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Inclusion: Embracing Internal and External Benefits

Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of InclusionINC

Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of InclusionINC

A new growth strategy of inclusion means mobilizing the diversity of your work force and being open to ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles from everyone, to garner better business results.

It’s no secret that franchisors are often more quickly successful than independent small businesses, which can be attributed in part to the instant brand recognition and awareness that already exists in the marketplace, as well as the proven business model tested and tweaked over time. However, something many franchisors and franchisees haven’t considered today is the significant role that inclusion plays in maximizing business success.
Inclusion means mobilizing the diversity of your workforce and being open to a variety of ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles from everyone, to garner better business results. When executed as a business strategy, it brings substantial internal and external benefits.

New “Work Force Normal”

Internally, inclusion improves employee engagement, productivity, retention and innovation. There’s significant evidence that employees are more likely to work harder and stay longer if employers are collaborative and inclusive. It’s also proven that diversity of thought is a greater trigger for innovation. Employers are also experiencing the emergence of a new “work force normal” emerging in the business landscape. Call it “Work force 2.0.” − a work force that now carries an active and empowered voice stemming from the constant engagement and participation in social-media conversations.

The news is that this work force expects equal audience in their workplace and the onus is now squarely upon management, both franchisors and franchisees, to learn how to make the workplace more inclusive and participatory. As a result, the meeting of these needs may signal the end of the era of command and control.

To grow, the same groups of people who have become your new customers must be represented in your franchise.

In addition to the new work force normal that makes it imperative to move toward a culture of inclusion swiftly, the influx of people born during the late 1980s and early 1990s − known as Generation Y or Millennial − into the workplace make it even more critical to affect a culture change. Gen Yers will represent the bulk of “available talent,” almost 25 percent today and will make up more than 75 percent of the global work force by 2025. And they are largely working for small companies, according to a study done by Millennial Branding that reported only 7 percent of Gen Y works for Fortune 500 companies. This presents great opportunity for franchises to recruit this cohort and take advantage of their inclusive aptitudes.

Culture Inclusion

Implementing a workplace culture of inclusion isn’t as complex as it sounds. First, start by asking for your employees’ input. These are the people on the ground, the ones who implement any new strategy or initiative that a franchise pursues, the ones who have seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Second, retire command-and-control management. It stifles, rather than drives, productivity and innovation. Creating a participative environment can give employees a sense of belonging and ownership that will lead to better creativity and engagement. Third, acknowledge and praise employees who exemplify inclusive behaviors to ensure the behavior spreads throughout the workplace.

If reaping internal rewards of inclusion isn’t enough, external inclusion provides the means to sell more goods and services to a broader audience. To grow, the same groups of people who have become your new customers must be represented in your franchise. Capturing emerging markets means harvesting the insights and innate knowledge in each of your employee populations. Consider the rapidly expanding Latino population: in the next two years, it will top 50 million people and the purchasing power of the demographic will exceed $1 trillion. Franchisors and franchisees cannot expect to grab any portion of that market if they do not rely on people who are already within their work force to connect with that market.

Focusing on a Local Market

Franchisors and franchisees traditionally hire with a local market focus, but without a true strategy. Franchisors often recruit franchisees who live in that given market; similarly, franchisees hire employees who live there, but imagine the business success they could achieve if they not only hired locally, but also thought about reflecting their customer base through their employees. Once these new employees are on board, their input should be sought to help build business strategies around individual target markets.

Buffalo Wild Wings is an excellent example of a franchise that has made it big (and global) through implementing a thorough understanding of the markets it enters. Its “all-local” staff members provide important insights into the unique intricacies of the markets it enters. When the chain expanded into Canada, as a Forbes article pointed out, its all-local staff helped the restaurant “discover that northerners preferred Bloody Caesars to Bloody Marys…honey-garlic sauce over traditional buffalo (and) poutine − fries topped with curd cheese and brown gravy − to French fries.”

Use a strategy of inclusion to better understand the needs of your emerging markets. Solicit your team for their input on these key questions:

  • Who are your current customers?
  • Who are your emerging customers?
  • What are your current and emerging customers’ needs, values and preferences and how can you mine the diverse insights of your work force to align?
  • How do your customers access your products/services?
  • How do you effectively communicate with your customers?
  • How do you customize your products and services based on demand?

Use a strategy of inclusion to better understand the needs of your emerging markets.
When inclusion becomes part of your company’s DNA, your franchise organization will enjoy better business results through greater employee engagement, productivity, retention and innovation, as well as sell more goods and services. What’s better is that it only takes what’s inside your four walls to implement. This is the strategy to thrive and grow in the new “Work force 2.0” business and work force normal. n

Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of InclusionINC, has been an inclusion and diversity strategist and consultant since 1992 and held senior management positions in such global consumer product organizations as Brown & Williamson and Frito-Lay. As a business strategist, Engelmeier has consulted with Fortune 1000 companies, as well as emerging enterprises on inclusion and diversity initiatives across a broad range of industries. She can be reached at

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