The business of inclusion is as important as what’s sold on the shelves.
One might think that the convenience store industry is a microcosm of diversity. One would have to admit that the industry, at least from the lower operations level, would fit this mold. After all, the DNA at the lower level encompasses diverse talent from differing social, economic, educational, ethnic, sexual orientation, and of course gender backgrounds.
However, with the existing global landscape, comes the responsibility of creating a diverse environment and managing the complex dynamics that result in this achievement. More importantly, store managers must advocate, not just create and manage diversity, but design a strategy that accomplishes the goal of an inclusive environment.
Companies achieve “diversity” when they hire, train, develop and promote individuals from different backgrounds. “Inclusion” is achieved when these differences are leveraged in an equitable way that establishes a company’s dominance and catapults these individuals into higher-established positions so that increased sales and revenues are consistently achieved.
Managing More than a Store
There are many challenges that lay ahead in areas such as category management, retention, cash control, maintaining effective vendor relations, etc. Clearly these issues are at the forefront of any executive’s mind. But the most important execution of a chain’s vision and strategy comes through store managers. The store manager is the conduit for thoughtful action and change. They are required to act with a sense of urgency in order for both small and large companies to be successful.
With all the responsibilities and challenges store managers’ face, one of the often forgotten or mismanaged practices is inclusion. It is automatically assumed that if you have diversity–the concept that if you mix up a bunch of different seasonings and flavorings–that you get a great tasting product. That is not always the case.
Store managers have to determine what makes these flavors and seasoning taste the way they do and how should they best be incorporated so that the final product is truly reflective of what is being tasted. The recipe is only complete when store managers become comfortable, passionate and effective in ensuring that their employees are truly immersed in the company’s culture and they are equally versed in who their employees really are. Store managers are there to protect the integrity of a company’s mission and vision and a major part of this is addressing issues that may arise from having a diverse workforce or staff.
For instance, if a store manager hears another employee refer to an employee he knows is gay, using a derogatory word, he CANNOT ignore the statement or wait to address it. It is the store managers’ obligation to take this employee aside and establish a tone of intolerance for these types of personal attacks, whether directly or indirectly. If store managers negate their responsibilities and allow these types of statements to go on, it is inevitable that they will experience consistent turnover and strained employee relations, something that must be eradicated as much as possible in the c-store industry.
Plus, this creates an environment of harassment and intolerance that could result in companies facing legal issues. If companies want to avoid these pitfalls, they should not only consider, but implement diversity and inclusion training for store managers PRIOR to them taking over a multimillion dollar business unit.
Store managers should operate with a sense of pride, integrity, ingenuity and expediency. There is no more crucial area that these characteristics should come into play than with managing and developing employees and creating a culture where discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated and where every employee has the opportunity to grow and succeed.
No matter how much the issue of inclusion is ignored or put on the back burner, it will still be there and given the high turnover c-store operators face. Yet, the cost of additional diversity training is minimal. A c-store is only as good as its store manager and the store manager is only as good as the sales associates. The challenge is using the diverse individual talents collectively so as to gain greater position in the market place, and this all starts with the store managers.
Tonya Brown is a business unit manager for The Pantry Inc./ Kangaroo Express Stores in Sanford, N.C. She can be reached at (843) 364-8417 or via email at [email protected].