How Diversity Strengthens Your Franchise

Operations & Training

Inclusion and integration bring key connections to your franchise.

By Don Graves and Eric Fiala

Diversity and inclusion matter. In the franchising world, diversity and inclusion can enhance franchisee recruiting and improve overall business performance. And it’s not just our own experience that tells us diversity and inclusion accelerate business results. There is a wealth of data and research available on the benefits for companies to build a more diverse workforce and leadership team, as well as steps to build a more diverse culture.

For example, in early 2018, McKinsey & Company issued an update to their 2015 study Diversity Matters. Looking at businesses in the United States and globally, the 2018 McKinsey study, Delivering through Diversity, strengthens the case that diversity is linked to company financial performance. McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile of diversity. In addition, McKinsey found that companies with stronger ethnic and cultural diversity were 33 percent more likely to out-perform companies lacking ethnic and cultural diversity.

The Benefits

And it’s not just financial performance where diverse companies have an advantage. Organizations such as Catalyst (, a nonprofit focused on women in the workplace, are helping companies across the country and globally to better understand and demonstrate how diversity positively impacts business results.

From stronger teams to better decision-making, from closer ties with clients and communities to improved employee engagement, diversity and inclusion both matter. But, how does a large company, especially one with operations or franchises across multiple states, build this culture?

At KeyBank, we start with the definition that diversity is who we are; inclusion is what we choose to be. It’s about fostering a workplace environment and organizational culture where all people are engaged, valued, supported, respected, affirmed and encouraged to bring their best, authentic selves to work.

Laying the Groundwork

Building a diverse and inclusive company takes focus from executive leadership to develop an intentional strategy. There are several steps a company can take to lay the groundwork towards building a robust strategy. These steps include:

Get buy-in at all levels of the company. It will take a collective effort to turn the tide.

Be frank about your diversity numbers. Look at the percentage of gender and minorities in management roles at different levels of your organization and decide, as a team, to improve.

Develop a diverse talent pool of candidates to interview when positions become available.

Take calculated risks on people, knowing you were given opportunities to sink or swim, too. Far too often, we promote what we consider a safe bet, not realizing we’re actually promoting a stereotype.

Remember a person’s leadership style may be different, but it often brings balance to a situation and is no less significant.

Use resources that help public companies achieve greater gender diversity on their corporate boards, i.e., executive search firms with expertise in diversity searches, databases that act as clearinghouses for potential director candidates, with an emphasis on diversity.

But what about specific tactics a company can employ to support that strategy? This plays out in many ways at KeyBank, where 66 percent of our workforce is made up of women with 55 percent in leadership roles.

Reflect Your Community

Several years ago, we focused on improving our diversity of hire. Our efforts included education and resources for leaders and recruiters as well as expanded external awareness and branding. Recruiting teams also worked to strengthen relationships with campus, community and professional organizations dedicated to diverse populations. These efforts, among others, meant that 60 percent of all our hires in 2018 were female and 28 percent were minorities.

A diverse organization builds stronger and more relevant ties to the communities a company serves. As franchisors are working across multiple states and communities, having a company that reflects and understands those diverse communities and markets is a critical success factor.

Provide Support

But it can’t just be about who you hire, or even who you have working for you. It also has to be about how you develop and grow talent for all employees. There are several ways to accomplish this. One is to build a strong network of employee resource groups. KeyBank has Key Business Impact and Networking Groups (KBINGs), including groups supporting African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, veterans, people with disabilities and many other employee populations. These company-sponsored employee resource groups increase employee engagement, and provide members with career development opportunities and supportive resources. The groups are open to all employees and more than half belong to a KBING. We now have more than 100 groups across our multi-state footprint.

Another important factor is that diversity and inclusion must be owned at all levels of a company. Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Champions increase accountability and buy-in at all levels. These champions work within their departments to develop specific tactics supporting the corporate diversity and inclusion strategy. These tactics are designed to honor where each business is in terms of diversity and then align to the overall strategy of the company.

Building a more diverse and inclusive company may seem like a daunting task. However, with focus and dedication from executive leadership, the right strategy and tactics that work for your business, in time it will yield solid results. And, as the research has shown, it will deliver results for your business, your clients, your communities and your employees.

1 Vivian Hunt, Sara Prince, Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, and Lareina Yee, Delivering through Diversity, McKinsey & Company, January 2018 

Don Graves leads KeyBank’s Corporate Responsibility work and oversees the KeyBank Foundation. Eric Fiala leads a Corporate Responsibility team.