One of NZ’s biggest retailers The Warehouse Group (TWG) employs over 12,000 diverse people across brands including The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Torpedo 7 and Noel Leeming. We talk to some of their rainbow team members about the importance of feeling included and celebrated in their workplace.
Learning Designer Ruscoe Bustenera–Kirby has no hesitation when asked why the Warehouse Group is the right workplace for him. “Simple,” he tells us. “I’m accepted and celebrated. I feel safe. I have been bullied before in a workplace and that never happened to me here.”
Ruscoe incorporates his creative skills into both his Learning Designer role and as a fashion designer out of work.
“It’s quite awesome that I can continue to learn and improve my skills in both roles and apply them to both as well. My role at TWG gives me structure and systems. It makes me more effective in listening and feedback, which are also essentials in building my fashion brand.
“I love that my colleagues and my managers are fully on-board with my aspirations in life. They never see that as a hindrance to my role and responsibilities at TWG. They even came and supported my first fashion show at fashion week last year. I love that they celebrate me!” He explains.
American-born Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Waecker visited NZ for the first time three years ago with his husband, and the two made it their mission to move their lives here.
Coming to work for TWG, he says his most satisfying challenge has been working on a company goal of becoming carbon neutral and seeing it come to fruition.
“It’s always monumental when NZ gets to lead the world forward, so being one of the first three companies in the world to go 100% carbon neutral is a truly great feeling.”
Jonathon has a passion for progress in all forms and believes one of the most pressing issues the rainbow community face is ensuring no one is left behind.
“We have to make sure the tent of progress doesn’t stop with those lucky enough to get in first, as progress hasn’t touched all parts of the rainbow community equally; at least not yet.”
His thoughts are echoed by TWG’s Head of Content Marketing, Cassie Roma who believes now is the time we must strive to come together. “I think a lot of our community are getting lost in conversations that are divisive, hurtful, and unkind.” She tells us.
Her solution: “My biggest dream heading into 2020 would be for people to log off Facebook and digital forums where keyboard warriors try to tear others down, and instead look to our similarities for a starting point for healing. We all have individual, worthy, nuanced stories that matter. The easiest road to healing is to simply listen – we have two ears and one mouth. Using each in proportion is magic.”
Jonathon agrees; believing that workplaces can lead this healing and unite colleagues by ensuring everyone feels heard.
“A good start is to ensure that our organisations are filled with open conversations and constant invitations to help us all move the dialogue forward. Just a few steps by a few allies and organisations can make a seismic difference and lead the way for us all.” He tells us.
It’s conversations like these that lead to TWG’s Gender Transition policy, which provides an additional 10 days paid leave (on top of other leave types) as practical support for team members considering or undergoing a gender transition. The policy is supported by an accompanying manager guide that helps leaders to understand and provide support and encouragement to their transgender colleagues.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we represent the diversity of our customers and our communities. We can only be successful if we tap into the strengths that come from having passionate team members who bring diverse points of view and their whole selves to work each and every day,” Jonathon says.