Consumer product manufacturers and retailers that create and maintain a diverse workforce are more likely to increase innovation and meet consumer needs than those that don’t, according to a new report by the Chicago-based Network of Executive Women (NEW).
As the buying power of diverse consumer segments -- including women, Hispanics, African Americans, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community -- continues to grow, these segments represent a marketplace opportunity too big for retailers and consumer product manufacturers to ignore, according to “The Changing Consumer and the Workforce Imperative.”
“This report focuses on how the retail and consumer products industry can unleash our multicultural workforces to achieve results that benefit our employees, our communities and our companies," said network chair Michelle Gloeckler, SVP for merchandising execution at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Stores. “Research for this project began at last year’s NEW Multicultural Workforce Conference, and the results were previewed at this year’s conference in March. The network believes that diversity and inclusion is critical to the future of our business.”
The report, based in part on one-on-one interviews with more than two dozen leading U.S. consumer goods and retail executives, explores the correlation between workforce diversity and the ability of the consumer goods and retail industries to engage the changing U.S. consumer.
“Cultural connections are critical to understanding what drives purchasing decisions and brand loyalty across different market segments,” said Alison Paul, immediate past president of NEW, and vice chairman and U.S. retail sector leader at New York-based Deloitte LLP. “Making these connections rely on retailers' and manufacturers’ ability to not only become more culturally aware -- which are increasingly table stakes – but [also] harness and value diverse perspectives as a source of innovation.”
Paul will be leading a panel discussion on the topic with Dian Emerson, VP, Diversity and Inclusion, Safeway, and Marie Quintana, VP, Multicultural Sales, PepsiCo, at this year’s Hispanic Retail 360 Summit, being held in LaJolla, Calif., Aug. 10-12. To register, go to www.hispanicretail360.com.
Consumer insights most often come from those who share a consumer’s cultural experience, the report concludes. As such, recruiting, retaining and advancing a diverse workforce are integral to creating a brand/consumer connection, as consumers feel most comfortable doing business with companies whose employees mirror their communities.
According to the report, consumer product manufacturers and retailers may be able to achieve an inclusive culture by first understanding the bottom-line business opportunity, and then making a commitment to diversity that touches all company departments. Top management should view workforce diversity not as a stand-alone program, but as an essential element for business survival. Achieving cultural competency involves leadership commitment and communication, employee accountability, strong talent recruiting and retention programs, progressive succession planning, and diverse supplier relationships.
For more information, visit the organization’s website, www.newonline.org.