In the wise words of Claudia Brind-Woody, vice president and managing director of intellectual property at IBM, “Inclusivity means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued. I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.” 

So what does that look like in the workplace, and even further, in the flooring retail space? We’ve taken three general tools for successful diversity, equity and inclusion, provided by Bonnie Mayfield, chair, Dykema Gossett PLLC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and applied them to our industry. 

Attend Conferences and Other Professional Events with Colleagues 

Though it can be difficult to step away from your showroom for an extended period of time, we are fortunate to work in an industry that provides several opportunities to attend conferences and professional events throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in attending The International Surface Event (TISE), Coverings or maybe even the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) or HD Expo, sending a small team on behalf of your retail operation—even if it’s just for a day trip—to experience the show together, is a great way to encourage colleague bonding, professional development and industry connection. It also provides the opportunity to expose your team to new techniques, ideas and innovations that they might not be familiar with. 

That’s the idea interior designers Jeannine Rohtla and Susan Bardin of Peacock + Lewis Architects and Planners in North Palm Beach, Florida, had when they made the two-hour drive to spend the day at Coverings in Orlando, which the pair says was just enough time to visit the show in search of new and revitalized trends. 

“The textures we are seeing are unbelievable,” Rohtla said. “We just came out of [the Petra Antiqua] booth and everything looked like jewelry. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Something we haven’t seen anywhere.” 

Something they haven’t seen is exactly what the two were looking for at the show. “Some booths are standing out and are totally different than everything else,” said Rohtla. “That’s what we’re here to see. We want to bring our clients the newest, latest and greatest that doesn’t currently exist in our area.” 

With many industry shows and events taking place virtually for the unforeseeable future, consider having colleagues “attend” virtual industry shows and events together, maybe in the form of a lunch and learn or a professional development happy hour.

Co-author Articles Together 

Have a company blog? Why not have team members join forces to create posts and articles? Irene Williams, founder and CEO of Msg2Mkt, suggests in her article, “The Truth About Blogging for your Business,” that if you plan to blog for business, be consistent and focus on quality over quantity. One way to do that is to encourage colleagues to collaborate on topics and posts. Not only will this ensure that posts are getting done (consistency), but having various voices and levels of expertise weigh in on an array of topics can contribute to the value (quality) of your blog. 

Plan Social Events for Your Team 

What better way to come together as a team than at a social event? Be it in the workspace or outside, this is a great way to encourage staff to let their hair down and get to know one another, which in turn, will help to create a better working relationship. Retailer Matt Ketterman in Greensboro, North Carolina, seems to have this idea down pat. In his monthly Floor Trends column, A Rising Tide, Ketterman often highlights the value of motiving his team at Got You Floored with social events both in and outside of the office. For example, birthdays are a big deal at Got You Floored, and Ketterman shared that each employee is celebrated with a card signed by the entire company, a cake, and a gift card to somewhere they like. Ketterman also keeps his team motivated and social with a surprise “thank you” lunch, which he says does wonders for morale. “Even if it is just a stack of pizzas, it is nice for the staff to be appreciated and recognized.” 

Stepping outside of the retail space, Ketterman and the Got You Floored team enjoy bonding over sporting and fundraising events. “We have season tickets at the local minor league baseball games and sometimes do a team night there. A Halloween party is an annual invite we get from one of our designer/sales representatives. We put on an annual 10K Run to Fight Hunger that a few employees volunteer at or participate in.”