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Diversity & Inclusion – “Strategy Without Tactics Is The Slowest Route To Victory”

Posted by Jamie McKay on July 17, 2023

It’s not often you will read an article that quotes Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu at the beginning, and the Godfather Of Soul, James Brown at the end. 

Well, if it draws your attention to our article on the latest Diversity and Inclusion report then we have done our job!

80 Percent Of Retailers Are Focusing On Disability In Their Diversity And Inclusion (D&I)

That is the headline from a new report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and The MBS Group.

On the surface, it is a good headline. But, as the old saying goes “The devil is in the details” so, let’s take a look into the report and find out exactly what ‘focusing’ means.

The report is based on data collected from 200 of the retail industry’s leading businesses, “with a focus on the three highest leadership levels: Board, executive committee, and direct reports into the executive committee.”

The report has found that 93% of Retailers now have a coordinated D&I Strategy – which is good!

But wait, the report has also found that 47% of retailers do not have any specific initiatives to increase D & I, and that 66% do not have any specific targets in place. This is not so good…

A man hosting a meeting with 'Boxes We Have To Tick' on his presentation

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Having a strategy without having specific measures in place to carry out the strategy is somewhat reminiscent of the early 2000s when companies would have a mental health ‘strategy’, without any real investment or focus on doing anything other than ticking the boxes for the company annual report.

Strategies look good at an HR, executive, and boardroom level, but for everyone else, there needs to be more action than awareness.

When you look into the strategies that the 93% have, there are some encouraging signs; collecting data on D&I, and engaging in national/international events such as Pride and International Women’s Day has increased significantly. Similarly, more D&I training at a senior or board level is widespread in the majority of larger retailers.

However, when you stop and think about the 47% that don’t have any specific initiatives, that is more worrying.

The report mentions that there is a ‘long road ahead’ and without specific targets, it could easily be a long road without any signs or directions.

There is a danger of companies being caught in a loop of inaction. Without any data being collected, they can’t focus on any specific targets and initiatives. Without specific targets, they have no incentive to collect any data.

The words 'talkin' loud and sayin' nothing' as a record cover

The Disabled Community In Retail

Now let’s take a look at where Disability sits within the Diversity and Inclusion report.

In a repeat of the larger report, 80% of retailers include ‘disability’ in their D&I strategies. There is a disappointingly low number of Disabled employees in senior roles (17%)

More encouragingly, some retailers are now including neurodivergent conditions within their strategies, which is progress.

We are coming up to the end of the academic year and if this report was a school report it would have ‘good but could do much better’ scrawled in red pen on the cover.

It is fantastic that many retailers are doing much more than ever before with Diversity and Inclusion. Indeed, the report ends with several Retail Executives saying as much.

But now is the time to do better, and put meaningful actions in place, to avoid what James Brown would say is ‘Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing.’