Best Buy Focusing on Future Success Through Inclusion

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Companies need to take a more inclusive and diverse approach to remain competitive and be known as an employer of choice among upcoming generations, while creating opportunities where not many exist today, according to Mark Irvin, Chief Inclusion, Diversity and Talent Officer at Best Buy.

Irvin made his remarks during a keynote presentation at Ecommerce Operations Summit 2021 in Nashville.

Workers in Gen Z and beyond are faced with “the great resignation,” Irvin said, wondering what their purpose is.

“They’re asking, ‘Why am I at work? What am I trying to do?’ ” he said. “Companies that don’t lean into helping them solve this will find themselves without the necessary workers to do their jobs. What are they looking for? Purpose, or ‘This is what I really intended to do.’ Companies need to have leaders that care enough to sit at the table and work this out. If they don’t, they’ll leave your company in hordes.”

The number-one concern among younger generations is acceptance, Irvin said, with studies even indicating it can even be chosen above food and shelter for limited periods, the highest-order item in Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs.

Many companies have been caught off guard by the changing demographics of the workforce, creating situations where “everyone in the room is thinking the same way,” Irvin said. While baby boomers in the workforce are 18% to 25% diverse, those in Gen Z are north of 50%.

“By 2026, the largest consumer base in the U.S. will be Gen Z,” he said. “If you can’t position your organization to care what they care about, you’ll face the same level of challenges that were created by the rise of Amazon.”

In addition, Irvin said companies need to create more opportunities in “disinvested communities” while also helping create an employee mindset that is less limiting in terms of potential. For example, he said, more employees should be passing on internal opportunities out of choice, not from a mindset of being beyond their grasp.

“The issue is people are not willing to invest in employees when they made a simple mistake, leading to turnover,” Irvin said. “At one of our facilities, once we stopped that and inserted a values-based approach, it became the highest-performing building in the network. But this requires you to develop inclusive leaders that relate across multiple cultures.”

Irvin said many younger employees tend to look at internal job postings, realize they’re not qualified and back away. “We need to examine each part of the process to make (positions) more accessible and inclusive,” he said.

Tidal Wave is a Best Buy program designed to help workers who want to pursue a new career path, such as supply chain, but don’t know how to get there. “It allows someone to enter into a new role, take six months or a year and make a career decision of, do they want to transfer,” Irvin said. “It’s a powerful program.”

The company has also set up 35 teen tech centers in disinvested communities in the U.S., through a recent $10 million investment in Brown Venture Group, based in Best Buy’s hometown of Minneapolis. Young people in the program are exposed to the latest technologies, allowing them to envision career aspirations they hadn’t considered or felt ill-equipped for.

“We’re building that into our pipeline at Best Buy, and even allowing other companies to take advantage of it,” Irvin said.