By Link Howard, an EO Detroit member and founder of Powerlink Facilities Management Services
Diversity has been a core value at Powerlink Facilities Management Services since I founded it in 2003. As a staffing company, many of our clients serve specific communities, and we strive to provide them with team members who are locally connected and committed to their missions. Company-wide, this means we have an extremely diverse staff in terms of age, race, religion and education as well as geographic and demographic factors. Without embracing that strategy of providing our clients with the best people for their environments, leading to diversity for our company, we would not have had the necessary tools to grow to where we are today.
What is Diversity?
In order to successfully have a diverse work environment, entrepreneurs must know what diversity is. Diversity is not just racial and socioeconomic, but it is the breadth of experiences, a willingness to embrace change and a desire to see the world from different perspectives. These are traits that go a long way toward finding employees that will thrive in an entrepreneurial environment. Diversity allows for employees with different skillsets and knowledge to come together and create innovative techniques and solutions to help Powerlink Facilities Management Services to continue to be competitive and move forward in the industry.
Prioritizing diversity does not mean lowering standards or making exceptions. To the contrary, our clients rely on us to provide the most qualified candidates. Our employees must become a part of not only our team, but our customers’ teams as well. We make it clear from the first interview that openness and flexibility are part of everyone’s job. Finding the right people is a challenge, but again and again, the candidates that embrace this value succeed and stand out to us as leaders.
Make it a Core Value
Diversity drives business success. I included a diversity and inclusion statement in the mission of my company and, more importantly, I practice behaviors that reflect your commitment to diversity in the workplace. This includes a mandatory training session. At this training session, we often mix up the executive team with front-line staff. By doing so, we are exposing both teams to struggles and rewards of members they may not have much interaction. This allows for employees to see each other as human beings, which increases respect, morale and allows for more thought provoking collaboration. Once these groups sit down together, the managers can better understand and support a team’s day-to-day needs, and by cultivating that close manager-employee relationship, we empower them to hold team members accountable, solve problems and embrace the diversity within their groups to best serve our clients every day.
This collaboration allows us to see great success in a city as diverse as Detroit, Michigan, USA. Team members often provide service directly to clients in ethnically diverse areas in the fields of health care and education. The value of our diverse workforce allows our members to connect with their audience based on shared experiences, race, gender or socioeconomic status. This allows the clients to feel more comfortable and allow team members to extend a greater amount of good in a shorter time. The community sees the value in our diverse workforce and the connections it creates within their communities. This enables us to expand our customer base and broaden the locations and industries where we know Powerlink can succeed. World-class companies embrace diversity, and look for suppliers who have the same values.
I don’t often know where and when the skills I’ve picked up will be valuable, but a focus on diversity can help me surround myself with people, perspectives and insights that will expand my horizons—opening up new opportunities where I may not have looked before. By encouraging my staff to get out of their comfort zones to experience different world views and opinions, I am continuously building a stronger organization with a stable of exceptional leaders.
Link Howard is the founder, president and CEO of Powerlink Facilities Management Services, which provides facilities services to clients at more than 250 locations in the Midwest and in Ontario, Canada.