Diversity Called ‘Workforce Imperative’

Mar 24, 2011
George Anderson

A new report by the Network of Executive Women maintains
that “manufacturers
and retailers who create and maintain a diverse workforce are more likely to
increase innovation and meet consumer needs than those who don’t.”

report, The Changing Consumer and the Workforce Imperative, maintains
that changes in American society have led to an increasingly diverse consumer
base with numerous segments (women, Hispanics, African Americans and lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender individuals) representing significant business
opportunities in and of themselves.

Executives at more than two dozen U.S. consumer
goods and retail companies were interviewed for The Changing Consumer and
the Workforce Imperative 
gain an understanding of how diversity in the workplace translates into deeper
insights into behaviors among shopper segments.

“Cultural connections are critical to understanding what drives purchasing
decisions and brand loyalty across different market segments,” Alison
Paul, immediate past president of the Network of Executive Women and vice chairman
and U.S. retail sector leader, Deloitte LLP, said in a statement. “Making
these connections rely on retailers’ and manufacturers’ ability
to not only become more culturally aware — which are increasingly table
stakes — but harness and value diverse perspectives as a source of innovation.”

J.C. Penney and Target were the lone retailers named to The
DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity

Kathryn Collins, vice
president, inclusion & diversity and recruiting
for J.C. Penney, told DiversityInc, “Our commitment to inclusion
and diversity enables a culture that fosters engagement, innovation and sustainable

Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO for Target, said, “Fostering
an inclusive culture is a core value we integrate into every area of our business,
including our guest, supplier and community relationships. By leveraging the
talents of our diverse team, we can deliver a superior shopping experience
that meets the unique, ever-changing needs of our varied guest segments.”

Discussion Questions: Do you agree that a more diverse workforce drives innovation and sales as concluded in The Changing Consumer and the Workforce Imperative report? How does “commonality of culture” within an organization conflict with the principle of diversity? Are there any retailers or other companies that you think exemplify the positives of diversity?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Diversity Called ‘Workforce Imperative’"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dr. Stephen Needel
10 years 1 month ago

These are pretty broad claims by a group that has a social and political agenda. I’d like to see some research that backs it up. Being skeptical by nature, I’d expect that corporate culture is more likely to drive innovation and sales rather than diversity.

There should be no conflict between “commonality of culture” and the “principle of diversity.” You should be able to have both without a conflict.

Warren Thayer
10 years 1 month ago

Hiring clones of yourself is just foolish, sort of like always playing against people in tennis who you know you can beat when, to improve your game, you should be playing against people who can beat you. I don’t see “commonality of culture” at odds with diversity. The “commonality of culture” that counts is not race, gender or whatever, but work ethic, willingness to take risks, open-mindedness, etc.

Mel Kleiman
10 years 1 month ago

Supporting diversity is good for business. The objective of business is to create and maintain customers and supply their needs while making a profit. To that end, you need to make sure you hire and retain the best employees, no matter what their background. At the same time, you need to identify and serve your core market and the more diverse that market, the more you need to understand and meets its needs.

But to say that diversity makes you more creative and innovate is pushing the argument. Hiring creative and innovate people and having a culture on innovation is what will make you creative and innovative, not because you practice diversity.

Paula Rosenblum
10 years 1 month ago

This is a very troubling survey.

I wonder how Target got named to the “Diversity 50.”

Perhaps the company has been okay about hiring women, but it has also been funding political candidates who are completely opposed to other groups that fall into the “diversity” category–and in fact was being boycotted by the GLBT community for its support of those candidates.

So, on those grounds, I question the whole list. I would reckon there are a lot of retailers with a better track record in hiring minorities than the ones on this list. We are rapidly moving into a post-minority world…in fact, Latinos outnumber “pure” Caucasians. This whole debate is an aging one, and it’s dying fast.

Ryan Mathews
10 years 1 month ago

Of course diversity increases the potential for innovation and creativity. Put another way–homogeneous hiring creates inbred thinking and leads to a single world view, i.e., what’s wrong with almost every large company in America.

As to the notion of corporate culture only a very limited mind can’t imagine how diverse individuals could create an inclusive and evolving corporate culture broad enough to safely encourage and respect points of difference.

Kai Clarke
10 years 1 month ago

Product differentiation through target market segmentation will only work for a few products. The vast majority of products are simply price sensitive. Appealing to diversity is a low factor in product success. Deliver a good product at a great price and success will beat a path to your door! This is clear from the incredible growth of all of the Dollar Stores, to the shift to more price sensitive products and a price sensitive operation at more and more of America’s retailers.

Craig Sundstrom
10 years 1 month ago

I’ll have to go along with the others here who see diversity as an end rather than a means; and I agree with Stephen that the seeming self-servingness of NEW’s claims tend to undermine them (to be quite blunt, I can’t imagine that “transgender” is large enough group that most retailers really care whether they reach it or not). Indeed, I’m not sure dividing up the world into various groups–creating many “them’s” rather than one “us”–is helpful…probably for some products but not for others.

Fabien Tiburce
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 1 month ago

At the end of the proverbial day, people want to shop at brands they feel understand them. Shoppers are increasingly “advocates” no longer willing to let a brand ignore and marginalize them. At best, they stop buying your goods and stop shopping at your stores. At worst, they tell all their like-minded friends to do the same on twitter and Facebook. Brands that don’t fully embrace the diversity of their community are walking dead.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 1 month ago

I question the validity of the survey when Target is included as one of the Top 50 Diverse companies. The political agenda of the company makes me wonder what the survey entailed to reach these conclusions. Diversity in and of itself is good. But a companies culture will not change until those diverse backgrounds reach decision making or recommending positions.

Gene Detroyer
10 years 1 month ago

Actually, there is considerable research on this topic. Most of it has been done in Europe. The latest was presented at the recent European Conference on Innovations and Entrepreneurship. All of the research that I have seen indicates that diversity and innovation are tightly aligned.

Diversity presents differences views of the same challenges that often lead to better solutions. Organizations that tend to be less diverse tend to group-think with the result being doing things the same old way or not seeing all the possibilities of finding innovative solutions.

Jesse Gaibor
Jesse Gaibor
10 years 1 month ago

Working with Target on a daily basis, I can tell you that it is very diverse and have all racial, gender, and sexual orientation quotas covered. This does not impress me as I am ardently against affirmative action (I am Latino). However, more important in my opinion is DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT. Target, as far as I can tell, is doing an adequate job of this.

As for their support of conservatives in elections, they are doing so for their economic health. Ultimately they do not answer to fringe liberal groups but to stockholders (all stockholders regardless of color, gender or orientation). If they made their decisions on social issues alone they would not be in business.

Go Target!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
10 years 1 month ago

Every piece of research I have seen has the same results. When groups members of diverse backgrounds participate freely there is more creativity and innovation. The research I have seen on board membership says that board members tend to select other board members with whom they feel comfortable. That does not suggest much diversity or appear to lend itself to much creativity.

John Karolefski
10 years 1 month ago

Corporate diversity increases the understanding of diverse shoppers. Those insights will make shopper marketing programs more effective. That makes sense. Does diversity lead to more or better innovation? Maybe, but it is a stretch.


Take Our Instant Poll

How important is a diverse workforce to fostering a culture of innovation?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...