Accelerating the pace of change:
The benefits of being part of the WiHTL and Diversity in Retail Collaboration Community

Why do Diversity and Inclusion matter? Leaving aside the fact that implementing these values within an organisation is the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, the benefits of having diverse workforces and inclusive workplaces are clear from a business perspective. If people can bring their whole selves to work and feel valued and understood, then they are far more likely to perform at their best. Meanwhile, attracting and – crucially –  retaining talent from a diverse range of backgrounds becomes easier when companies demonstrate that they are taking tangible steps to make all members feel included.

Being a part of the WiHTL & DiR Collaboration Community can play an important role in enabling companies to accelerate the pace of change on their Diversity and Inclusion journeys. From access to a rich vein of Diversity and Inclusion resources to the opportunity to nominate members for comprehensive, cross-industry programmes, WiHTL & DiR offer a whole host of benefits to help this take place. 

 Foremost amongst these is a genuine culture of co-creation, and of companies from across industries working together to solve common problems. ‘It’s the shared learning more than anything and the expertise,’ reflects Sarah Dickins (Chief Member, Customer and People Officer at Central Co-op). ‘It’s a very active community.’

‘Organisations within the WiHTL & DiR Collaboration Community come together on challenging topics, and to learn from each other’ adds Silvia Sanvito, Development Programmes Lead at WiHTL & DiR. ‘There’s no sense of competition involved in Diversity and Inclusion. Being part of our Community offers the chance to collaborate and share, and to have a wider impact beyond your own company.’

This collaborative feel is evident in the significant pool of resources available to WiHTL & DiR members. Members have access to a wide range of Diversity and Inclusion resources on the member platform ‘The Hub’, all from experts who have their finger on the pulse of events within the Diversity and Inclusion world. Highlights include reports on the Gender Pay Gap in HTL (and how to positively turn the dial to reduce the gap) and a Race and Ethnicity Toolkit as well as the WiHTL & DiR Annual Report, focused this year on ‘accelerating the pace of change’.

Meanwhile, there is a strong culture of sharing and pooling resources from members of the Collaboration Community themselves. As Natalie Trumper (Director, People and Culture at Monica Vinader) explains, the opportunity to access Diversity and Inclusion resources from other companies can be a real benefit for organisations whose time and physical resources might be limited. ‘You can dip into WiHTL & DiR as an organisation to gain resources and insight. The companies that tend to join the community are usually generous ones with their time and resources.’  This means that organisations seeking resources for their own Diversity and Inclusion efforts do not have to start from scratch, with the knock-on effect of being able to implement changes more swiftly. This was certainly Natalie’s experience at Monica Vinader. ‘Why reinvent the wheel?’ she continues. ‘With WiHTL & DiR, it’s good to know you can go and find something without having to spend hours trawling and thinking is this right? Is this credible? Is this suitable? It’s those small little wins that make a big difference.’

This sharing of resources is also a two way process, as Meeta Zakharia (International Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at McDonald’s), explains: ‘There’s a duality of relationship - we are able to provide WiHTL with resources and insight so that both of us are learning from the other.’ This duality means that WiHTL & DiR are able to constantly stay in tune with the development of Diversity and Inclusion resources and thinking amongst members, in turn allowing for the swift implementation of meaningful change.

In addition to the wealth of resources on offer, members of the Collaboration Community have the opportunity to nominate employees for participation in the WiHTL & DiR cross-industry programmes, which have four main focuses:

Participation in these programmes has a valuable impact on both the individuals participating and the organisations they represent, with delegates able to develop industry-specific skills as well accessing mentoring and networking opportunities to help support their career progression. 

 ‘We’ve got great feedback from all of the individuals who have been on the Ethnic Future Leader Programme – it’s really opened their mind, helped them unlock some of the confidence issues and barriers that they’ve faced and given them an opportunity to help connect with some of the ethnically diverse people across the industry,’ explains Georgina Warren (Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director at IHG).

‘Our colleagues have all grown from being part of those programmes, and it’s helped them to network more broadly in the retail spectrum too. So we’ve got a lot of value from those programmes to help us accelerate diverse talent in our organisation,’ adds Sarah Dickins.

It’s not just participants nominated by their organisations who benefit from the WiTHL & DiR programmes either. With organisations having to nominate mentors for the programmes, there is the chance for senior leaders to learn and upskill too. ‘The broadening of our senior leadership team’s skills and giving them the opportunity to mentor individuals from outside the organisation as part of the Global Women Leaders Programme, as well as our three attendees having the opportunity to be mentored externally, has been incredible,’ explains Natalie Trumper.

Participation in the WiHTL & DiR programmes also presents opportunities for individuals they might not ordinarily have. ‘Some of the individuals we put forward for the Ethnic Future Leaders Programme had the opportunity to host a roundtable at the WiHTL and DiR Inclusion Summit last year, which was brilliant for them,’ says Meeta Zakharia. In addition, the Ethnic Future Leaders Programme offers reverse-mentoring opportunities for delegates, ‘a very empowering exercise for all involved which also provides great networking opportunities,’ Silvia Sanvito highlights.

Many graduates from the programmes get the chance to speak at the WiHTL & DiR annual Inclusion Summit, which took place this year on the 10th October at the iconic London Hilton Hotel on Park Lane with the focus on ‘accelerating the pace of change’. Benefits for the 650+ attendees from the Collaboration Community include the chance to hear insight and innovation at a range of panel discussions and talks from keynote speakers. This year’s Summit saw the new addition of the ‘Festival of Inclusion’, where Leading Inclusive Employers and Summit sponsors gave delegates an opportunity to have one-to-one conversations around their EDI activities. 

The 2023 Summit also saw the unveiling of the new inclusion in EDI Maturity Curve framework. This offers another benefit to members of the WiHTL & DiR Collaboration Community, allowing them to gain a greater understanding of their Diversity and Inclusion journey and where their organisation fits in within the HTL and retail sectors.

As Silvia Sanvito explains, whilst WiHTL & DiR may provide an array of highly valuable services, resources and products, it is ultimately also a platform that advocates for people. Being a member of the Collaboration Community offers organisations the chance to learn and to share wisdom with other members of the community, and also gives diverse individuals within those organisations opportunities to develop and thrive, helping to accelerate the pace of change. There is still a great deal to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion but by being a part of the WiHTL & DiR Collaboration Community, organisations can play an important role in that journey.