It’s easy to look at the news headlines and become depressed and jaded about the violence, the political scandals and the conflict that seems to arise when diverse groups of people (race, nationality, gender, political party, etc.) come together. But I would like to offer up a different view of diversity, one that I have watched unfold over the last ten years at Any Lab Test Now.
When I was first hired as COO of the company in 2007, I was the only woman on the executive team. That didn’t really resonate with me at the time, since I had come up through the ranks in the technology industry and was used to being one of the few — or only — females in a sea of middle-aged white men and maybe a few Asian men.
Fast forward 10 years, we now have an all-female executive team (not by design), and 75 percent of our workforce qualifies as a minority in some way. In our home office, we are African-American, Asian, Latino, LGBTQ, we are women and men from 22 to 60 years old, and we live in different parts of the melting pot that is Atlanta. In short, we are a diverse group. And it is wonderful!
Our company has experienced more than 100 percent growth in the last five years, and while there are several factors, the inclusive work environment we have where different types of people contribute and feel valued plays a part.
Here are a few of the ways in which our diversity makes us “better together” and a stronger company for our franchisees and customers.
…more productive employees. When you have workers of different generations sitting side by side, everyone benefits. I have watched a millennial raised on technology help teach an older counterpart how to navigate new technologies; I have watched older employees who have been working since they were 15 years old teach those millennials about accountability and how to navigate workplace issues. The expanded knowledge that comes from diversity makes everyone more productive.
…providing better customer service. We have a marketing team, but our secret weapon in providing great customer service comes from our diversity. Having bilingual employees obviously helps in communicating with our customers, but we also benefit when our different employees identify with different customer demographics and share those customers’ perspectives. Our marketing efforts and customer service become much more tailored and responsive to our customers’ attitudes and behaviors.
…more creative. This is probably the most fun for me, to watch and listen to all the great ideas that emerge when you turn up the heat on the melting pot. Case in point, the annual company conference can easily get stale with speaker after speaker, and a reliable chicken dinner. This year, our employees added a creative spark to tried-and-true convention practices by promoting a silent auction featuring handcrafted, interesting or unique items donated by members of the ALTN family. I donated embroidered tea towels that I made, and all proceeds will benefit a local children’s hospital in our host city. I appreciate our employees working to make this “educational party” a fun, interactive and engaging experience for our franchisees. I love seeing their creativity at work!
…enjoying a positive reputation in our communities. Our diverse workforce has a momentum of its own that enhances our reputation in our geographic community and the franchise community. We have become an example of not just a woman-led company but one that welcomes and encourages any person who fits our needs and our core values, like integrity and accountability. Many of our employees refer their family and friends to us, and we can hire good people on the recommendation of people we trust. When potential franchisees come in for Discovery Day, they see that we don’t all look the same. We welcome diversity in our franchise owners and can offer them a diverse support system in our home office.
That’s not to say being diverse hasn’t come with some bumps in the road. It has. There can be awkward moments, misunderstandings and a general lack of awareness about people/places/ideas that are new to us. But those bumps provide us an opportunity to educate one another about different cultures and perspectives. Ultimately, we become more sensitive, more respectful, and happier when we are at work. I can’t wait to see what our company looks like in 10 more years!