How to embrace, encourage and manage diversity in your company
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” That’s how Malcom Forbes, the late publisher of Forbes magazine, so eloquently described it. Even with such a brilliantly simple definition, many companies have a hard time putting their finger on diversity. To make matters worse, a whopping 41% of managers say they are “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of Fortune 1000 companies.
Yet our country is becoming more and more diverse by the day. According to U.S. Census data, there will be no racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050. This is one of the many reasons why it’s critical for all businesses—including pest management companies—to promote diversity in their workforce and include employees from all walks of life.
“Companies that are planning to stay competitive in the future are going to have to design and market their products to these new multicultural buyers,” says Vic Charles, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for ServiceMaster and Chairman of the NPMA Diversity Committee. “If you don’t have a good understanding of them, you’re not going to be able to market your services to them.”
Vic Charles knows the pest control industry inside-and-out, and he’s seen firsthand how pest management companies can benefit from diversity. He started his career more than 30 years ago as a pest control technician in the Chicagoland market. He went on to run branches and worked as a regional manager and a sales manager. He worked his way up to Vice President of Human Resources for Terminix and held that position for more than 10 years. Two years ago, Charles took on his current role as VP of Diversity & Inclusion with ServiceMaster, and soon after he became Chairman of the NPMA Diversity Committee.
Established in 2013, the NPMA Diversity Committee was created to educate members about the benefits of diversity and provide tools and resources for pest management companies to drive diversity within their organizations. “Each of our committee members has a different background and approach to how we influence diversity and inclusion in NPMA,” Charles explains. “We have a really strong committee and we get a lot of support from NPMA.”
As the nation’s demographics continue to shift, Charles says it’s more important than ever for NPMA members to build a diverse workforce. “This is very significant in today’s times. In any business, we’re dealing with ever-changing trends in the demography of our markets, including our employees, our customers and our community,” he remarks. “We all realize the demographics are changing, and we have to embrace those changes and understand differences and similarities.”
Why should pest management companies make diversity and inclusion a priority? The answer is simple: A diverse workforce leads to a more successful business. Studies have shown time and again that businesses with a diverse staff are generally more productive and more creative. To top it off, these diverse companies enjoy lower employee turnover, higher revenue and increased market share.
When you diversify your workforce, you’ll reap the following rewards:
1. Attract More Customers
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense: A pest management company with a highly diverse staff has the capability to understand and target a larger, more diverse customer base. “A service company that understands what their customers need and what their culture is, they’re probably going to make better strides in that market,” points out Charles. “Understand your potential and existing customer base so you’re able to serve them better.”
2. Increase Recruiting Power
A diverse staff can also increase your chances of recruiting new talent. According to a GlassDoor survey, two-thirds of the polled workers said diversity was important to them when evaluating companies and job offers.
3. Boost Productivity, Creativity & Revenue
Numerous studies have shown that diverse workforces are more productive than homogenous teams. Of course, higher productivity generally leads to increased revenue.
Perhaps that’s why for every 1% increase in the rate of gender diversity of a workforce, there is a 3% rise in sales revenue, according to the American Sociological Association. And for every 1% rise in the rate a workforce’s ethnic diversity, there company sees a 9% boost in sales revenue.
While impressive, these stats shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, diverse businesses enjoy a wider range of perspectives. This adds to the collective knowledge of the team and allows the company to target a larger audience of customers.
“When you have a diverse workforce, and you have collaboration amongst different and unique people, you have a better chance for greater creativity and increased productivity,” says Charles. “A group with different backgrounds, experiences, different job roles and cultures are typically going to give you a better solution—because now you’ve got different opinions, you have all those experiences and different things that come into play that help you better understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish.” Which leads us to the next reward…
4. Gain a Panoramic View
With a range of different perspectives at your disposal, you’ll have the power and knowledge to make smarter decisions and design more effective products and services. “Ultimately, as you think about differences or similarities, they’re really what make your company perform at a higher level,” Charles explains. “When you think about the differences like the education people have had, what people have been exposed to during the course of their lifetime—you put all that together as an organization or company, and it really helps you produce a better product because you’re looking at it from different views rather than just one view.”
For every business, collaboration is a key component to any major decision-making process. Yet if you collaborate only with associates and employees who have the same experiences, backgrounds and opinions as yourself, you probably won’t get very far. For example, let’s say you’re looking to expand your pest control company. As you begin to make decisions and develop your plans for the future, you could benefit greatly from collaborating with a diverse team who can offer fresh ideas you may have never imagined.
“Having more people involved and helping you take a look at what lies ahead will make you a better company,” says Charles. “If you put people in a room, and they all come from different walks of life and all have different experiences, they’re going to give you some great answers and give you a better product. If you have everybody from the same walk of life with the same experiences, you’re going to have just one answer.”
Diversity Education 101
Considering all the studies and statistics, it seems obvious that a diverse workforce can offer boundless benefits to your pest management company. So how do you go about promoting diversity in your workplace? Charles says when it comes to driving diversity, you can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk.
“It’s more about influencing the culture,” he explains. “If you really want to drive diversity, then the leaders and owners of your organization have to model it. Because people see what you do, and what you do is the best way to influence what people think about it.”
He adds that diversity is not a difficult concept to grasp. “Diversity is really simple: It’s understanding different cultures, taking a look at what those cultures are and embracing them,” he says. “Take a look at the things you’re doing. Are they right? Do they feel right? If they don’t feel right, don’t do them.”
If you’re not sure where to begin with diversity education, Charles says you can certainly tap into training programs or hire consultants to come in and teach your staff about diversity and inclusion. However, there are plenty of quick, easy and affordable ways to educate your staff about diversity, as well.
“I like to keep things simple because every business doesn’t have time to do five-week training sessions,” Charles explains. “You can go out and spend numerous dollars in training people on diversity—but there are things you can do of a smaller nature that will help you do it.”
For example, try some team-building diversity exercises with your staff. “There are a lot of good exercises that are quick examples of diversity, and those things are easy to help people understand,” he says. “If you have people do an exercise that depicts what diversity and inclusion is, then they’re going to remember that a lot more than you just telling them what diversity is.” You can find many of these diversity exercises online with a simple Google search.
Charles also suggests hitting the books. “Do some reading,” he says. “There are some books on diversity that are 95 pages that won’t take long to read, but it gives you more insight.”
When it comes to promoting diversity in the workplace, Charles says the most important thing is to accept the differences between your staff members. “Value the differences and the similarities of all your associates or employees,” he emphasizes. “Each one of them brings something of value to the table, and we really need to take the time to listen and hear what they have to offer.”