What is diversity and how do you embrace it?
What is diversity and how do you embrace it?
A common misconception is that diversity is restricted to age, gender or culture. But there are many other categories of diversity: ability, beliefs, location, finances and experience to just name a few.
In my twenty years of working in the franchising industry, still to this day I am surprised about the sensitivity of the topic, the not wanting to recognise the differences, the impact and the lack of business strength to talk about it, address the issues and shift how we do things to accommodate the current and the future workforces which will lead small business enterprise. Diversity is one of the constants that we all encounter, we are all different and work in very different ways and we must embrace our individual skills and characteristics so that we don’t fall behind the curve.
The way we choose to work varies from person to person; how we work, where we work, when we work and even who we work with ranges depending on who you ask. Yet we all have an underlying mission: to provide value and to have a purpose in all that we do.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that one in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, one in two have a parent born overseas and in 2013 overseas migration accounted for 60 per cent of Australia’s population growth. The numbers don’t lie, they support the notion that we as individuals and businesses need to adapt to the way things are moving and unfortunately many business fail to see the need.
I’m going to be selfish and focus on the industry that I live and breathe, franchising. Franchising continues to be a business model of choice in Australia with approximately 1,180 different systems according to IBISWorld. Franchising is no longer just an easy way for a company to raise funds for growth, it’s an option for Australians to be small business owners with the support of national and international systems.
Franchising is a business method which succeeds as a result of its systems which drive replication, the financial model being achievable both for the franchisor and the franchisees and finally the relationship between franchisor, franchisees and the community which binds all parties to the brand and its long term success through the offer and the innovation which keeps it relevant and wanted; it is not exempted from the diversity conversations.
The franchising industry already embraces diversity through equal opportunity – but we need to focus on how we are using diversity to better our businesses for franchisors, franchisees, and for the end user. Franchisors and franchisees are better off increasing their understanding of how diversity impacts their day-to-day business - it is a growing aspect of the business and social environments within which we exist and within which relationships are built.
As with most things in life: communication is key. Whether it’s face-to-face, phone, email, or advertising - it’s the first stepping stone to making sure that everything else works as expected. Get this wrong and there is no relationship or business outcomes.
“When dealing with different cultures who have different operating systems, nothing should be assumed,” says Beth Pocklington, Systems and People Champion for the Back in Motion Health Group. “Franchisors need to adapt their conversations, processes and systems to facilitate consistent outcomes with franchisees irrespective of cultural nuances.”
The mentality of a one size fits all franchise system no longer exists in the market place – and ensuring that systems are able to support both franchisees and customers on all levels is key to the future longevity of Australian franchise systems.
Never assume you know everything about your customers. Don’t assume that the customers know your brand, don’t assume that the customers are seeing your advertisements, don’t assume that someone won’t buy your product or service simply because they are too old, too young, or not in your target market.
The most iconic of Australian brands with the catchiest of jingles are always advertising to new customers and re-advertising to their existing customers. Why? Brand Awareness. If your potential customers don’t know who you are or that you’re a key player in the market place, they aren’t going to consider you as an option when it comes down to making a decision.
As an iconic household brand, do not assume you are known!
Just because your current offering and delivering is how it’s always been done, doesn’t mean that it’s the best or only way. Phone calls, emails, direct messaging, advertisements are all valuable techniques – but ensuring that you have a multitude of active campaigns will ensure that you aren’t missing out on potential customers.
Your business needs to go above and beyond to look for a point of difference, what is your brands unique selling proposition? What sets you apart from your competition?
Stereotypical franchise recruitment has been thrown out and replaced with a modern approach attracting quality franchisees who are right not only for the brand, but also for the system.
Sara Pantaleo, La Porchetta CEO says, “In recent years we’ve found that during the recruitment process, some potential franchisees agree to most things and then once they take over the business, they do things differently from what they committed to. This is not because they set out to deceive us, but because in their culture this is accepted behaviour.”
Many franchisors are scared to share what they think is intellectual property with prospective franchisees, and in-turn they receive ‘yes men’ who will do anything to get through the door.
By oversharing as many details as possible in early discussions you will learn where different franchisees have different concerns and be able to address them accordingly.
Sara continues, “We are developing new online training platforms and reviewing our processes to ensure that our on-boarding and training is more tailored so that we can all understand English is not always the first language of franchisees, in some cases it may be the second language. We all know how easily things can be lost in translation.
As we seek out our franchise partners, being aware of this is of great advantage. Establish this early, identify the competency of the English language and consider how you will grow the trust and respect through your relationship. Will it require a translator or will it require your own upskilling in understanding the culture and the drivers to wanting to be a part of a franchise community.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach when working with a diverse range of people. By putting into place training and systems to effectively address diversity and communication, you are setting up your brand and franchisees for success.
- Establish if diversity is of importance to your franchise brand.
- What diversity are you aware of within your franchise brand and the community within which your business operates?
- Is the diversity helping you grow your brand or is the lack of acceptance and understanding of diversity creating road blocks?
- Is your workforce trained in diversity?
- Is your workforce aligned to the strengths of differences brought through diversity?
- How does your brand’s culture stack up when measuring diversity from a HR perspective?
- Are your Franchise Recruitment team geared up for leads and how are they facilitated into your franchise community if different?
- Have you assessed your practices to accommodate the diversity of now and the future in all business and communication practices?
- Have you assessed your people, their selfknowledge of what ‘different’ means and how you do not tolerate non acceptance of diversity?
- Are the systems manuals written well, supported by training methods which help English as a second language business owners and their teams in being the best they can be?
- Are you respecting diversity within the communities that your franchisees are a part of - by making changes to the product offer, the service offer and your establishments to embrace the local demographics?
- Are the front-facing team members fully accepting of all the differences they encounter in their work?
- Is your digital media performed with ‘diversity etiquette’ at all times?
- Do you take time to learn the changes in diversity and how it will strengthen the brand and all those connected within it?
- Are you prepared to be different?
We would like to extend our thanks to the members of the Franchise Diversity Panel event held in March: Barbara West – Culture Works; Beth Pocklington – Back in Motion Health Group; Chris Mavris – Soul Origin; David Ridgeway – Quest Apartment Hotels; Julia Hewagama– Bakers Delight; and Sara Pantaleo – La Porchetta for their contributions to this topic.