Diversity is a hot topic in every avenue of daily life. The word itself illuminates a difference, and in the present day it suggests unity, unification and inclusion through separate experiences and uniqueness. Whether we are referring to diverse neighborhoods, educational institutions or the myriad work environments – diversity has complexities that in combination can make many unique profiles.
Presently, I lead a small, seemingly diverse team in the cleaning industry, offering a revolutionary, safer waste receptacle for end users and management. Our team is made up of the following people: 1 Vietnam veteran, 2 senior citizens, 4 baby boomers, 1 Gold Star family member, 2 millennials, 1 Viking, 1 German, 1 Nepali, 1 Englishman, 4 AARP members, 1 immigrant, 2 hearing impaired people, 1 visually impaired person, 1 dyslexic person, and 6 Americans. We have 4 people who are college educated, 4 people with gray hair, 2 people with long hair, 2 people with curly hair, and 3 people with straight hair, and some whose hair changes daily. The matrix of this company operates with 2 Executives, 1 CTO, 1 VP Sales, 1 Marketing person, 1 PR, and 1 doing social media. And then we have 6 males, 2 females, the ability to speak 4 different languages and last but not least, we have cats and dogs in the office with little or no issue!
Diversity in cleaning
So, how does diversity affect the cleaning industry? It is not only a component but is also integral to any professional community. It can be a snapshot or a combination of teams, influences, opinions, environments and situations – making the management of diversity difficult. Diversity is multidimensional as indicated in the chart. The types of dimensions may intertwine to produce unique syntheses of human profiles made up of both differences and similarities. The dimensions interact with and influence one another and emerge or are displayed differently in different contexts, environments and circumstances, making analysis and management complex.
Diversity is not an affirmative action, a quota, a mandate or about changing people’s minds or actions. It is about people, how they interact, and in a business setting it affects how people perform, communicate, operate and function. A snap shot of the cleaning industry* depicts diversity like this: almost 70 per cent of janitors and building cleaners are male, with over 30% female; the age by gender is 44.8 male and 45.5 female; and the median salary is $23.379. Around 65.5% of janitors & building cleaners are white, making that the most common race or ethnicity in the occupation. Representing 16.8%, the African American demographic is the second most common race or ethnicity in this occupation, with others at 10.8%. Janitors and building cleaners need many skills, specifically service orientation, coordination, and critical thinking, to name a few.
Cleanliness is critical to all facilities – it allows hospitals to treat patients properly, schools to provide environment for education, municipalities to operate and serve their communities and to reduce and prevent diseases and the spread of germs and sickness in all public areas. Uniting diverse individuals with different backgrounds pools their strengths into a common company culture. Employees value the confidence and trust that you put into each one of them every day. A diverse group can become a strong team with a commitment to doing their best and securing the companies’ success. Treat them accordingly.
Managing initiation and training
I have learned the hard way about diversity when piloting our product with one of the largest US school systems. For example, their cleaning teams spoke over 20 different languages. That’s a lot of translating of instructional product information to end users, and some significant cost considerations! Imagine my struggle at a meeting where so many people spoke different languages and not one of them was French! Adding insult to injury, when we demonstrated our product, users thought I was trying to trick them. We then simply invited them to try it themselves – in front of the management. Problem solved!
Such is the challenge of bringing innovation to market. The obstacle was not the language, but the meaning and interpretation of the spoken word. Our solution – schematic diagrams. Sometimes we are asked to run pilot programs with our product and obtain feedback from users and management alike. As a business, we are also expanding internationally. We encounter diversity every single day and apply steps to be inclusive with multiple languages using visual diagrams and videos to communicate how our products work. It is important to note that across America, trash removal is done millions of times a day, and workers get hurt. In 2010, The University of California alone incurred $7.1M USD in injuries – with trash and recycled material handling being the #1 concern.
Fortunately, our focus on end user safety speaks a universal language for buyers and users, whereby physical interaction with our product is the ultimate translation device. After decades of experiencing diversity in the workplace there is still considerable confusion over what diversity actually consists of. Broad definitions seek inclusion but do not allow for identification of a difference between functional and social diversity. We are focused on building a customercentered culture in our company to better serve everyone.
A powerful diversity learning moment was when a physically disadvantaged veteran exclaimed “you gave me my dignity back!” Imagine this, all because of a waste receptacle.
Kiran (Raj) Rajbhandary is CEO and Co-founder of EZ Dump Commercial, Inc. an innovative design and engineering company based in Phoenix, Arizona. They are the creators of SmartcanMax™, a patented waste, recycling and linen receptacle offering. He can be reached through his company website at www. ezdumpcommercial.com
* Data USA, 2018