let people experience what it is like to be another race or sex. 
  6. Teams and Roles: Several organizations have created teams or developed roles dedicated to promoting diversity.
  7. Accountability Through Performance Management: Organizations can rate employees—usually management and above—on how they help promote diversity and inclusion.
  8. Broadening the Definition of Diversity: Sometimes the organization may extend its focus, which takes away from a marginalized group. For example, creating programs for introverted employees should not take attention from women and minorities.
  9. Reinvigoration of Employee Resource Groups: Don’t let these groups evolve into social gatherings. They should be business resource groups. Leverage them as the voice of people they serve.
  10. Move Toward Social Justice: This includes making donations for diversity causes, as well as creating a safe space where employees feel comfortable having conversations about sensitive topics, such as race and religion.
While promoting diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do, the benefits to the organization are many, including:
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased profits
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Longer tenure
  • A wider range of skills

Each year, the NACS HR Forum educates and connects HR professionals specifically working in the convenience retailing industry. Whether in-person or virtually, attendees benefit from engaging presentations on topics vital to their job, case studies that can generate new ideas and valuable opportunities to build relationships with peers.

Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. She writes for NACS Daily and NACS Magazine.