Decathlon Hungary was among the first Decathlon countries who was committed to diversity and inclusion with a long term strategy . The initiative began in 2018 as the team believed the company has a responsibility on important social issues such as equal pay, prejudice and discrimination. Today, the project has become more developed which sets the pace for other countries to join in. The project advocates diversity and inclusion in 3 dimensions – sport experience, store experience and employment.
Hungary is a relatively less sporty country where 53% of the population do not practise any sports according to Eurobarometer statistics. Under this circumstance, it is more challenging for disabled people to access sports. Therefore, Decathlon Hungary organises regular free sport events for the people having physical and mental disabilities and recovering from cancers. Besides, partnerships with local organisations are established to provide sports activities for children in poverty and elderlies living in retirement houses. Decathlonians in Hungary take an active role in the sport events both as participants and organisers. The objective is to raise awareness about an active lifestyle and engage different communities in practising sports.
The team has a conviction that excellent shopping experience should be delivered to all customers and users, regardless of their abilities. In order to achieve this, the stores are turning into fully accessible in terms of infrastructure and communication.
For the autistic customers and their families, Silent Opening Day is adopted on the first Monday of every month. Customers who struggle with music and noise can enjoy a quiet store environment as the sounds from the radio, phones and cash tills are turned off. Other customers are also encouraged to experience this day and understand the needs of the autistic customers.
For the customers with visual impairment, Personal Shopper service is launched for them. Appointments with indications of preferred sports can be made in advance for a personalised assistance. The designated Decathlonian will guide and assist the whole store experience from greeting the customer upon arrival to finishing the payment.
For the teammates and customers with hearing impairment, the stores are equipped with communication tools to ensure efficient work and well being. Tablets and mobiles can be found in the stores with an application named KONTAKT. It allows users to connect with sign language interpreters in real time so as to communicate their needs and enhance the overall shopping experience.
Digital solutions to communicate with customers with hearing impairment
Decathlon Hungary aims to recruit talents without special consideration on their age, gender, religion, ethnicity and body parameters. As a result, they use new recruitment channels and conduct approach changing workshops to ensure the recruitment is open to all. There are 14 teammates working in the company who are deaf, autistic, limbless or physically disabled. Communication tools and work accessibility are provided during the job interviews and at work.
Furthermore, concerns lie in the equality in the workplace for the Romani people, women and LGBTQI communities. These communities are facing ethical issues or discrimination in the labour market. Decathlon Hungary works with non-governmental organisations to involve them in the market. It is also ensured that these communities will not be disadvantaged during job interviews or in the workplace because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Inclusive education within & beyond
In the past three years, thorough communication and training on diversity and inclusion has changed the perceptions of both the Decathlonians and the customers. All teammates in Hungary agree on the basic value – to respect and be friendly with the people who have different abilities.
Marianna GULYÁS, CSR Leader at Decathlon Hungary, also witnessed the change of the customers’ reactions when they see teammates with disabilities working in the stores. Before, they were shocked and they tried to reduce the contact with the teammates. After years of external communication, the customers have now relieved their worries due to misunderstanding, and show appreciation to the company for increasing the team diversity.
In the coming years, the team intends to enhance equality at the workplace for women, LGBTQI communities and Romani people. Moreover, the stores and sport events will be transformed into fully accessible to the people with disabilities and using wheelchairs. Last but not least, the product range of parasport will be extended and parasport events will be planned and organised for the community.
“In the future, the biggest challenge would be differentiating between equity and positive discrimination*. We should not let unconscious bias and positive discrimination affect our actions, but to help people with the concept of equity. We should offer a bit of extra help to some people to let them reach the same level at zero point where they can further show their qualities.”
– Marianna GULYÁS
*Positive Discrimination: the act of favouring someone based on a “protected characteristic”. This could be offering a job to a candidate, not because they are the best candidate, but merely because they possess a specific protected characteristic (for example race, gender, sexual orientation, disability).