Mosquitoes that can carry Zika virus and other diseases are showing resistance to pyrethroids — a common group of insecticides used to treat them — according to a new study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators.
The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the main carrier of dengue, Zika virus and yellow fever worldwide. Limited Florida outbreaks of dengue in 2009-10 and Zika in 2016 involved Ae. aegypti as the major disease carrier, according to James Becnel, an entomologist in the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE).
As PMPs know, during public health emergencies, multiple strategies are used to control mosquitoes, including application of pesticide sprays by truck or aircraft. Understanding the magnitude of insecticide resistance is critical to an effective control program, Becnel said.
A collaborative group from USDA- ARS, the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Florida mosquito control districts published the first statewide study measuring the scope of pyrethroid insecticide resistance in Ae. aegypti and Aedes albopictus, another species that is a known carrier of chikungunya virus. Pyrethroid insecticide resistance is common in Ae. aegypti in many locations worldwide and can adversely affect mosquito control operations, Becnel said. However, the resistance status of Aedes in Florida has largely gone unreported until now.
The four-year study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, shows that resistance to permethrin — an insecticide in the pyrethroid family — was present in all 20 Ae. aegypti strains collected from around the state. Importantly, permethrin doses up to 60 times above susceptible levels were required to effectively control some resistant populations, according to Becnel. In contrast, Ae. albopictus strains collected did not show permethrin resistance.
The study found a strong correlation between the actual resistance status of adult Ae. aegypti (determined by topical application) and the mosquito genotype. This data can be used to rapidly predict pyrethroid resistance in mosquitoes within 24 hours by detecting certain genetic mutations. This information, Becnel said, can then inform mosquito control districts as to whether they need to try other control strategies, such as using larvicides to target immature aquatic mosquito life stages before they become adults.
These findings also allow scientists and mosquito control districts to be more thoughtful in selecting effective control methods for mosquito populations that are resistant to pyrethroids. The research also emphasizes the need for resistance testing in any effective mosquito management program.
Now that the Zika epidemic of 2015-16 is in the rearview mirror, it might be useful to 1) take a brief look back at the Zika episode and what we learned from it and 2) use this information to try and predict what the future may hold.
Let me make the point here that it is very difficult to try and predict outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. That is not the purpose of this article. What I will focus on are the many factors that contribute to an outbreak, what PMPs need to be on the lookout for when possible, and what some of the steps and preparations are for dealing with such an event.
We will use the recent Zika outbreak in South America, the Caribbean and the United States as an example so my emphasis will be on container-breeding mosquitoes, specifically the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the pathogens that these mosquitoes transmit: Zika virus, yellow fever virus, chikungunya virus and dengue viruses.
NECESSARY CONDITIONS? It takes much more than mosquitoes and viruses for outbreaks such as the recent Zika one to occur. Let’s take a look at what factors are involved.
A Virus. First, we must have a virus present. This may seem obvious but where do these viruses come from? Many of them originate in Asia or Africa, and a few come from South America. In these places, the viruses are transmitted from mosquitoes to monkeys that live in the jungle canopy and humans occasionally become infected.
Once a human is infected, the virus multiplies to large numbers in the blood stream for the next three to seven days. During this time, the person does not feel sick, and can travel anywhere in the world, hence transporting the virus. So, these particular viruses move around the world in infected humans. I remember standing in the ports of Miami, Fla., and Jamaica watching all the cruise ships pull in, wondering where they were coming from and how many potentially infected people might be on board!
Vectors. Wherever an infected person ends up, the right mosquito vectors must be present. In fact, of the 3,500 or so kinds of mosquitoes in the world, most of them don’t transmit pathogens to humans. For instance, only Anopheles mosquitoes transmit human malaria parasites but it is the Culex mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus. Not only must the vectors be present, they must be so in large enough numbers to sustain virus transmission; just a few won’t do. This is part of the reason why mosquito control by PMPs is so important in preventing mosquito-borne disease.
Susceptible Population. The next thing we need is a large, susceptible human population, much as we had when Zika virus hit Puerto Rico in 2016. There must be adequate numbers of people who have not been infected with the virus previously and/or have not been vaccinated against it (note that in the cases of most mosquito-borne viruses, there isn’t a vaccine anyway). The reason this is so critical is once you have been infected with one of these viruses, you almost never get it again; your immune system protects you. So, if too many people in a particular area have been exposed to the virus before, there is really no place for it to go “live and multiply.”
Proper Environmental Conditions. Environmental conditions have a significant impact on vector-borne diseases. Basically, the warmer it is and the higher the humidity, the faster things happen. The mosquito life cycle, normally 10-14 days from egg to adult, can be completed in as little as five to seven days. Also, mosquitoes live longer under optimum environmental conditions, thereby increasing their chance to spread pathogens.
Socioeconomic Conditions. These mosquitoes, especially Ae. aegypti, prefer to breed in artificial and natural containers in backyards. Preferred sites are tires, bird baths, clogged gutters, tree holes, buckets, etc.; basically, anything that will hold water from a bottle cap to an unattended swimming pool. So, in socioeconomic conditions where there are lots of containers and trash, and people don’t maintain their yards, there will be higher populations of vectors. They also have the nasty habit of breeding in cisterns and other containers where people store water for drinking, cooking and laundry purposes. It is not unusual at all for every water-filled object in a site to be positive for mosquitoes.
PMPs have an essential role here in educating customers about conducive conditions, thoroughly inspecting for mosquito breeding sites, and removing them or treating them as necessary.
Public Health Conditions. Public health conditions in many countries are inadequate at best. Medical facilities may be limited and overcrowded, proper diagnoses may be problematic and the ability of the government to mount an effective response to a mosquito-borne disease outbreak may be difficult. Therefore, virus transmission goes unchecked, in the local population as well as tourists (if present), so the threat for a global outbreak increases.
Political Factors. Politics often can play a part in combatting (or not) vector-borne diseases. When a large outbreak occurs and the cases, and perhaps deaths, start piling up, it is often convenient to start assigning blame. Although health and government officials may be doing the best they can under the circumstances, they might lose their jobs.
Additionally, it is not uncommon for consultants and foreign health officials, who may be brought in to assist, to disagree over what the disease is, what control methods should be employed, and what news to release to the local public and the world. All of these factors must be taken into account when dealing with an outbreak or epidemic both at home and abroad.
Vector Control Capabilities. Vector control capabilities in many countries where these diseases occur are limited at best. Fogging machines, insecticides and surveillance equipment may prove too expensive, and expertise in vector control may be spotty. Sometimes, governments request assistance from foreign countries or international relief organizations but by the time the help arrives and control efforts are implemented, the situation may be out of hand.
Closer to home, when West Nile virus broke out in the United States in 1999, as well as when Zika virus arrived in 2015-16, it was clear that we were underprepared to deal with both of these events from a vector control aspect. A scientific report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eventually confirmed this. A robust and well-trained private industry mosquito control force will contribute to our nation’s ability to control outbreaks in the future.
Impact of the Media. Finally, don’t forget the impact of the media, which can be beneficial or detrimental. Most if not all of us have experience dealing with the media either during an outbreak or during mosquito season. We don’t have space here for a class on “Dealing With The Media 101” but just be sure you always have your facts straight, that you package your message into three or four concise and clear statements, and that you try to avoid speculation and confusion.
I strongly recommend that if you haven’t done so, establish a working relationship with a local reporter, educate them about what you do and why, and build trust. This cultivation will pay great dividends down the road.
CURRENT THREATS? We already have mentioned yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue. Cases of the latter two regularly occur in the United States in small numbers but they are almost always “imported” cases; that is, infections that were acquired overseas but the clinical illness occurred in the United States. Yellow fever is rarely seen in the U.S. but large outbreaks continue to occur in Africa and to a lesser degree in South America so it continues to be a threat.
Mayaro Virus. Mayaro virus causes a disease similar to dengue fever. It is an acute, febrile illness lasting three to five days. Symptoms include headache, muscle pain, pain behind the eyes and a rash that may or may not be present. Other symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea and severe joint pain that can persist for a year or more.
The virus is native to the humid forests of South America, where it exists in a cycle between monkeys and canopy-dwelling mosquitoes. A human working in the forest can become infected while cutting down trees, working in the canopy, picking coconuts or other activities. If this infected person then returns to a large urban area where Ae. aegypti mosquitoes are abundant, a large outbreak can quickly occur and spread rapidly. This was likely the scenario we saw with Zika virus in South America in 2015-16.
There is now solid scientific evidence that Mayaro virus has spread into Central America almost to, or perhaps into, Mexico. Additionally, in 2015 a case was confirmed in a school child in Haiti. So, Mayaro virus is on the move and has entered the Caribbean. Additionally, we have laboratory evidence that some of the mosquito species already present in the United States, e.g. Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus, can transmit the virus to humans. Finally, there is evidence of imported cases of Mayaro virus occurring in the United States and Europe so it should be considered a significant public health threat for those regions.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES. I will briefly mention three other mosquito-borne diseases of concern (although there are several others); Japanese encephalitis (JE), Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) and Rift Valley fever (RVF).
JE occurs in several countries in Southeast Asia. The animal reservoir is pigs and the virus is transmitted to humans by Culex mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization, about 68,000 clinical cases occur per year, primarily in children and, although a vaccine is available, JE kills between 13,000-21,000 people annually.
VEE occurs primarily in Central and South America, where it has impacted thousands of humans and tens of thousands of equines. It is spread by several different species of mosquitoes.
In 1971, a large outbreak in Mexico eventually reached the United States, with many human cases and thousands of equines affected.
RVF occurs in Africa and parts of Asia. It affects domestic animals as well as humans and can have a significant economic impact. Some epidemics have killed more than 100,000 animals. It can be transmitted to humans through the blood, body fluids or tissues of infected animals as well as by several species of mosquitoes.
We have excellent vectors of JE, VEE and RVF in the United States and the viruses are just a plane ride away. We must remain vigilant!
THE FUTURE? In this age of world travel, viruses, vectors and victims (infected people) can be anywhere in the world within about 24 hours. So, vectors and pathogens will continue to invade new areas. Insecticide resistance continues to increase so new vector control tools such as traps, baits, insecticidal nets and spatial repellents are needed.
Genetic mutations, both in pathogens and vectors, may result in increased infectivity as well as enhanced severity of disease, much as we see some years with the influenza virus. Climate change is already resulting in vectors increasing their geographic range.
Private industry mosquito control, utilizing the principles of Integrated Mosquito Management, will continue to play a key role in enhancing quality of life, providing peace of mind and protecting public health. It is a discipline that is essential to the public’s health, and one of which that all PMPs who are engaged in can be proud.
The author is vice president, technical products and services, AP&G (Catchmaster), and past president, American Mosquito Control Association.
Features - Giving Back
With personal savings and support from the pest control industry, Andrea Hancock launched P.E.S.T. Relief International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the worldwide community through humanitarian relief.
Andrea Hancock has worked in the pest control industry since 2004, when she and her family started Mattress Safe, an industry supplier that supports residential and commercial service providers with mattress encasements that keep out dust mites, bed bugs, bacteria and more. While helping grow Mattress Safe as the company’s vice president, Hancock dreamed of creating an international nonprofit organization that focused on providing clean bedding and pest control services to those in need around the world. It’s a dream that slowly but surely became a reality.
STARTING OUT. Hancock said the idea for P.E.S.T. (Professionals Empowering, Sustaining & Transforming) Relief International first came to her before she even began Mattress Safe. She had seen a documentary that showed missionaries working to replace compromised mattresses at an orphanage, and two children featured in the documentary received a new mattress to replace the one they were sharing that had been chewed through by a rat.
“I thought to myself, ‘I want to do that!’ I want to make cozy places for orphans to sleep, so that they know they are loved and cared for,” said Hancock, who serves as executive director as well as a volunteer for P.E.S.T. “Little did I know that I was going to start a mattress protection company.”
Hancock then began Mattress Safe and started making trips to orphanages in Honduras to provide children in need with clean and safe mattresses and bedding, which was soon to become her primary program that is now known as REST. As Mattress Safe grew and became more successful, Hancock began donating mattress covers to various orphanages and shelters in the United States. In 2012, she began saving her own money, knowing that she would need it in order to launch the nonprofit organization she was envisioning. Three years later, she had saved enough and applied for P.E.S.T. Relief International’s nonprofit status with a mission to unite the pest control industry to bring comfort and relief to those who are orphaned, abused and at risk.
During this time, Hancock invited the pest control industry to help grow P.E.S.T. In 2015, she was first given a platform to share her vision at a thermal remediation conference. That same year, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) donated space at PestWorld for Hancock to officially launch P.E.S.T.
“I had several friends and colleagues who spent countless hours helping me articulate the name, mission and vision of the organization,” Hancock said. “The internal support from Mattress Safe has also encouraged me, as I have been humbled to see the passion and desire of the employees to help this organization thrive in the industry. Additionally, my husband and family have been there every step of the way living out the mission alongside of me.”
Hancock added that P.E.S.T. also received major attention when the Certified Pest Control Operators of Georgia (CPCO of GA) chose it to be their official charity. “They have been highly instrumental in helping to sustain our organization through fundraisers as well as their participation in our initiatives,” she said.
PROVIDING RELIEF. One of P.E.S.T.’s most recent initiatives involved offering aid to citizens in Florida affected by October 2018’s Hurricane Michael. In early December 2018, Hancock and other P.E.S.T. volunteers traveled to the Taunton Family Children’s Home in Wewahitchka, Fla., to combine their disaster relief efforts with REST.
“During our visit, we provided 179 meals, painted fingernails and toes, played basketball and handed out 26 ‘Buddy Bags’ with hand-sewn blankets and stuffed animals and Bibles with personal inscriptions for each child,” Hancock said.
P.E.S.T. then went on to replace destroyed mattresses with new ones, and all beds with new sheets, bedding and mattress encasements. The chainsaw crew also was able to remove 50 damaged or fallen trees that were making the grounds unsafe.
Hancock said that moments like these, when she and other P.E.S.T. volunteers can give those in need both a safe place and spiritual comfort, are what makes the work it took to create P.E.S.T. worth it. “To see how our partnerships with other organizations allow P.E.S.T. Relief to spread hope and healing in these tangible ways is more than I ever hoped for,” she said.
According to Hancock, P.E.S.T. picks who to help based on the location of volunteers. “At this point, when a PCO or state association has expressed interest in volunteering, we ask them to locate a shelter or group home in their area in which to serve,” she said. “As our army of supporters grows, we should be able to accommodate more requests as they emerge in each state.”
Currently, Hancock said P.E.S.T. conducts about 15 initiatives every year in which the organization provides sanitary sleeping conditions to orphanages and shelters through clean bedding and pest control services. In the future, she said she hopes to more than triple that number. “My vision is to host at least one REST initiative per year in every state, while launching new initiatives within the organization,” she said.
FUTURE GOALS. Hancock said her ultimate aim is to make P.E.S.T. the “United Way for the pest control industry.” She pictures the organization as “having various programs where leaders emerge, with more and more professionals partnering in ways that bring them fulfilment while making an impact,” she said. “I would like to see a chapter in every state, and eventually every country, where we have ‘boots on the ground’ serving those in need.”
Part of reaching this goal involves utilizing the international aspect of P.E.S.T. “By combining the efforts and resources of manufacturers, distributors and professionals in the pest management industry, we are teaming up with established global entities to maximize the impact of our reach,” Hancock said. “In return, this new level of accomplishment leads to achieving one’s full potential while transforming the individual and their community.”
In terms of more immediate 2019 goals, Hancock said the organization’s main focus now is to build a children’s home for boys ages 8 to 12. She added that they have already secured the land for the building and are in the research and development stage for a building campaign. Other upcoming goals include an international sewing micro-enterprise for the destitute to improve their lives, a U.S. sewing training program to help at-risk individuals learn a trade, and an apprenticeship program designed for young adults aging out of the foster care system to become employed by the pest control industry.
“Watching the industry unite and serve collaboratively has been very rewarding, as I have heard from many that they always wanted to serve, but they did not know where to begin,” Hancock said. “Now, we have a platform to take comfort and relief to the next level.”
The author is an Ohio-based writer.
To Learn More: P.E.S.T. Relief International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Learn more by calling 470/695-7928 or visiting www.pestreliefinternational.com.
Delivering a Difficult Message
Features - Family Business
It’s a task most family businesses must deal with at one time or another: delivering tough performance feedback to a relative. Here are some ideas to deal with this challenging situation.
“My brother is not pulling his weight at work, which means more work for our mother and me. I don’t know what to do about it…so I do nothing, and the problem persists.”
For most people in most situations, delivering a difficult message is, well, difficult. Delivering a difficult message in a family business is typically even more challenging because of the multiple and deeply personal relationships that exist. Difficult messages must be delivered, though, and avoiding this task will likely only make matters worse. With the long-term success of the family business at stake in situations like this one, it’s essential to deliver those messages effectively.
We should remind ourselves why we want to give feedback in the first place and what it is we hope to accomplish by doing so. The need to deliver a difficult message typically starts with your perception that you have a disagreement with someone else or their performance is falling short of your standards. Since performance feedback is one of the most difficult messages to deliver to family members, we will address that specific case.
Your goals in delivering this difficult message are (1) to share your perspective in a way that your recipient will understand it, (2) to learn the other person’s perspective of the same situation and then (3) to ensure that the performance shortfall is addressed so that sustained success can be achieved for the family and their business.
SOFT START-UP. Effectively delivering a difficult message requires work before the message is actually delivered. If you simply launch into your message, you will likely ambush the recipient…and most who are ambushed will be defensive and therefore not receive your message as well as they otherwise might. Using a “soft start-up” will help you to minimize this particular challenge and increase the chances that your message will be received as well as it can be.
A “soft start-up” introduces the idea of sharing feedback even before you actually deliver the message. In our example, if your sibling isn’t pulling their weight at work, you could introduce the discussion by saying: “There’s something I’ve been thinking about, and I want to share it with you. I feel it’s an important item and therefore will take us more than just a minute or two to discuss. When would be a good time for you to have this discussion with me?”
In my experience, recipients of the above request typically find time to talk in short order. However, if the recipient tries to delay the conversation significantly, then you can simply respond: “This matter is too important to wait that long. When could you find some time to talk in the near future?”
SHARING YOUR PERSPECTIVE.
Once you’ve established a time to meet (in a comfortable and private location), it’s now time to begin delivering your message. I have found that the most effective way to initiate the conversation is with a question: “I’d like to share some feedback that I hope is helpful. Is that OK with you?” In theory, the recipient could say “no,” and the conversation will come to a stop. Practically speaking, though, I’ve never encountered a situation where the recipient responds with anything other than a simple “yes.”
Asking for permission is important for a couple of reasons. First, it explicitly communicates to the recipient that you are about to deliver a potentially sensitive message to them. This gives them a few moments to prepare, which will make it more likely that they will actually hear what you have to say. Second, you will feel more comfortable providing the specific feedback. You have, after all, just received explicit permission to do so.
After receiving permission to proceed, the most effective way to deliver the difficult message is using the following framework: “When you [describe the recipient’s troubling behavior], I feel [describe the emotions — some combi-nation of happy, sad, angry and scared — that the recipient’s troubling behavior triggers in you].”
The value of this simple framework is that it focuses on the recipient’s behavior (which is changeable), rather than their personality (which is not). It also allows the recipient to see how their behavior impacts others (namely you).
In the example that opens this article, this framework might be used as follows: “When you put in fewer hours at work and, as a result, are not as productive as the rest of us, I feel angry, sad and scared. Angry because I feel like you are taking advantage of me, sad because I feel like I cannot trust you or depend on you like I once could, and scared because we are losing ground to our competitors who, presumably, have all of their key employees working their hardest.”
OFFER TO PARTNER. Now that you have shared your perspective with the recipient, invite them to share their perspective of the situation with you. Occasionally, this step will provide the deliverer with important additional information that can clear up differences quickly. Even if this additional information does not resolve the situation, both parties now have the more complete picture that is necessary for improving matters.
While it might be tempting for the deliverer to walk away at this point — the bad behavior is, after all, the recipient’s problem — remember our third goal for having this conversation: ensure that the performance shortfall is addressed. Walking away at this point could provide the recipient with an “out.” If you sincerely want to increase the likelihood of addressing the recipient’s performance shortfall, you need to stay involved. So, offer to partner with the recipient as they begin to work on addressing the bad behavior. Depending on the specific issue, there is a virtually endless list of ways you can provide assistance, but a great way to start is to ask the recipient the following question: “What keeps you from [doing the desired behavior]?” Framing the bad behavior in terms of constraints typically leads the recipient to be more open to discussing the issues. Once you understand the constraints that the recipient faces in addressing this situation, you can best suggest specific options for improvement.
In our current example, asking the constraints question might reveal that the recipient is kept from pulling his weight at work because he feels he’s been placed in a position for which he is not qualified. If so, possible solutions might include a structured training and development program or putting the recipient into a different position for which he is sufficiently qualified. If, on the other hand, “What keeps you from pulling your weight at work?” reveals a different constraint (e.g., serious health issues afflicting the recipient’s spouse), then an entirely different set of solutions would be appropriate.
TAKING TIME-OUTS. Even the most carefully planned conversations don’t always go well. These steps certainly will increase your likelihood of having a productive conversation, but there’s no way to guarantee success. And, in those occasions where the conversation falls apart, it’s important to have an appropriate tool: time-outs.
Difficult conversations are often challenging because they involve emotions and emotions can sometimes get out of control. In those instances when we lose control of our emotions — a situation that I refer to as being “flooded” — the best solution is to borrow from the sports world and call a time-out. When one is flooded, one does not think clearly. As a matter of fact, research in the field of neuroscience shows that one’s IQ typically drops when flooded and a flooded individual also loses access to the area of the brain where logical thinking resides. If one of our goals for having a difficult conversation is to ensure that the performance shortfall is addressed, then both parties need to be at their best when engaging in this conversation. And, if just one participant becomes flooded, then both parties are clearly not at their best.
The most effective solution in this situation is to call a timeout and take a break from the conversation. Once both parties have had a chance to clear their heads — a process that usually involves something as simple as each participant taking a brief walk alone — they can resume the conversation. If the situation becomes flooded again, call another time-out! It may take some time to make progress via small periods of productive conversation, but trying to press on while even one participant is flooded will lead to no progress (and, potentially even a setback).
CATCH THEM DOING RIGHT. Speaking of neuroscience research, there’s significant evidence that positive feedback is more effective than negative feedback. While it’s true that sharing your perspective on what the recipient is doing wrong can help them to avoid derailing, shifting the focus to dreams and possibilities will allow the recipient to flourish. As leading researcher Richard Boyatzis says, “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive.” (“When You Criticize Someone, You Make It Harder for that Person to Change” Harvard Business Review, 2013.)
So, as you and the recipient work together on their performance improve-ment, don’t just let them know when they make mistakes (which they undoubtedly will as they first attempt to change their behavior) — also point out to them when they are behaving in the right way. An example: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been putting in more hours at work recently and, as a result, that your productivity has increased.” If you can catch them doing right, you will increase their likelihood of behaving correctly more often.
IN CLOSING. For anyone involved with a family business, delivering a difficult message is challenging but necessary. While there is no process that can guarantee success in these precarious situations, the steps laid out here can significantly increase your likelihood of achieving the ultimate goal: improved performance that leads to sustained success for the family and their business.
David Ransburg is a senior consultant with The Family Business Consulting Group, a leading management consulting firm serving the unique needs of multi-generational family businesses worldwide. Learn more at www.thefbcg.com.
You Found the Best Candidate for the Job! (Are You Sure About That?)
Features - Recruitment & Retention
If you’re serious about attracting the most qualified job applicants, you may need to expand the scope of your search to include more diverse candidates. PMPs share how to do this and why it’s important for your company’s long-term growth.
Ask pest management professionals who they hire and they’ll say the best-qualified candidate who also fits the company culture.
But how do you know that you’ve found the best candidate if you haven’t cast a wide enough net?
The thing is, companies often fish the same pond, even use the same lure, to attract new hires. According to a survey on workplace diversity conducted for PCT and the National Pest Management Association in November, nearly three quarters of pest management companies do not take specific actions to attract and recruit diverse job candidates.
Diversity is more than race. It’s also gender, age, life experiences, skills, abilities and disabilities, culture, sexual orientation, geography, learning styles, political views and more. Diversity brings with it diverse ideas, which can provide a better understanding of customers and that help grow the business.
“I don’t look at the ethnicity of my company as a determinant of diversity; what I’m looking for is people that think differently enough to help us make the best decisions,” said Ravi Sachdeva, CEO of American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan.
By not reaching out to diverse populations, firms are not seeing the full scope of potential candidates. In fact, they may be missing out on the best one for the job.
So how do PMPs expand the search? “You have to meet people where they are,” said Billy Olesen, operations manager, Chuck Sullivan Exterminators, Olympia, Wash.
PMPs shared how they have successfully expanded their search efforts and increased their appeal to diverse candidates.
ATTEND CAREER FAIRS
Some companies participate in career fairs where they’re certain to reach diverse job candidates. Sprague Pest Solutions participates in job fairs geared to specific populations and income levels in Seattle and Denver, where it has branches. The firm also reaches out to colleges and universities with entomology programs and to local community colleges, which really reflect the diversity of the local community, said Leila Haas, director of human resources.
Cook’s Pest Control in Decatur, Ala., attends university career fairs, including those at historically black colleges, to attract business majors to fill accounting and management positions.
Angie Persinger, human resources manager at Rose Pest Solutions in Northfield, Ill., attends events at the Great Lakes Naval Station and she brings employees who also are veterans to talk to potential candidates. “They seem to have their own way of talking with each other and getting each other on board with things,” she explained.
Haas encouraged PMPs to bring employees like those you’re trying to recruit whenever possible to these events.
WORK WITH REFERRAL PARTNERS
Numerous organizations exist to help companies connect with different populations. These include workforce partners that are affiliated with community economic development programs and that organize job fairs.
Cook’s Pest Control works with an organization to recruit people with disabilities. Ken Yarrington, owner of KenX Pest Control in Chariton, Iowa, grew up around “handi-capable” people as his father worked for Easter Seals and United Cerebral Palsy. “They have a place here, too, and they can work very well given the right positions,” he said.
ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEE REFERRALS
An employee referral program helps ABC Home and Commercial Services in Dallas-Fort Worth increase diversity. “We never excluded anyone based on gender or age or anything like that and then once they’re on board and see who we are as a company, they’re likely to refer somebody that would be diverse, be like them,” said Joe Campbell, vice president of operations.
WRITE BETTER ADS
“Massaging the job description” also helps attract diverse candidates, said Audrey Hall, president of Eco Serve Pest Services, Orchard Park, N.Y. Rather than just focusing on field work and hard labor, emphasize flexible work hours to appeal to working mothers, fluency in Spanish to attract more Hispanic candidates and “we hire veterans” to speak directly to former service members. Avoid industry jargon; be cognizant of the words you choose so you can reach a broader group of people, she said.
ASK BETTER QUESTIONS
“It’s exciting to hire somebody who doesn’t think like you,” said Olesen. To do this, ask the right kind of questions during the process. One of Olesen’s favorites is, “What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?” “You’ll get some really interesting answers” that help you “to look at them a little bit differently and understand a little glimpse into their background,” he said.
Be intentional about where you are posting for jobs to ensure that you’re not just continuing to attract the same groups of people, advised Haas. For example, some PMPs advertise jobs on PestVets, a website developed by NPMA to help PMPs connect with veterans.
People look at a company’s website and marketing materials and ask, “Is this somewhere where I want to work? Does this look like a place where I would be accepted?” and if not, they’ll look elsewhere, Olesen said.
As such, he’s planning to retool the Chuck Sullivan Exterminators website “because it doesn’t reflect diversity.” Start with updating photos and highlighting workplace diversity as an important value when telling the company story, such as on the About Us and employment pages, he suggested.
TARGET SPECIFIC JOB SITES
Be intentional about where you are posting for jobs to ensure that you’re not just continuing to attract the same groups of people, advised Haas. For example, some PMPs advertise jobs on PestVets, a website developed by NPMA to help PMPs connect with veterans.
Think outside the box as well. Consider putting job notices on the bulletin board at the local daycare facility to reach working mothers or at the ice hockey rink to get in front of young people.
“If you want quality candidates you have to be actively recruiting,” said Olesen. When the barista or department store clerk provides excellent customer service, offer a business card should they ever be looking for a different opportunity.
“You’re out there among so many different people every day. There’s no way that you don’t see somebody different from you as you’re going about during the course of the day,” said Faye Golden, governmental affairs manager at Cook’s Pest Control.
ADAPT AS NEEDED
At times, PMPs may need to adapt policies to embrace diversity. Someone with ADHD, for instance, may benefit more from shorter, more frequent classroom training lessons broken up by segments of hands-on training. “You have to able to able to adapt and not be so rigid that you’re going to eliminate some of that diversity,” said Olesen.
LOOK BEYOND YOUR BACKYARD
Don’t overlook geographical diversity either, said PMPs, because people from different regions may bring different perspectives to the business.
Cook’s Pest Control has begun to recruit people outside its home state. It recently hired entomologists from Texas A&M and Mississippi State, said Golden.
GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Sylvia Kenmuir, who now works at BASF and formerly was national director of technical training at Target Specialty Products in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., urged PMPs to reach out to elementary and high school students to promote the industry. “We need to get to them younger” and showcase the opportunities for those who enjoy math, science and chemistry, as well as the opportunities for those who don’t plan to attend college, she said.
It’s also important to “get those role models out there and be comfortable enough saying, ‘Hey, not only am I a really good technical director but I’m black or I’m Hispanic.’ If we do that I think we could attract more college and high school kids,” said Kenmuir.
TAP AVAILABLE RESOURCES
“We have got to develop the resources that people have at their fingertips so they will know where to go, how to even start looking for diverse candidates,” said Golden, who also is chair of NPMA’s Diversity Committee.
As such, NPMA’s Workforce Development website recently was launched (workforce.npmapestworld.org). Many of the resources on the site were developed by NPMA’s Recruitment & Retention, Diversity, PestVets and Professional Women in Pest Management committees, and it features information on employee recruiting, hiring, training and retention.
Additionally, on June 12, Jason Payne, president, Payne Pest Management, San Diego, Calif., will present a webinar titled “How to Attract and Find Diverse Candidates.” (Visit https://buff.ly/2vkz1Fx.)
These tactics not only help attract diverse job applicants; they expand PMPs’ access to candidates overall. With hiring a perennial challenge, that’s a good thing. But don’t expect immediate success. It can take a while to get traction with new ways of recruiting. “You just have to keep at it,” said Campbell.