June 21, 2022

Battling Discrimination in Retail Starts With Your Employee Training Program

Sam Caucci

Discrimination harms your work, your recruitment, and your reputation. The retail space has already been shown how fragile it is with the rise of online shopping. No one wants to toss breaking compliance or customer boycotts on top of that. 

There’s no silver bullet to beating discrimination in your retail business. There are, however, steps you can take to combat it. These steps will always begin with your employees and with your company culture. DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training is vital to invest in. We’ll explore ways to leverage DEI training to combat discrimination in the retail space here. 

Retail Discrimination is a Real Business Threat

Every industry has to deal with discrimination in some capacity. Since it started measuring in 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recorded nearly 1.8 million employee discrimination complaints, with racism being the most common and the least likely to find redress

However, the retail industry is uniquely vulnerable to discrimination because it is so customer-facing. Not only do you have to ensure your workspace is a safe and equitable place for your employees, but you also have to make sure customers don’t feel they’re being discriminated against either. 

Even if you think you can get away without discrimination training, you may come up against the multitude of anti-discrimination laws found across various states. No business wants to end up as a discrimination case study like Abercrombie and Fitch

How to Combat Discrimination in a Retail Workplace

First, you must ensure your employee training programs include DEI training as an integral component. Of course, your training itself can’t inherently be discriminatory.

Yes, your own DEI training could be discriminatory. How does that work? It comes down to the accessibility and universality of the training. It’s easy to accidentally put in questions that someone feels might be offensive during training icebreakers. 

Everyone has an unconscious bias. If you design the training based on your own experiences, you could be missing out on the experiences of others. This isn’t just about avoiding offending employees or not making everyone feel represented on a new employee onboarding checklist. If employees feel no real connection to the scenarios presented in training, they’ll be less likely to find that they stick. 

This kind of training can also leave you with blind spots in dealing with customers. Say you operate a clothing store, and all your informational material assumes it’s mothers who shop for clothes for their children. Are you equipping your employees to deal with men, husbands, and male partners who need help buying children’s clothing? 

Beyond training, there are other easy steps to combat discrimination in the workplace. Rolling out training for managers and leadership figures will help “lead by example” for the rest of the team. Put in strict anti-discrimination policies, enforce them, and make them clear to all hires as part of the new employee onboarding checklist. 

Try to be aware of discrimination in your hiring practices. For example, you can have resumes processed and checked without names attached. Make sure your HR department has protocols for dealing with discrimination claims.

Of course, in the end, the best way to deal with discrimination toward employees or customers in a retail workplace is going to be with rigorous, continuous DEI training. Unlearning unconscious biases isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Instead, it’s a continuous business goal to strive for. With 1Huddle, this is a goal you can achieve easily. 

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO at 1Huddle

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