Commitment to Diversity
The document you are about to read is a vision for what the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses will look like in year 2025 in terms of the ways that diversity and inclusion are cultivated here, and the ways that they add value to this organization. “Diversity” in this document includes all federally protected classes, including race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, Veteran status, and national origin, as well as many others including LGBT and/or queer status, citizenship status and nationality, familial status, class or socioeconomic status, appearance, gender identity and expression, substance abuse status/history, recovery history, HIV status, corrections history, and many others that are named in the City of Ann Arbor Nondiscrimination Ordinance. “Inclusion” is the experience of actions that are taken intentionally to allow every person to flourish and contribute fully while they work here. It is our conviction that taking a proactive approach to creating an inclusive environment for our staff, with servant leadership as our backbone, is the only sustainable pathway to our future.
Zingerman’s Vision of Diversity and Inclusion for the year 2025
Making National News
When we wrote this in 2015 the country was engaging in a conversation about diversity and inclusion with far-reaching implications. Ferguson, Baltimore, #BlackLivesMatter, and even more race-based incidents were in the news every day, being talked about by major news sources – not just in the communities of color and activist allies any more. Marriage equality was being ruled on by the Supreme Court – fueled by a case that started in Michigan of two parents trying to provide a home for their adopted children. The covers of major national magazines featured images of trans women, bringing the dialogue around gender identity into mainstream media. In the midst of all of these conversations and revolution, we continued our work towards becoming an employer of choice for all people by intentionally reflecting the richness and diversity of the community that we all live, work, and play in.
The Diversity & Inclusion Committee
Our efforts towards creating an inclusive workplace are supported by the ZCoB-wide Diversity & Inclusion Committee. The Committee is a group of staff members from front-line staff to co-founder who catalyze the ZCoB to continuously improve the experience of inclusion for all our staff, applicants, and customers. The committee acts as a conduit for effective collaboration and communication between staff members, committees, and different ZCoB businesses, measuring our organizational success through meaningful metrics that we share regularly at Partner’s Group. They are nationally-known for their organizational development expertise. The group is led by our Diversity Steward whose role is to manage the activities of the committee as well as act as a member of the D4P to participate in the art of diversity and inclusion every day across the organization.
Our approach to this work is greatly enhanced by the ZCoB’s strong open book culture. Our numbers show that we are becoming an anti-oppression organization in more and more ways. We’ve been tabulating data over the years that show increases in the experience of inclusion according to racial and ethnic identity, gender and expression identity, disabilities, and many others. Our pipeline of managing partners continues to diversify, and we are on target in the next ten years to have a partners group that mirrors the racial and ethnic demographic makeup of our county on the 2020 census and affirm our aim to be a truly anti-racist organization. Our businesses, D4P, and D&I Committee analyze our turnover rates, termination information, payscales and other data in their huddles, and we show a consistent year-over-year “inclusion improvement” in these metrics.
Attracting and Hiring a Diverse Workforce
When you have guests in your home, you welcome them when they arrive – and we envision our hiring process like this. At every step of the recruiting and hiring process we have taken a hard look as an organization and worked to create best practices that foster diversity and inclusion. We engage in relationships with diverse networks to increase the pipeline of applicants. We partner with many high schools in the area – particularly with guidance counselors – because we see that the pipeline starts early. Our partnership with Pathways to Success School is approaching its 10th year and it has been a huge success and model for new school partnerships in Ypsilanti, Dearborn and Detroit. The good people at Mail Order, Bakehouse, and D4P have expanded skills training, job fairs, and other support for their holiday staff who transition out of Mail Order and Bakehouse at the end of the season.
The Hiring Experience Workgroup has worked with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and D4P to create an application-to-hire process that not only attracts potential employees, but creates belonging for them – living the Evergreen principle “Get It Going Good”. We’ve radically improved our hiring process from start to finish in order to attract and hire the best candidates from an increasingly diverse pipeline. We have created a better interview process that encourages our hiring managers to engage in a mindful assessment of their life experiences, biases, and work history that may impact their ability to see each applicant clearly and individually. D4P continues to provide training resources for hiring managers, keeping them up to date on the legal requirements and giving them the support they need to find a great candidate for every position.
Managing with Cultural Competency and Humility
Being successful at Zingerman’s is a very collaborative relationship between the employee and the employer, and we can think of it in terms of our Training Compact. Employee and manager are both 100% responsible for the success and productivity of our people. We have learned new ways to uphold the manager’s end of that compact by imbuing our organization with cultural competency and humility. What this means is that our servant leadership approach has gotten a great dose of sensitivity to and interest in appropriating our processes and philosophies to many different needs, whether they be accommodations that are culturally-based, religiosity, disability, gender expression, familial structure, etc. We see again and again that when we find the spirit of a policy or process, we can use a bit of “elasticity” to make sure the spirit of the policy reaches our diverse workforce.
The restaurant industry has historically struggled with the language barrier among their staff for whom English is not their native language. We strive to create an environment for folks whose early experiences in English can blossom at Zingerman’s. To that end, the D4P and the D&I Committee have worked diligently to identify individuals throughout the ZCoB who speak other languages, so we have individuals who can help us make opportunities for English language learner (ELL) folks available through the application and employment experience. The businesses have worked together to find a way to compensate these staff members when they are called on for their language skills, creating an in-house team of translators. We know which jobs and functions require fluent English and which do not, and we adjust the orientation processes accordingly to empower all staff. Our bottom lines have seen growth as staff retention goes up, year over year, and our staff contribute their unique ideas in more impactful ways.
We focus on equipping our leaders with the tools that they need to manage our increasingly diverse environments. Our managers and leaders receive world-class trainings with outside experts on the topics most needed to empower them to support their coworkers. We have authored tools and curriculum that engage their ongoing learning, and folks are geeked about applying the techniques they are learning as part of their professional development. Performance evaluations include metrics related to retention and inclusion and they are tied to compensation. The expectation is clear that anyone in a supervisor-level or above position contributes to the culture of inclusion here. The energy to meet that expectation is palpable because the resources and opportunities to learn and apply methods to do so are accessible and fun.
We celebrate our curiosities, and encourage our employees to learn what they can about the elements of diversity that they don’t have much exposure to. Over a quarter of our staff participated in our cultural reimbursement employee benefit last year – up from just 3 employees the first year we offered it! The U of Z Degree that we came up with back in 2016 has been widely successful, and we’ve added advanced degrees that build on that initial offering. We’re about to celebrate our 5th advanced degree PG presentation on diversity and inclusion!
Hearts and minds, we have learned, need to change together. Our folks are willing and energized, but they also need to see the “why”. So, we’ve had more panel and speakers presentations on various identities at PG and huddles. Last week, a panel of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans shared with us some of their experiences upon returning home. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We’ve opened up courageous conversations in managers meetings. We’ve chewed on charged feedback on Feelin’ Groovy using our guides for dialogue as ground rules. Hearts and minds learn again and again that diverse people need different things to experience inclusion. We are in constant pursuit of that balancing point of investing as much as we can in our employees to empower them to contribute their 100% to their jobs and to our bottom lines.
Giving Everyone The Zingerman’s Experience
Our mission statement says that we show “love and care in all our actions, to enrich as many lives as possible”. We feel good that we get code green after code green from our transgender customers, religiously observant customers, Deaf customers, physically disabled customers – you name it! – saying that they have been very personally touched by the dignity and care they’ve been shown while shopping or eating at Zingerman’s. There are so many languages and cultures represented by our staff that it can, at times, feel like you have stepped into a global bazaar when you visit one of our businesses! Many of the cultural dishes that guests and staff bring from their backgrounds and travel experiences have made their way into our menus and inspired new business.
We are leveraging Intentional Technology so well that our staff are designing new software to aid other companies in proactive compliance with the ADA. We are known to be industry leaders in service to the Deaf community, elderly patrons, and those that have difficulty in high noise areas. We present our written resources, including menus and ingredients lists, in a variety of languages to guests, which helps staff successfully use our 3 Steps to Great Service recipe in every interaction and we make changes instantaneously. Internally, we use text message alerts to let staff know about important information they might have missed at the last huddle, as well as new platforms for sharing schedules with staff, and more.
A Leader in Our Community and Industry
Zingerman’s has always been an organization with a sense of responsibility to take every opportunity afforded us to make our industry better, in every corner of our sphere of influence.
Every year, Zingerman’s is a Diversity and Inclusion Education Destination for hundreds of people around the world. We have been asked for years by other organizations about the “secrets” of our diverse and inclusive culture. In response ZingTrain launched a new 2-day seminar that is now one of ZingTrain’s most popular offerings! A group of managing partners, managers, and Diversity Committee members are integral to teaching the seminar. We’ve also been hosting dialogue groups on many topics – like experiences of race, gender, disability, etc – with staff members and members of the local community that have a waiting list every round. These dialogues have become widely popular with diversity teams from other organizations in the region, and are a great laboratory for our employees to express their questions and personal experiences about these elements of diversity. We put on a two-day Diversity and Inclusion summit, co-hosted with the UM Ross Business School. Hundreds of leaders of diversity, inclusion and equity programs in the public and private sectors from across the world come together and revel in like-company, share case studies, push each other to improve, and link together for collective impact opportunities. A waiting list-only delegation of ZCoB managers, partners and front-line staff gains tremendous insights and huge bursts of learning from this summit every year. Our Roadmap to Diversity and Inclusion at Zingerman’s book, a how-to for organizational leaders to learn about our unique approach, has been called one of “Inc. Magazine’s Top 10 Business Books of The Year”. We have had Zingernauts go to local and regional TED Talk events and deliver incredible speeches about diversity and inclusion — and the youtube channel is up to one million subscribers. Ji Hye’s TED Talk on the No-Tip approach at Miss Kim – and its benefits from an inclusion standpoint – was featured on Good Morning America this very morning! ZCoBbers have co-published white papers every year for the past four based on findings in our clinic for diversity and inclusion business management students. One project that came from that clinic is our own public accreditation process based on our U of Z degree and our book. It is now a nationally recognized credential that is best in class because ours is based on real-life application – and is a lot of fun!
We have linked our community philanthropy with diversity and inclusion. We now direct half of our annual donations budget every year to investing in nonprofit organizations that are focused on addressing inequity in its organizational structure and mission area.
From “Initiative” to Guiding Principle in Practice
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are as integral to our culture as “great service” and “bottom-line change”. We see their added value in our three bottom lines and in the experience that our employees and customers have, every day, all the time. We declared our commitment on a whole new level when we added “Diversity and Inclusion” to our list of guiding principles in 2017. It is a key strategy and value, and our invested time has been paid back manyfold. We see it very basically as the right thing to do for ensuring that we create opportunities for all people who come in contact with our businesses. We are proud of our own unique journey on the diversity and inclusion road, and we are wiser and stronger for it.