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Employers of frontline talent face an unprecedented opportunity to advance racial equity as a source of competitive advantage. The United States is experiencing dramatic demographic shifts, its workforce is becoming increasingly racially diverse, and the nature of work is fundamentally changing due to automation. Approximately nine million of the country’s 24 million frontline employees—entry-level employees who engage closely with customers—are people of color who represent a reservoir of talent, innovative ideas, and multicultural competency that are increasingly sources of competitive advantage.

At a time when there are rising societal expectations for companies to embrace a more active role in society and lead with an ambitious corporate purpose, employers face an unprecedented opportunity to advance racial equity as a source of competitive advantage by intentionally finding ways to advance the careers and enhance the experience of employees of color.

Advancing Frontline Employees of Color, written in partnership with PolicyLink, identifies 23 evidence-based practices for advancing racial equity and fostering working environments where all people feel valued and can thrive.

Top Takeaways

  1. Based on interviews with companies, experts, and frontline employees of color; an extensive literature review; and a rigorous statistical analysis of the effects of HR practices on 2.6 million retail employees over 30 years, FSG and PolicyLink identified 23 evidence-based practices that fall into three categories of strategic opportunity areas: building internal capacity for an inclusive, understanding, and adaptive culture; strengthening management and HR systems, policies, and practices; and intentionally investing in the development, recognition, and promotion of frontline employees of color.
  2. Employers who internally find ways to advance the careers and enhance the experiences of their frontline employees of color realize major business benefits, including a management talent pipeline that mirrors their evolving customer base; a more productive, loyal workforce that boosts their bottom line; greater access to and retention of top talent; and enhanced brand equity with customers and communities.
  3. To seize on the opportunities to advance racial equity, strengthen their business, and gain competitive advantage, employers need to move beyond business-as-usual approaches and innovate to retain, develop, and advance their frontline employees of color.
Advancing racial equity is not as simple as launching a single training or changing a single practice, nor it is a single person’s role—it requires intentionally shifting cultures, behaviors, practices, and policies in ways that contribute to greater equity. It is a new way of doing business.

The research included in this report was made possible through funding by Walmart.