When I started working at Ninja Nation, located in Huntersville, NC, one of the first things that I noticed was just how inclusive our staff was and still is. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it can sometimes be hard to find a working environment where I feel I can 100% be myself; a place where I can be awesomely authentic. At Ninja Nation, this was never even a question. The general community of the facility was undeniably friendly and welcoming. I started as an arena host where I would walk around the arena floor and make sure no one was getting hurt, as well as making sure that everyone was having a good time. Now, I work at the front desk, taking calls, greeting quests, and making sure that the birthday parties are running smoothly.
At Ninja Nation our values are rooted in the ‘Three Es:’
Engagement: Dedicating our full attention to the experience of our participants, team and spectators. When somebody enters Ninja Nation, whether it’s a staff member or a participant, engagement is a top priority in order to be a helping hand to others and make sure that everyone is having a top-tier ninja experience.
Encouragement: We support and inspire others to achieve. It’s crucial that everyone in our facility feels that they are capable of anything they set their mind to, and that they know that failure is just another opportunity to get back up and try again!
Energy: Supplying enthusiasm, positive motivation and forward-thinking action to everyone. Energy is important at a place like Ninja Nation because with it, we are able to uphold the vibrance that you feel when you walk into our gym. Engagement and encouragement would not be possible without the upbeat energy that is constantly flowing through our gym.
We offer different forms of services at Ninja Nation. Participants who come in can choose to free play, participate in the variety of classes that we offer, participate in outside mobile events, partake in our summer camps, or even have their birthday party hosted by one of our staff members. We welcome all people starting at the age of five and up. Just make sure that you fill out the waiver online before you come in and see us!
When I was going about how I wanted to write this article, I wanted to figure out a way to properly display how DEI is incorporated into our workspace, and I thought, "Why not talk to Gavin (my manager)?" From the beginning, Gavin has put his all into providing an enjoyable, inclusive, and all around fun space to work in. I had the privilege of asking him some questions about how he operates in the manager position, and his insight did not disappoint.
What do you think is the most important part of managing your team at Ninja Nation?
"For me, the most important part of managing my team is maintaining an open channel of communication. It’s one thing to tell your team members that your door is always open and that you can talk about anything, but to actually follow through on that is the most important thing. I want my team to know that they can talk with me about anything that is on their mind, whether work related or not. The best way I’ve found to show that would be to always be checking in with people when they come to work, and show that I don’t always have to be the “manager” but that I can be someone easy to talk with. Being able to communicate easily with my team members keeps the morale high, and leads to everyone feeling more comfortable at work."
How do you incorporate DEI into management at Ninja Nation?
"I’ve always found DEI important in all aspects of life, and I’ve tried to incorporate that into Ninja Nation as well. Being inclusive is definitely at the front of my mind when managing my team, and making sure myself and my co-workers are accepting and understanding of everyone can’t be overlooked. Having a diverse workplace benefits everyone involved, since you get a wide range of skills and perspectives to work with. It leads to more creativity and even myself learning new and more efficient ways to perform certain tasks/processes."
What do you mainly look for when hiring staff?
"The main thing I look for when hiring staff would be their attitude and energy. We want everyone working at Ninja Nation to be a positive force in the gym, and when people show that they are outgoing, friendly, and engaging, those are very clear signs that they’ll be a great employee here. Along with that, I’ll repeat a little of what I said earlier, in that I want to have a diverse staff because it leads to different perspectives and accelerates growth within the business."
In what ways do you think incorporating DEI into your management process makes Ninja Nation a better place?
"I think that DEI makes Ninja Nation a better place because both staff and customers get to experience being around people that have different backgrounds and can offer different ways of going about simple processes. Something as simple as how to interact with kids and run games on the gym floor can be improved by having a wide range of staff members with varying perspectives. It keeps the business moving forward and growing as more employees get to throw their ideas into the ring."
As a facility primarily for children, how do you think having a diverse staff impacts their experience?
"It’s definitely good for children to experience diversity in their lives, and since we don’t know every kids background that walks into the gym, all we can do is make sure they have a unique experience every time they come in. Having kids experience diversity during their time at Ninja Nation will make them more accepting, understanding, and inclusive in their lives. Just like school, sports, and recreational activities, Ninja Nation has the ability to change kids lives for the better."
How would you describe your management style?
"I try to be a very hands on manager, but not too overbearing. I’ve had to work on being less controlling and micromanaging, but I want to be involved with everything that is going on at the gym. A manager that knows their business inside and out, as well as their employees can usually be a successful manager. Also, I just care. I care about the wellbeing of the staff members that work here. I want them to be happy with the time they spend at Ninja Nation and I work to make our environment as fun and comfortable as possible."
Are there any past leaders that you’ve modeled your management style after? If so, what were the aspects you find most important?
"I’ve had a few managers in the past that I feel I try to emulate. When I was a Resident Assistant in college, my boss was a great manager. He was always very open about his management style, and it felt like he cared about all of us.
Another one of my previous managers that I looked up to was when I worked at USA Triathlon in Colorado Springs. She was the most confident and ruthless (in a good way) manager that I’ve ever had, and she just got stuff done. She worked super hard at her job, but was also really great at giving me the freedom to try things on my own and gain those experiences. They’ve definitely helped in my growth as a manager."
Ninja Nation of Huntersville opened in May of 2021, and Gavin has been in the managerial position since the grand opening. To this day, he continues to put the quality of the workplace at Ninja Nation at the top of his priorities, incorporating DEI every step of the way.
The Importance of DEI
DEI can mean a lot of things when it comes to running a business, and it’s crucial to incorporate DEI into your business in order to provide a working environment that empowers, values, and gives equal opportunities to all identities, diverse backgrounds, and perspectives. Not only is it good for working individuals, but it’s also an extremely smart move for businesses of all types. Think about it this way; if you’re trying to reach as many people as possible with your business, would you take opinions and perspectives from one specific group of people, or would you rather take inspiration from every possible group? By gaining perspectives from every identity and every intersection, you not only succeed in providing an inclusive work environment, but you also are able to expand your business to a wider range of customers. By challenging conventional ways of thinking and bringing in fresh, new perspectives, you cater to a multitude of diverse demographics and provide services that are better able to connect with diverse markets.
DEI fosters employee engagement and retention. In an inclusive workplace, employees feel valued, respected, and a sense of belonging. When someone feels that they’re wanted and belong where they are working, they’re much more likely to love where they work, enhancing productivity, elaborate thinking, job satisfaction, and the motivation to give it everything they’ve got. Employees are also more likely to stay loyal to the organization that they work for if they feel their voices are heard and cherished. Individuals tend to seek out workplaces that incorporate DEI, meaning that the organization will attain and attract top tier talent and work ethic.
Businesses and organizations take a crucial role in shaping the way society functions and thinks. By incorporating DEI, these businesses and organizations can set standards and expectations for a more equitable and just world. The reduction of social inequalities and promotion of social mobility thrives when corporations address systematic biases and provide opportunities that are equal for everyone.
Learn more about careers at Ninja Nation by checking out their careers page.