Inside ethical brand Lush Cosmetics is a strong culture of individuality and empowerment – one that has allowed the retailer to create a diverse workforce with no explicit diversity policy.
“We’ve never done a big ‘let’s be more diverse’ or ‘let’s accept individuals’ because it’s just an implicit thing in our business,” Lush Australasia managing director Peta Granger told SmartCompany.
“If you want an inclusive workplace, then the leadership of that business needs to behave in an inclusive way [and] you need to accept people no matter who they are.”
This focus on individuality and empowerment is one of Lush’s secrets to success, says Granger.
“We attract people who have previously had to cover tattoos or hide who they are within their workplace just to be accepted,” she says.
Over the past five years, the business has achieved sharp growth and in Australia alone, it expects to turn over $50 million this year.
“I think a huge cultural shift in our business is that we certainly attract those people but there’s also people that want to see the business succeed,” Lush Australasia director Mark Lincoln adds.
Here are six ways Lush has embraced diversity in its workforce.
1. Create powerful partnerships at all levels of management
Granger and Lincoln have made an active effort to share management tasks throughout Lush between two leaders.
It’s a model that can be applied in any situation, says Granger.
From their co-directorship down to having two heads of marketing and an in-store manager working with a trainee manager, Granger says these “powerful partnerships” combine diverse skills, with much better outcomes than sole leadership.
“It feels healthy for both of our development that the other is there,” she says.
2. Build culture on good behaviour
“I think culture is leadership [and] leadership is culture,” says Granger.
“The ways that you behave especially in crunch moments set the tone for how the rest of the business should behave.”
As the leader of a business, she says it’s critical to respond well to right and wrong behaviour.
“Act fast and acknowledge it or nip it in the bud,” she says.
3. Include frontline staff in major decisions
“We talk very publicly to our staff about our plans and our goals,” Granger says.
With meetings involving employees at all levels, Lush is focused on keeping communication open so all staff can voice concerns, feedback and criticism.
“Whenever we’ve got to make a big decision, we always make sure that we have a staff member or two from the shop floors in the meeting,” says Granger.
Giving frontline staff a voice in major strategic decisions keeps higher levels of management connected with customers as the business continues to grow, Granger says.
“It stops people like us who are too detached from the customer making all the decisions,” she says.
“It’s like rallying everyone together and heading in the same direction.”
4. Celebrate individuality in advertising
Granger says Lush chooses to feature its own employees in advertising campaigns instead of pricey celebrity endorsements as a way of promoting real people and bodies.
“Stereotypical images of what is beautiful doesn’t feel right for us,” she says.
In addition to sparking a conversation on mainstream depictions of beauty, she says inside the business this creates a strong culture of empowerment and individuality.
5. Hire people that give a damn
With a strong activist personality as a brand, Lush puts a high focus on hiring passionate individuals.
“We tend to have staff that simply care about people,” she says.
“That leads to great customer service.”
For any business, it’s important to seek out people who align with the organisation’s values so that it comes naturally for employees to talk about and promote its goals and mission, says Granger.
“That’s the thing that makes the biggest difference, you attract people that have that similar affinity to the values and ethics [so] once they start working for us they’re doing something they love,” says Granger.
“When you have that genuine care that’s the thing from a very high level that drives sales,” she says.
“And it makes people happy because they understand what they’re contributing to.”
6. Take a chance on individuals and grow with them
Investing in people who want to grow is the bloodline of any business.
Granger herself began her Lush journey as a frontline staff member in a Lush store in Dublin, Ireland.
What was meant to be a three-month gig, soon turned into a lifelong career with the Lush founders taking Granger under their wing and investing in her growth so she could one day take the reins of their Australasia arm.
“Each promotional step always felt like a bit of a push, slightly out of my comfort zone,” she says.
“I was lucky the business was willing to take a chance on me.”
She says identifying the gems in the crowd comes down to finding people who have the ability to learn new things, have a strong desire to do so and will use their workplace to better themselves.
“If you’ve got all of those three things, you’ve got a pretty phenomenal employee,” she says.