Walmart Labs discusses Inclusive Leadership at the workplace to mark Pride month
Every year June Pride Month is celebrated worldwide to acknowledge and appreciate the vast diversity, culture, and community of citizens across nations.
During this special month, people commemorate the day in different ways, either through panel discussions, poetry sessions, public speaking events and street parades to recognise the influence that the LGBTQIA+ community has had, and continues to have in the world.
By changing the conversation and pre-set notions, and being more inclusive, socially aware, and culturally accommodating to every individual's needs, it is safe to say we have come a long way since the 1969 Stonewall riots.
Walmart Labs India, a personalised subsidiary of the multinational retail company Walmart, celebrated Pride month with an engaging panel discussion on ‘inclusive leadership’ on theirLive that took place on June 17.
The panel members included internal panellists Jack Williams, the Vice President of reality operations and portfolio management at Walmart, Rohan Nair, process specialist of retail and emerging tech, external speaker leading athlete and professional sprinter Dutee Chand and moderator Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President, People at Walmart Labs.
In the session they discussed the importance of finding your inner voice, acceptance and feeling included at the workplace no matter what orientation, background, race, class, sex or gender you belong to, and how it is a basic human right.
Touching on personal and professional stories of growth and change, the speakers talked about the importance of being true to yourself, and being comfortable in the environment you are surrounded by and engage with on a day-to-day basis.
They also discussed ways in which we can incorporate inclusivity in the workplace, and how we can make offices safe and comfortable for every individual.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President, People, Walmart Labs talks about their unique Pride Associate Resource group, the importance of inclusive leadership at the workplace, and how organisations can incorporate Pride month in their own corporate set up.
Edited excerpts from the interview: -
YSW: When was the Pride Associate Resource group founded and what was the goal behind it?
SR: At Walmart, being an inclusive and diverse workplace is one of our priorities and we are constantly looking for innovative ways to ensure and enable our associates to bring their whole self to work every day.
One way to make this happen is with the help of our Associate Resource Groups.
While Walmart US has had a Pride ARG for a while, the Pride ARG for Walmart Labs India was created in May 2019, with one of our Leadership Team members being the sponsor.
The ARG’s mandate is to ensure equal opportunity, personal freedom and support for LGBTQIA+ associates and allies within Walmart and the community at large. It has evolved to address more complex subjects and current societal events and collaborated on topics of intersectional importance.
YSW: Since it is Pride month, what made you decide to focus on ‘Inclusive Leadership?’
SR: Culture, diversity and inclusion are a part of Walmart’s DNA.
In 2017, our CEO Doug McMillion outlined three core inclusion goals:
- Develop a high performing, diverse, inclusive associate base that mirrors our customers and communities
- Offer items that excite our diverse customers and provide economic opportunity for diverse suppliers
- Foster inclusion in our communities through our jobs and giving
As we think about bringing these goals to life for Walmart Labs India, we realised that inclusive leadership had to be the enabler. Not just for the organisation, but for the community.
The many challenges of our current environment also give rise to many opportunities to demonstrate resilience, compassion, and creativity. And that’s what inclusive leadership does.
YSW: Your main panellists included Dutee Chand (sprinter), Jack Williams (VP Portfolio management at Walmart), Rohan Nair (Process specialist) and Sudeep Ralhan (moderator and VP of People). How did you go about selecting the panel and why were these individuals chosen?
SR: Each of these panellists had a unique story and journey that reflected on societal challenges, inclusion in the workplace, and the role of leadership and the importance of allies.
We were able to explore these themes from multiple perspectives – that of a nationally celebrated athlete who became an unlikely symbol of LGBTQ+ rights, a senior US corporate leader and a talented and hard working professional in the workplace.
As Jack said during the discussion – each story we tell sparks another story. That was our objective as we took this live to the larger community on LinkedIn.
YSW: What does diversity and identity mean to you at Walmart Labs?
SR: We believe that diversity is the identities, experiences, styles, abilities, and perspectives of our workforce at Walmart labs.
Walmart’s definition of inclusion is “the intentional act of understanding, supporting, and championing individuals in all their uniqueness, so that our culture then becomes a place where people can come to work every day and feel comfortable, and welcome, as whoever they are, and reach their own potential.”
At the heart of it, it’s about building the right culture. That allows our associates to bring their whole selves to work, live and breathe thought leadership and innovation, and enable the organisation to grow in a sustainable manner.
YSW: What do you feel the discussion hopes to spark?
SR: “Why Inclusive Leadership and Allies matter more than ever!” was our attempt at engaging the broader community on a topic that has relevance across organisations.
As our workforce battles many external challenges, we wanted to focus on stories of resilience, compassion and creativity that will hopefully spark many more stories in turn. It’s a reflection of one of Walmart’s goals to foster inclusion in the community.
YSW: Do you think other organisations should do the same, and be more inclusive?
SR: Absolutely! I feel several organisations across the spectrum are already taking necessary steps to create a more inclusive environment for their employees and we should talk more about that.
The need of the hour is to continue driving this momentum, change things at the grassroots’ level, engage in safe dialogues with our workforce and encourage a gender-fluid environment.
There is a long way to go on this journey and it’s best to join hands to make it happen.
YSW: What are the adequate steps you feel startups and large corporates can take to make employees feel accepted and secure?
SR: The most critical step is what we have called out in our panel discussion – inclusive leadership. If the tone at the top is one of visible sponsorship of inclusion and diversity, then the rest of the organisation follows.
To drive the agenda more deeply, companies should think about:
Visible and active non-discrimination policies towards employees of any caste, creed, colour, sex and orientation.
Customised infrastructure and policies to attract and retain LGBTQ+ talent as this ensures a diverse workforce and enhances a company’s competitiveness, forming a virtuous cycle.
Encourage safe dialogues and open conversations as this helps employees nurture their goals, speak their mind and be a lot more productive and innovative.
Establish a network – to drive grassroots actions and people’s involvement in the agenda.
Expand cultural mindsets – leverage activations and programmes to build a culture of inclusion throughout the year and not just during Pride month.
YSW: Do you feel organisations should start taking into consideration pronouns more seriously? How can we go about making this a part of our pre-set workplace policies?
SR: Not just organisations but as aware associates, we should be more conscious while using pronouns and respect one’s identity. We should encourage all employees to use name badges and email signatures that include their desired names and correct pronouns; this enables people to learn those names and pronouns and cultivate awareness of the varying gender identities that their colleagues may possess.
As a part of our pre-set workplace policies, we have training programmes, on-boarding initiatives, and associate handbook content to make clear that proper pronoun usage is part of creating an environment in which all of us feel valued and respected.
YSW: Should everyone celebrate Pride month and take key learnings and incorporate them all year round, for a more comfortable working environment?
SR: The Pride month is an important milestone and symbol to recognise and celebrate LGBTQ+ diversity. But it has to be part of a larger agenda to drive a culture of inclusion through the year that makes people feel valued and welcome.
At Walmart Labs India, we have lived this principle through actions that span the year - sensitisation sessions, hiring drives for transgender candidates, gender neutral washrooms, inclusive leave and insurance policies.
The Pride month is where it all comes together in an effort to more visibility demonstrate support and raise awareness.
Edited by Asha Chowdary