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December 13, 2023
Amazon expert guidance: DEI tips for shippers
Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace can be challenging. But the mission becomes less daunting when you recognize that everyone in your business, from forklift drivers to operations staff, is a DEI stakeholder. Therefore, every team member is responsible for promoting a sense of belonging.

Making DEI a business priority helps attract, encourage, and retain a diverse talent pool—especially Millennial and Gen Z job seekers who are looking to work for a company that reflects their social consciousness. But where do you start? These insights from Erika Jennings, Principal DEI Program Manager for the Amazon Transportation Services Product and Technology team, offer some practical first steps for shippers.

Step one: Collect employee feedback regularly
To uncover where you’re going, you must first understand where you are. And there’s no one better equipped to reveal the state of your workplace culture than your employees. It can be tricky for shippers since they likely have a mix of office staff and warehouse workers. So, the first step is to invite your team to share their observations within the walls of your business.

Depending on the size of your workforce, collecting employee feedback may be accomplished through one-on-one meetings, an open forum with the entire team, or even through an online survey. “I get people together, either online or in a room, and just get a pulse on how they’re feeling about particular topics or the workplace culture,” says Jennings.

Consider which method will be most effective for gathering feedback and plan to request these insights at least once per year. Encourage your team to be honest about what they’ve experienced, seen, or heard regarding your business’ culture and operations—including shipping processes. An ancillary benefit to this is that it helps to create a psychologically safe space for employees, which is critical for high performing teams.

Step two: Identify workplace culture gaps and start small
Every organization that ships goods or products—regardless of size, business type, or industry—has room for improvement. And once you’ve talked with your team, you’ll have the insights needed to identify where you can improve, says Jennings.

Determine those gaps by compiling feedback and underlining common themes in response to workplace culture questions, such as:

• What do employees feel they need to succeed in their role
• What do they feel are the barriers to their success?
• How are they feeling about their career opportunities?
• What is missing from their workplace experience?
• Can employees bring their authentic selves to work?

These answers can inspire the initiatives your business should pursue to improve retention and the overall employee experience. As Jennings says, “It's called team emotional intelligence. Based on the feedback I receive—not just from leaders, but from members of the team—we see where we can drive improved culture sentiment.”

But Jennings also cautions shippers against trying to “boil the ocean.” If you do too much too fast, it’s unlikely that any changes you make will last. Instead, start small, with a new process your business can easily adhere to such as a monthly internal DEI newsletter. “I think there's something to be said for thinking big but in a bite-sized, easily digestible way,” says Jennings.

Step three: Ensure representation starts with leadership
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace research, “for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to management positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.” The same research revealed that female leaders, particularly women of color, leave companies at a much higher rate than white men.

With this research in mind, step three is to consider the leadership structure of your organization. How does it compare to these statistics reported by McKinsey? Are you offering equitable promotion opportunities for underrepresented groups, such as women of color? What are your competitors doing to support a more diverse workforce?

Taking a step back to answer these tough questions will allow you to assess representation across your shipping operations and drive incremental change. Start with a goal. For example: “By the end of 2024, we're going to hire one woman of color or another individual who represents a marginalized community in this role,” suggests Jennings.

Diverse representation in leadership often influences talent acquisition and retention, which ladders up to workplace culture and even overall business profit. So, identify those representation gaps on your leadership team and do your best to fill them with a diverse pool of qualified candidates.

Your business, your team, your change
Remember, every organization is different, and comparison can be a thief of progress. Do your due diligence to benchmark efforts against other businesses, but don’t discredit the opportunities that lie ahead for your organization. A thorough and authentic approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a steppingstone towards a thriving workplace.

To read more DEI tips for small business shippers and gain insight into how Amazon is promoting a more inclusive transportation industry, click here.
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