How Organizations Can Progress DEI in the Retail Industry

Like many industries, when it comes to the challenges faced with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the retail sector is no exception. As 56% of retail employers actively recruit for open roles this year, these same employers have a growing responsibility to improve upon DEI—not only for employees but consumers, too, and it’s key that employers in the industry set specific DEI goals. Women hold just 26% of board positions in retail organizations, while only 13% of ethnically diverse employees hold executive roles in retail companies, according to McKinsey

Progress in DEI in retail has a long way to go. Our studies show that 24% of employees feel their organizations have done nothing to improve DEI; only 20% of retail employees believe their companies actively source candidates from untraditional backgrounds, and just 24% see DEI initiatives highlighted in their company’s hiring process. 

This is further exacerbated by the small number of retail employers prioritizing DEI. Our research found that just 16% of retailer employers view improving DEI as a top priority, and it doesn’t fall within their top 3 for this year. Only 36% of retail employers are actively recruiting from underrepresented groups, while 38% source from nontraditional outlets. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated this—100% of retail employers feel the pandemic has affected their DEI efforts. 

  • At the same time, only 20% of retail employers are offering bias training for their recruitment teams, while just 24% include diverse stakeholders in recruiting decisions, and a mere 24% leverage data to uncover potential bias in recruiting and hiring. 
  • While 52% of retail employers feel they’re satisfied with their current DEI initiatives, 32% also claim that candidates are seeking a more diverse, inclusive, and fair workplace. 
  • Meanwhile, 28% of retail employees believe their employers still have a long way to go in achieving true DEI across their organizations. 

With 28% of retailer employers aiming to achieve their DEI goals within the next 2 years, there are actionable steps employers can take to consistently improve upon DEI in their sectors.

Source: The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts: Progress, Priorities, and Opportunities

Communicate your DEI goals and initiatives

Your DEI strategy and any changes or improvements to it should be communicated not only to everyone across your organization but also to hiring candidates. When employees understand the organization-wide reach of your DEI objectives, they’re in a better position to help you achieve those goals, especially your recruiting teams. Ensure that DEI policies, strategy updates, and resources are accessible to all and that they’re integrated into your recruiting program. 

  • Forty-four percent of retail employers surveyed in our 2021 DEI Report say candidates ask for insights into their organization’s DEI policies, while 48% of employers say existing employees ask for it, too. 
  • Meanwhile, just 23% of retail employees were given DEI resources during their hiring process, and 30% of these employees have asked for insight into their employer’s DEI initiatives in the last 12 months, and only 28% believe DEI plays an important role in their company’s hiring efforts. 
  • Whereas 40% of retail employers have updated DEI handbooks and materials in 2021, 36% of retail employers have created DEI policies this year, 48% are formalizing their DEI strategy this year, 48% plan on sharing their DEI initiatives across their organizations, and 48% plan on sharing DEI initiatives with candidates during recruitment.
  • Twenty-eight percent of retail employers are also providing employees with more resources for ERGs and support groups where DEI efforts can be communicated and discussed. 
  • Forty-eight percent of retail employers feel that communicating their DEI goals and progress offers the largest room for improvement across their organization—followed closely by 32% who feel setting internal goals for DEI offers the most room for improvement. 
  • Twenty-four percent of retail employers say communicating their ongoing and future DEI initiatives is one of their key priorities for the next 12 months
  • Sixty percent of retail employers are optimistic that they’ll reach their DEI goals, yet only 44% feel their DEI efforts have increased in the past 12 months. 
  • Just 23% of retail employees were given information about their company’s DEI efforts during their recruiting process, whereas 23% say they never received any information around DEI. 
  • While 50% of retail employees believe DEI plays an important role in their company’s hiring efforts, only 24% were introduced to DEI initiatives during onboarding, while just 22% claim their company shares ongoing efforts and progress of DEI across their organization. 
  • Additionally, just 29% of retail employees are encouraged to discuss concerns or questions around DEI with their managers. 
  • Fifteen percent of employees believe their employers struggle to communicate DEI efforts internally, and 12% feel there’s a lack of buy-in around DEI initiatives from executive teams. At the same time, 25% believe their employers place higher priority on other organizational goals. 

Measure the success of your DEI initiatives 

Tracking the progress of your DEI initiatives is key to understanding both the success of your DEI strategy and the gaps or areas in need of improvement. Though many retail employers and recruitment professionals recognize the need for measuring DEI goals, our 2021 Report shows that just 39% of employers plan to measure the success of ongoing DEI objectives. Start by identifying a few key areas where DEI can be improved in your organization, then create goals your team can work towards over a set period and measure the progress of those goals as you go. 

  • Just 24% of retail employers plan on using data and insights to uncover potential biases in their recruiting processes. 
  • While 32% of retail employers feel they need to set clear goals for DEI this year, 36% plan on measuring the efficacy of their existing DEI efforts, and 56% strive to change their hiring processes based on DEI goals and initiatives. 
  • Forty-four percent of retail employers are using hiring results to measure their DEI initiatives; 52% are using employee demographics; 48% are leveraging employee experience surveys, and just 24% are using regular touch-points with employees.
  • Twenty-eight percent of retail employers are using retention rates to help measure DEI efforts, while only 12% use compensation increases and promotion rates, 20% are conducting additional employee surveys to gather data, and just 8% use offboarding interview data. 
  • Just 8% of retail employees believe their employers use data to help uncover biases in recruitment, and 19% say their employers leverage additional employee surveys to gather data. 

From an employee perspective, only 24% believe their employers leverage data from hiring results to measure the effectiveness of their DEI efforts, 28% say their employers use employee demographic data, 28% have regular check-ins around DEI, but just 17% feel their employers also leverage data from retention rates. 

Source: The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts: Progress, Priorities, and Opportunities

Audit your existing recruitment practices

In recruiting, DEI matters. And, in the retail industry, ensuring that you integrate DEI practices into your hiring processes is crucial. One of the first steps you can take towards improving DEI in your organization is to audit your existing recruitment practices and determine any gaps in your hiring practices so you can ensure they’re both fair and inclusive. To perform a baseline audit, look first at each element of your recruiting process—including job descriptions, candidate outreach, employee experience surveys, and more—and note any gaps or inconsistencies where DEI may be lacking. Having this foundational understanding of your existing practices will help you choose the right areas to improve or work on to achieve DEI initiatives.

  • Interestingly, only 16% of retail employers feel aligning HR goals and broader organizational goals is a high priority this year when it comes to DEI. 
  • When it comes to increasing DEI in recruiting, 28% of retail employers are posting open roles to nontraditional outlets; 36% are proactively sourcing candidates from nontraditional backgrounds; 44% are ensuring job postings are worded to eliminate bias; 24% are using anonymized resume review; 40% are standardizing interview questions and rubrics, and 28% are hiring from different geographic locations. 
  • Our survey found that just 24% of retail employers involve diverse stakeholders in hiring and recruiting processes + decisions. 
  • Meanwhile, when communicating DEI initiatives to prospects, 48% of retail employers are leveraging social media. 
  • Fifty-six percent of retail employers also stated in our survey that they’re making actionable changes to their hiring processes and practices, yet, only 20% are implementing mandatory DEI training for their employees. 
  • A mere 15% of retail employees have noticed their employers replacing educational requirements with core skills and competencies when diversifying their recruiting practices. 
  • Just 16% of retail employees believe their companies offer bias training for recruiting and HR teams. 

Retail employers are facing a myriad of challenges when it comes to diversifying their recruiting processes and making actionable changes to their hiring practices. Our survey found that 28% of retail employers are experiencing difficulties in sourcing diverse candidates, while another 28% have found it difficult to meet their DEI goals due to time constraints. This signals a need for a more streamlined recruiting process that puts DEI at the forefront of how retail employers source, nurture, and hire top talent.

Make your recruiting process a foundation for change 

At Lever, we’re committed to providing you with the tools you need to attract, nurture, and retain diverse talent in your organization. We surveyed over 500 HR decision-makers and 1,000 employees to determine the state of DEI in 2021—and we break down the results in our latest Report. Explore new strategies for improving DEI in your organization today and beyond with our 2021 State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report. 

Download the Report