A diverse and inclusive business environment helps strengthen the workforce and attract top talent to this area just south of Nashville.
An inclusive and diverse workforce in Williamson County provides a distinct advantage when recruiting new business and relocating talent.
The Williamson, Inc. chamber of commerce and economic development organization has taken a lead role in promoting economic inclusion, working with employers and community leaders to identify and share best practices to cultivate a culture of inclusion that attracts top talent.
One such corporate partner, Brentwood-based Tractor Supply Co., has taken several steps over the past two years to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. The Fortune 500 retail company established a DEI council to help ensure Tractor Supply meets the needs of all employees.
Culture of Respect
Tractor Supply also offered training on unconscious bias for team members, diversified its corporate board of directors, which now includes four women and three ethnic minorities, and enacted a new parental leave policy with six weeks of paid parental leave for full-time employees.
“At Tractor Supply, our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is ingrained in our culture. We are a purpose-driven company with a strong mission and values,” says Melissa Kersey, executive vice president and chief human resource officer. “One of our values is respect — the starting point for our diversity and inclusion efforts. Our strong culture is our values in action, and we truly care about each other and enjoy working together as part of the Tractor Supply family.”
Employee Resource Groups
Kersey says another way the company has put its values in action is by establishing employee resource groups — African Americans on the R.I.S.E., Fuerte Juntos Hispanic Group, LGTBQ+ You Belong OUT Here, Veterans Group, Women Out Here, and Young Professionals — focused on professional development and providing social and service opportunities.
“We want team members with different abilities, backgrounds, experiences and orientations to come to Tractor Supply and be successful. We want to encourage a culture that appreciates people’s differences and their similarities. We expect team members to cultivate an environment where everyone can be themselves, be welcomed and feel a sense of belonging,” Kersey says.
Better Communities Fuel Growth
Tara Blue, executive director of Community Child Care Center in Franklin and co-chair of the Black Business Coalition, says the work companies, such as Tractor Supply, and organizations, such as Williamson, Inc., are doing is essential to economic growth because it creates a more welcoming and attractive community.
“Having diversity in the workplace — working around people who are different than you — will also make you a better neighbor and, in general, a better citizen.”
Tara Blue | Community Child Care Center
“You want to make sure that your business represents an array of cultures because it allows colleagues who live in the same community to learn about and better understand each other,” Blue says. “So often, we just stay in our own little bubbles, and we don’t try to expand our knowledge of different cultures, but when you have that diversity in your workforce, it forces you to be able to learn about different people.”
Kersey notes that both the county and the workforce are becoming more diverse. “It is important that we be inclusive to bring in team members and residents of Williamson County with different backgrounds and perspectives,” she says. “We believe this can lead to being more relevant, better decision-making, greater innovation and higher engagement.”
Good for Business in Williamson County
Blue says another advantage of a diversified workforce is a more level and equitable playing field. Tapped by Williamson, Inc. to co-chair the newly formed Black Business Coalition, Blue works to help promote and support the county’s Black businesses.
“We have established a Black business directory that is on the Williamson, Inc. website, and through that directory, business owners can learn about and lean on each other for support. We also have planned networking mixers,” Blue says. “We’ve had some of the banks talk to them about how to obtain small business loans, and we are planning workshops and other events where they can learn how they can grow their business.”
Blue, who is a member of Williamson, Inc.’s board, says the partnership with Williamson, Inc. has also opened up several opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and business leaders like her.
“I remember attending my first Women in Business networking event. I was surprised at the connections I made just from that one event. I would love for more women of color to become involved and share their businesses,” she says. “I was also a member of the Leadership Franklin class, and it was a great experience. I would love to see more minorities selected for that program because (minority business leaders) are here, and we’re doing great things. We just have to keep opening those doors of opportunity.”