Franchises need to take these topics beyond HR departments and embody the frontrunners of tomorrow.
Franchising has always had diversity in its DNA, and franchises have been and remain at the forefront of empowering minority business ownership. It is without a doubt a legacy to be proud of, as explored in the new book Franchise: Golden Arches in Black America by Georgetown University professor Marcia Chatelain.
Franchising stepped in as the civil rights movement in the United States began to falter, to set about the business of putting entrepreneurial wealth into the hands of underrepresented communities. As we reflect on that legacy and similar legacies in countries around the world, the question should be asked in franchise boardrooms everywhere – what does diversity and inclusion (D&I) look like for our brand in the 2020s? Is there a cohesive vision in the franchise sector to build on this success and redefine it for a 21st century marketplace? There must be in 2020.
RESPONDING TO A SHIFTING MARKETPLACE
It is this rapidly changing marketplace that in fact forces these questions to the forefront. According to Nielsen, multicultural buying power has more than quintupled from 1990 to 2014 from $661bn to over $2.3tr in the U.S., growing at more than twice the rate of the overall purchasing power.
D&I (or a lack thereof) is also more visible than ever before, and in the crosshairs of consumers, employees, digital communities and traditional media. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in more diverse and interconnected communities, real and virtual, than any generation before them, from social media to the ubiquity of mobility. They expect D&I, are attuned to it, and increasingly, they shop their values and look for employers that share their values in authentic ways. Whether as customers and employees today or franchisees tomorrow, these diverse and diversity-focused generations are shifting the marketplace.
Franchising is uniquely positioned to respond to these meta trends, given that the 30 per cent minority ownership rate of franchises is nearly twice the ownership rate for nonfranchised small businesses, according to a 2018 study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the IFA Foundation.
On the other hand, franchising’s decentralized structure presents unique challenges and franchise brands can’t just borrow Fortune 500 playbooks on D&I. Franchises must invent their own, and must do so this decade or fall behind.
The encouraging statistics on franchisee diversity have given the sector one of the best jumping-off points possible for making franchising an absolute leader and trend-setter in the D&I space over the next decade, and franchising must rise to the challenge.
How do we go from aspirations, abstractions, values, commitments and data insights to practical application? It doesn’t happen overnight, and you shouldn’t expect it to.
The key is to include D&I in your mindset at every layer of your company, and at both strategic and tactical levels. It needs to flow both top-down and bottom-up, and it will likely involve as much listening to your ecosystem as talking to it. D&I isn’t just something your HR department keeps an eye on (and you won’t keep up in the marketplace of the 2020s if you think that) – it needs to be a part of everything you do and how you do it.
The social media and multimedia consumers, current and prospective employees and franchisees, and if D&I doesn’t underpin how you think about that voice (made up of many voices), chances are it is not living up to its potential. Not many people in your audience will ever make it to the subpage on your website where you tell them what your values are – your values need to be an integral part of what you do and how you do it.
In 2020, audit your communications and map out who shapes the narrative around your products and services and corporate identity. Amplify the voices of franchisees, employees, leaders and consumers who embody your diversity, show that you are a part of a broader community of altruism and empowerment, and speak in a way that is compelling to every segment of the consumers, future employees and franchisees you are seeking to attract. space have greatly empowered individuals and companies to have a public voice, while creating an aroundthe- clock echo chamber of amplifiers, influencers, and critics for every word. Your company’s voice defines your public persona and how it is perceived by.
Today’s marketplace, be it the marketplace of consumers, the labor market or even politics – craves authenticity. Your voice, no matter how savvy, will not connect if it is not an authentic reflection of your actual values and actions. The graveyard of PR disasters of the 2000s and 2010s is full of companies and individuals who didn’t practice what they preached, and today’s digital space is unforgiving of hypocrisy and tokenism. The best way to have the right thing to say is to do the right things in the first place and then tell the world about them.
Think about your franchise development team: consider their composition; their training; their travel schedule; their advertising and outreach budget allocations. Do they line up with the kinds of franchisees you are looking for, the geographic and demographic markets you hope your franchises to serve? As your brand covers primary markets and looks to expand beyond its comfort zone, are you sure your franchisee profile is flexible enough to recognize that different communities and different customer bases may call for adjustments? Your consumers aren’t monolithic and neither are your franchisees, so make sure your franchise development team and process isn’t a bottleneck that stifles the flow of diverse talent.
D&I is also about looking inward, not just outward to your consumers and prospects. Is D&I reflected in the planning of your annual convention, your speakers, your topics and your activities? Are you creating opportunities for diverse communities inside of your brand to see each other, connect, and share feedback up the chain of command?
Inside the tent of your company, inclusion is as important, if not more so, than diversity. Put simply and elegantly: “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” Finally, what does D&I look like in the boardroom? Having a diverse array of life experiences reflected in the conversations that shape your most consequential decisions is an indispensable strength; without which you will miss out on crucial insights and pay a high price for blind spots.
CODIFY YOUR COMMITMENT IN 2020
Franchising now has a choice to follow in the footsteps of the best practices of corporate America, or to seize the moment and lead, leveraging its legacy of minority and individual empowerment, utilizing the strengths of its decentralized model and deploying the energy and cachet of its brands. In 2020, the International Franchise Association’s Diversity Institute will publish a Diversity Declaration, drafted in tandem with franchises everywhere, setting out the goal of making franchising the most diverse and inclusive sector of the economy by the year 2030. Will your company join the movement?
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