At the end of a day-long retail sales training program I was conducting with a group, one of the owners piped up, "What we need are some more personable and enthusiastic salespeople to sell our merchandise."
She continued, "When we visited stores in New York City yesterday, the gay salesmen were personable and fun. You just wanted to buy from them."
I understood from her follow-up descriptions why she would want the men she described to work as her salesmen, and she didn't underestimate the value of inclusive hiring.
What is inclusive hiring? It actively recognizes diversity and embraces a wide range of qualities and perspectives that various candidates bring to the organization.
That variety of experience is what younger generations expect to find in a retail store. They see a mix of people and ages as energizing.
Many candidates today consider workplace diversity in their search, and retaining underrepresented groups can be challenging when candidates feel they stand alone and thus unwelcome. No one wants to feel they are the only one.
Of course, just like straight people, not all gay people are that personable. Instead of ascribing characteristics to such things, it is best to identify personality and other attributes in candidates as strengths that can be useful in staffing a retail store.
What intrigued me about the store owner's comment was all the qualities she had attributed to gay men were true of the Expressive personality type.
Expressives tend to be extroverts who feel free to share information about themselves without boundaries. That openness is the very reason you want them. They get excited about what is new and different and want to get others excited. And yes, they can be of any race, age, gender, or sexual orientation.
An opposite of the Analytical, the Expressive is the grasshopper living for today. Expressives worry about being seen like everybody else instead of recognized for their uniqueness. Again, their enthusiasm and energy are the spark plugs for your team. Their showiness can be compared to a peacock.
The downside to an Expressive's natural inclination to show multiple possibilities might require the customer to bring them back to the product they are considering, not all the other possibilities.
Their natural enthusiasm can also inflate products’ benefits without devoting time to adequately explaining why.
Their enthusiasm can sometimes make them feel invincible and overwhelm Analyticals who want just the facts. Expressive personalities often process information more verbally, while Analytical personalities don’t.
Is that a gay thing? No.
It all stems from the Expressive personality that this owner identified in the retail employee as the personality type that happened to be gay, not a gay person.
And let's, for the record, say anyone confident in their personhood, whether they are LGBTQIA, straight, of any skin color or age, should be considered for a job in retail.
The job search platform Indeed promoted its Empathy at Work program, resources, and support of Pride Month with a heart-wrenching ad for trans and non-binary employment seekers. The program also has resources for employers to create a more inclusive workplace.
Additionally, Lumen's retail management course includes this interesting human resource module on the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce you might find of value.
Tips to improve inclusivity and diversity in your workplace:
Encourage open communication: Promote dialogue, active listening, and constructive feedback.
Emphasize diverse leadership: Inspire employees by having leaders from diverse backgrounds.
Invest in diversity and inclusion training: Promote cultural competence and raise awareness of biases.
Establish inclusive policies: Review and eliminate bias, promote flexibility, and provide accessible resources.
That said, people who don’t behave the same as you, who don’t look like you, or who you perceive as “different” can open you up to new ways of thinking about the world. That is a valuable skill on the retail sales floor where customers go to experience what is new from someone excited by that merchandise.
Whatever their age or orientation, Expressives’ energy is the very thing that often keeps many from hiring them. Their creativity, individualism, and self-assuredness can be threatening.
When you're trying to teach them a stepwise process your Analytical employees can easily take to, this personality may challenge why they must do it "that way." They might complain their creativity is being stifled - they feel like robots.
We must remember that the Expressive is the spark plug to your crew. They are the one that adds excitement and fun.
Should you specifically recruit LGBTQIA or straight people to sell your merchandise? If they are Expressives – yes.
You don't need a lot of Expressives on your sales floor, but at least one keeps things interesting and fun for your crew and customers. While their ability to start many projects but finish only a few independently will require your best retail management training skills, it's worth it.
Not sure which of the four personality styles are on your floor? Have them take this quiz.