Why Diversity and Inclusion as a Core Value Leads to Successful Companies


John Adcock, Senior Vice President, People, at RetailMeNot, says, Companies can no longer afford to have diversity and inclusion as mere talking points; they must become embedded in the values and lived out by the organization each day

One of the biggest priorities in corporate culture today is the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and the changes being made with regard to both. This is especially prevalent in the tech industry. Companies can no longer afford to have diversity and inclusion as mere talking points; they must become embedded in the values of the company and lived out by everyone in the organization.

First and foremost, diversity and inclusion efforts are the right things to do because of the positive impact on the organization. In an inclusive environment, everyone is able to be their best self and experience the full richness of their co-workers as no one feels the need to suppress who they are. Our team members consistently rate the people at RetailMeNotOpens a new window as one of the main reasons they are here when asked in surveys. By doing everything possible to make all team members feel comfortable and have an impact, the better the entire organization becomes.

Recent research shows that the benefits of such programs go beyond increased employee engagement to include increased business performance as well. In fact, McKinseyOpens a new window found companies that focused on gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability; companies focused on ethnic diversity saw a 33 percent likelihood of outperformance on margin. We believe team members who are being themselves and are comfortable are going to have more positive impact on their work and team.

Over the last 18 months, volunteers within our organization built a program from the ground up as one of the largest grass-roots efforts in Austin. Our efforts are not perfect, and they have just begun, and we are proud of the work that our team has done so far. It is important for companies to recognize the long road required to build a truly diverse and inclusive workforce. We have seen a lot of excitement from our team members who have been active in leaning into these efforts, and we believe we are on the right track.

Focusing on diversity and inclusion as a cultural priority has allowed us to open conversations we need to have in our industry, in our community, and within our walls.

Focusing on Inclusion for D&I Efforts

While diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand, focusing on inclusion can help companies embrace the actions and behaviors that will make diversity stick. Building an inclusive culture from within, where employees are able to be transparent about their true selves, will ultimately attract more diverse candidates and leaders who feel they belong within an organization.

The challenge is, inclusion isn’t always natural for everyone. Most of us come with a natural instinct for tribalism – even something as inane like your allegiance to NFL teams creates a dividing line. Moving our behavior and thoughts toward inclusion must be intentional. And, it’s stronger than just collaboration; true sense of belonging requires team members to be mindful and create space for others.

We want our team members to stretch beyond what is comfortable in order to make our organization a place where everyone can thrive as individuals and feel as if they are a part of something. This creates space for people — people with differences and different ideas — which in turn creates a fantastic working environment that can lead to more successful business outcomes in the long run.

Opening the Door to Tough Conversations

One of the hardest parts about making diversity and inclusion a core business value is opening the door to tough conversations. Sometimes, this can manifest as a roundtable discussion, so people feel heard, and sometimes it can mean being open about how and where the organization struggles to meet its aspirations around diversity and inclusion. These conversations are thorny and can be very uncomfortable.

Organizations must also delicately balance the need for difficult discussions and the likelihood that colleagues may misspeak or not be aware of the impact of their words. When the conversation turns to race, gender, sexual orientation and more, oftentimes anxiety, shame, fear and vulnerability follow.

Avoiding difficult conversations can perpetuate a cycle of employees feeling misunderstood or not heard at all. Instead leading with grace in communication allows individuals to stub their toes as they work through to understanding. Additionally, it creates a vulnerable environment where people can become more aware while growing in their empathy and experiencing something through the perspective of another individual.

Bringing It All Together

At RetailMeNot, our team takes a team member-led approach to diversity and inclusion. Executive team members are enthusiastic sponsors of the program and frequently check in and ask how they can help support the team members leading the efforts. Additionally, our leadership team plays a critical role in providing resources to take the diversity and inclusion program to the level our team members are striving to make a reality.

We collaborate with a broad group of team members on a long-term mission that aspires to motivate team members to have an impact on the company, its customers, and the broader community. This approach can help draw out the current landscape while creating short-term and long-term goals. Challenges like leadership composition, mental health issues, hiring and retention and more are all still topics on the table for discussion for us.

Our approach is one where team members can feel empowered to lead and guide the culture where it needs to go in order to foster a more inclusive environment. **The uniqueness of a workforce begins to emerge when you encourage diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization.**

While an organization’s culture is core to who they are collectively, values can serve as guideposts to get there. At RetailMeNot, we chose to strengthen our values by adding “Diversity and Inclusion,” which is something that we are continually working on and making a priority through action.