[Hiring Practices] Fostering Diversity in the Workplace

[Hiring Practices] Fostering Diversity in the Workplace

The meaning of “diversity” has evolved over the years in terms of hiring employees. Here’s one company’s business case for diversity and inclusion.

November 10, 2015
Christine Brazell

Diversity is about embracing and celebrating our differences, which has a positive impact on the bottom line, according to Ruby Swann, director of recruiting and onboarding services at Rollins, the parent company of Orkin Pest Control. With 25 years of human resources experience, Swann presented Orkin’s approach to hiring a more diverse workforce at NPMA’s 2014 PestWorld in Orlando, Fla.

Defining diversity

Swann’s first experience with a diversity initiative was in 1997, and at the time, companies didn’t define diversity as many now do.

“At the time, diversity meant addressing minorities or maybe gender, but what’s happened over the years is that it has evolved,” Swann says.

Today, diversity in employment is defined as the collective mixture of differences and similarities that includes individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences and behaviors. In addition, there are many different dimensions to diversity including those that are primary, secondary, organizational or cultural (see chart on page 86).

“Initially when diversity started, people focused on the primary dimensions,” Swann says. “There wasn’t much about the secondary, organizational and cultural types of differences.”

Engaging women.

Tips for Engaging Women in Pest Management

  • Involve male and female employees
  • Ask employees for referrals
  • Make ads obvious
  • Rewrite job advertisements so they appeal to women (e.g., include words like flexibility, environmentally friendly, etc.)
  • Post on career site geared to women
  • Targeted recruiting at women’s events
  • • As the company hires more women, it will attract more women

Source: Adapted from The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion presentation by Ruby Swann, October 2014, NPMA PestWorld

Recognizing the lack of women in the pest management industry, Rollins formed the Women’s Resource Group initiative in 2008 to help recruit more women into Rollins’ family of pest control companies and foster the professional growth of female leaders already employed.

Specifically, the company wanted to increase the number of women in sales and technician positions in their branch offices so its field workforce would better mirror its customers. The group consisted of both men and women from different roles and levels. And perhaps most importantly, it included members from every division and every branch in the organization so they would take ownership of the initiative.

An important aspect was that the initiative had support from the very top. According to Swann, it was Gary Rollins’ idea. “That support is key for any initiative like this — they have got to understand the business reasons for diversity and believe in why you are doing this because they’re the ones who are going to be making the hiring decisions and will manage those who are hired,” Swann says. “It’s got to start at the top but it’s got to permeate throughout the organization.”

In addition, Orkin asked its employees to refer women who might make good candidates for open positions. Now the majority of the company’s female hires come from employee referrals.

The company also had several managers who were successful at attracting women to their branches, so the Women’s Resource Group interviewed them to learn more about what they were doing to share with others in the organization.

“One of the things we learned was that once a manager hired that first woman in a technician or a sales position they would make sure that they included her in the interview process for others,” Swann says. “Once you recruit women, they will help recruit others.”

One issue the committee needed to address was Orkin’s brand identity as the “the Orkin man.” “That was a struggle for us in the beginning. Here we were trying to recruit women,” Swann says. “I remember going to a Women for Hire job fair and people came up to me saying that they didn’t know we hired women.”

As a result, the company developed a new ad campaign celebrating its female employees.

“We came up with a catchy phrase: We are famous for our Orkin man, but we are just as proud of our Orkin women,” Swann says. “We wanted to make it visible that we recruit women and we have great careers for them in our organization.”

In addition, the company interviewed women already working at Orkin to learn more about what they liked about their jobs and why they continued to work for the company. They learned that women appreciated the flexibility and the environmentally responsible aspects of working in the field, so they rewrote job descriptions and ad copy to reflect those aspects of the positions.


Recruiting veterans.

Another group Orkin wants to engage with is “the world’s best.” As such, the company has committed to hiring 1,000 veterans over the next five years. They’ve partnered with several organizations that are dedicated to helping returning veterans find employment to make that happen. One is Welcome Home Resumes that offers veterans an interactive online employment system that helps set them apart from others applying for open positions. The site offers a video library that outlines each step in the process so it’s easy for veterans to prepare their resumes and get ready for a job interview. The videos feature personal presentation and communication skills. The organization also offers high-quality, hands-on support to make submitting a resume more efficient for both the veteran and the potential employer.

“We’re really focusing on sharing our story and partnering with military transition offices, although it takes work. You need to assign managers from your organization that can build relationships with the local transition offices. It takes a lot of time,” says Swann. “If you want to benefit from an organization’s network and relationships, you have to participate and give back.”

According to Swann, if a company feels it’s important to be dedicated to diversity, there should be a role devoted specifically to that.

“It’s got to be someone’s job. You can’t assign someone to go to a meeting one week, and another to go the next. Things will fall through the cracks,” Swann says. “It’s got to be ongoing work, ongoing follow up, and ongoing network-building in order to have a successful diversity program.”

Orkin also has developed many connections with minority communities to build relationships and position the company to attract talent. The company is currently involved with the Latin American Association, 100 Black Men and the National Association of Chinese Americans, to name a few.


NPMA Encouraging Diversity Via Committee

NPMA’s Diversity Committee was created in 2013 to assist NPMA with encouraging its membership to embrace diversity and inclusion as an integral part in nurturing winning workplace cultures throughout the pest management industry.

The committee has identified several goals to achieve this vision, the first being to educate NPMA membership about why diversity is important to a business’ success. As part of this, the committee will be creating materials to address diversity training for associates and management personnel, communication techniques and business growth areas.

Recruitment and sourcing is another key area of focus for the committee and the group is currently working on creating materials to help people understand how to not only recruit diverse candidates, but also how to examine current day-to-day processes that may be unintentionally exclusive — e.g., welcome videos, marketing collateral, policies and procedures.

For more information about the efforts of the NPMA Diversity Committee, please contact Janay Rickwalder at jrickwalder@pestworld.org. Source: NPMA



Managing generations.

To retain the diverse employees that work together, a company must employ inclusive work strategies. Swann says it’s also important to recognize and understand generational differences (see related article on page 90). Different generations are motivated by different things, and it can cause conflicts in the workplace. It can be difficult for a person from one generation to really understand someone from another.

“Right now we have five different generations working in our organization and it can create problems. One way we are trying to address that with Millennials, for instance, is through internship programs, both in the field and in the call center, so interns can get to know our organization and can eventually be transitioned to a field position,” says Swann.

Research has shown that diversity leads to better business performance outcomes, and that’s why companies are investing in various diversity initiatives.

“We know that it’s going to increase employee productivity and our employee retention rate; it improves customer relations because we want our employees to mirror our market; and we want to be able to communicate and speak their language better,” says Swann. “But in order to maintain that diversity we have to have improved understanding of those who are working for us.”

To do that, Swann advocates abiding by the platinum rule.

“We all know about the golden rule: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Diversity is a different approach, it’s about treating people the way they want to be treated. That’s the platinum rule,” Swann says. “We have got to talk to these individuals, understand them, find out what it is going to take for them to be successful in the organization, and have some flexibility to be able to make those changes. We must think differently.”


Three Distinct Concepts

According to Rollins’ Ruby Swann, a clarification that should be made when talking about diversity is that it is not the same as Equal Employment Opportunity or Affirmative Action. They are three very distinct concepts. EEO is about the enforcement of statutes to prevent employment discrimination. Affirmative Action is about achieving goals and achieving parity related to minorities in the workplace. Diversity is about leveraging those differences in the workplace for business results.

“It is about the bottom line and that’s where diversity has evolved. In the beginning, I don’t think that companies were realizing the impact that diversity was having on business results and productivity,” Swann says. “There was not a lot of research or data out there to show that diversity works and is smart for business.”

Another clarification Swann makes is that people often think the concepts of diversity and inclusion are interchangeable. They are related but different.

“Diversity refers to differences that make people unique and can be used to differentiate groups of people from one another,” Swann says. “Inclusion refers to the full engagement and development of everyone, not excluding anyone, regardless of differences.”

So, what are business reasons for building and maintaining a diverse workforce in pest management? Primarily, it’s smart for business.

“It’s a good economic decision. It has a positive effect on business results when companies are focusing on diversity. There has been research and studies out there that show the companies that have a diverse employee base improved profits,” Swann says. “The market is changing and you want your market and your employee base to match, that’s why a lot of companies are doing this because it’s just a smart business decision.”

Not only is building diversity smart related to revenue and productivity, the pest management industry realizes it needs a more diverse employee base due to the expected workforce of the future. As a result, over the last decade, Rollins has developed several recruiting initiatives focusing on non-traditional employees for a more diverse workforce.


The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.