Champions for Action

Sarah Hunter

“Building a diverse business, not just a gender diverse business, means we better understand our customers which enables improved decision making.”

But Hunter is the first to admit that gender balance is still a challenge in retail, particularly when it comes to bias towards women being recruited for their proven ability and men recruited on potential.

“While this is a challenge, many of us across the retail sector are working to improve the recruitment process, and approaches vary depending on the area of the industry in which the recruitment is taking place (e.g. digital versus store operations).”

So what can we do about it? Hunter has a few ideas

“Unconscious bias is present in all sectors and there is more we need to do to shift our processes to try and address this, for example I have seen some real success of targeting a 50/50 gender shortlist approach and through removing names from CVs.”

While the bias may still exist in recruitment, Hunter says it is improving when it comes to development and career pathways.

“I think having a clear performance appraisal and development processes in place, that is consistently applied, enables a transparent playing field for development and advancement conversations.” She says.

“In my experience, when you don’t know what ‘field’ you are on it makes it extremely challenging to understand how you move forward in an organisation.”

Hunter then goes on to speak of the importance of understanding and addressing ‘hygiene factors’. Developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s, the hygiene theory says there are certain factors in the workplace that cause job satisfaction while a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction, all of which act independently of each other. 

Herzberg’s research is often credited with providing the foundation for the development of job enrichment and the movement for improving the quality of work life – or as we know it today – flexibility or flexible working.

“Flexible working is such a difficult topic as it is very personal to the individual and their circumstances. One size does not fit all! In my experience, creating a culture where the team feel open to ask for flexibility when needed and line managers are open to listening and supporting is the key,” says Hunter.  

Back to the hygiene factors: “To help people grow and develop career opportunities within a business, you need to have addressed the ‘hygiene factors’ within your employment proposition to support women, and men, through their family journey (whether the journey to parenthood or caring for family members) to enable the team to trust that they can build a career with one organisation.”

While addressing these factors is certainly critical, for Hunter though the single most important ingredient needed to create a diverse business is?

“Listen!” She says. “Actively listening to our team members, our customers, our suppliers and our stakeholders – about what is working well and what more we can do to be a more inclusive business – helps us to make better decisions that genuinely improve Officeworks.”

“Listening to what our people really need and want, over time will further improve diversity and inclusion, which means more talented people will decide to build their careers with us, which is critical as the capability and engagement of our team is key to our future success.”

“And don’t forget to walk the talk,” she adds. “Whether it is the composition of your team, making sure you ‘leave loudly’ or sharing stories about your journey and when it doesn’t go to plan!

 


A recent post on LinkedIn read: “Thanks and happy Easter Officeworks. (I’ve) Never been treated indifferently... no wonder gestures like this Make Bigger Things Happen!”

It was written by a contractor for the office supply store and had been ‘liked’ by Sarah Hunter, the recently appointed new Managing Director of Officeworks.

“Those words spoke volumes of the inclusive and diverse culture we strive for – regardless of your race, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability or gender we want you to feel part of our team,” she says.

Hunter makes sure she covers the full gamut of diversity because, she says, diversity isn’t just about gender.

“It is really important that this isn’t seen as a ‘gender’ issue. Diversity and inclusion has many forms and we need to be broad in our thinking and approach for all our team members.”

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