Promoting Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in the Cleaning Industry

Categories: Management

By Dr. Felicia L. Townsend | March 2, 2022 << Back to Articles Promoting Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in the Cleaning Industry

According to McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report, the COVID-19 pandemic left women professionals feeling especially burned out. Added stressors at work and home, including staffing shortages, work-from-home policies, and school closures, have left almost 50% of women senior leaders experiencing burn-out.

However, there are many successes to celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Although stress levels are high, the report found that people are doing more to advance DEI initiatives and support colleagues in the past year.

Companies across industries are recognizing the power of DEI, with almost 70% saying that work to promote DEI is very or extremely critical.

These initiatives are crucial, as the cleaning industry and the entire world grapple with labor shortages and emerging COVID-19 variants. In a survey of 8,233 employed adults in the United States, 78% say they want to work at a company that prioritizes DEI. Additionally, feelings of belonging at work were associated with a 50% reduction in turnover risk.

When employees feel supported, they are more likely to remain with their current company.

Industry achievements

To discover how organizations in the cleaning industry advance DEI, we spoke with representatives of major brands about their experiences.

GP PRO, a division of Georgia-Pacific LLC

One of GP PRO’s foundational principles is embracing different perspectives, experiences, attitudes, knowledge, and skills. “But the principle alone is not comprehensive enough if an organization is not diverse enough in its population—by gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, or national origin,” said Kim Price, GP PRO vice president of market sales. “Our general belief is that without these factors, you can’t leverage the power of diversity.”

To attract top talent, GP PRO is committed to creating a culture and environment that gives everyone a chance to have their voice heard. “We believe that the only way to win the war for talent is to make sure we are committed to advancing women,” added Price. “In our business, we have one of the highest retention rates of new hires, and we believe it is a result of our commitment to advancing women.”

GP PRO recognizes that the industry needs to do more to support the advancement of women and DEI in the cleaning industry. To accomplish this goal, the company partners with ISSA Hygieia Network. “The programming, tools, and support Hygieia offers its members help develop women, advance their careers, and promote inclusivity,” Price explained. “Being part of the foundational development of Hygieia is important to us so we can be part of the industry transformation that is much needed.”

Imperial Dade

During her 18 years at Imperial Dade, Laura Craven, vice president of marketing and communications, has witnessed the company’s exponential growth through acquisitions and how it created a need for formalizing commitment to DEI. To ensure that Imperial Dade’s DEI strategy was authentic and reflected the company’s family-oriented culture, leadership formed A Workplace of Belonging, stating its commitment to building an inclusive workplace culture through mutual respect and honest communication. “Our company has always been diverse by nature, and all employees have the opportunity to grow and succeed,” said Craven. “Formalizing the DEI strategy allows us to communicate and demonstrate our commitment to all of our stakeholders.”

In addition to A Workplace of Belonging, Imperial Dade has implemented both an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) steering committee and a DEI subcommittee to guide its strategies. Its teams implement pulse surveys, employee resource groups, and a mentoring program that supports an inclusive work environment and provides opportunities for employees to grow their careers.

According to Craven, investing in DEI is both an expectation and a responsibility. “To attract and retain talent, our industry must align with the values of our stakeholders,” she added.

Kimberly-Clark Professional

 Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP) guides its DEI strategy with three main principles:

  • Try to understand the lived experience of our colleagues and the challenges they face.
  • Find ways to support them in overcoming barriers in the workplace.
  • Implement DEI in all directions, including down from leadership, across between colleagues, and upwards from young and new employees.

KCP puts DEI into action with 10 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) designed to actively create an inclusive workplace, the first of which was formed in 1985. “Since 1985, we have seen significant strides for more women and people of color in leadership roles,” said Heidi Solomon, KCP head of global strategy. “Deploying company-wide training, establishing annual inclusion objectives, and launching a corporate internship program for students attending historically Black colleges and universities—these are becoming foundational.”

Leaders also regularly hold Caring Conversations that shine a light on micro-inequities in the workplace and how individuals and the company can address them. In 2021, KCP also launched a global DEI program for team leaders to examine their own management styles and commit to recognizing the value of everyone’s voice to the company’s success.

“At Kimberly-Clark, treating individuals with respect is the way we do business and the way we lead,” said Solomon. “We’re building an organization that looks and thinks like our customers around the world and proactively recruits talented people with different perspectives and varied backgrounds.”

Newell Brands

Newell Brands, parent company of Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP), is committed to a strategic focus on diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B). “2020 was a significant year in our journey, as there were critical moments where we were called to stand by our employees because of racial injustice and inequities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mike McDermott, business unit CEO of commercial. “We used this engagement to drive us forward and launched quantitative DI&B goals in our last Corporate Citizenship Report.”

In 2021, the organization conducted a six-month DI&B diagnostic with a third-party consulting firm to identify areas of strengths and opportunity. At the end of the diagnostic, Newell hired a global senior director for DI&B, Ebony Howell, who is using the findings of the assessment to help guide and coach leadership.

The company has also established seven global ERGs. “I am personally proud to serve as an executive sponsor of NAAPA, the ERG for Asian American employees and allies,” said McDermott. “We have seen great engagement through investing in our ERGs, and I am very proud that for the second consecutive year, Newell was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.

“Investing in DI&B helps us to support and elevate underrepresented groups and enables us to devise new solutions based on the specialized needs of different communities,” McDermott explained.

Sunbelt Rentals

At its founding,  Sunbelt Rentals’ primary business was in the construction industry, which has historically lacked diversity. In the early 2000s, it set out to diversify its end markets and, in turn, its team. In addition to multiple ERGs, it created ongoing education, mentorship, and collaboration programs. “The most impactful shift I have noticed is the open-mindedness across multiple levels of the organization,” said Adam Camhi, Sunbelt vice president of flooring solutions. “We are an engaged team. We lead by being present and interacting with each other.”

The company is also launching a new ERG focused on supporting female employees. “Our DEI ERGs are comprised of team members representing many different roles throughout the business who actively engage with our leaders to set priorities and drive positive change,” said Camhi. “As our organization continues to grow, these groups will be strengthened by the diverse team members who make up Sunbelt Rentals, who we are proud to celebrate.”

The organization has a roadmap for continued DEI efforts, including leadership training and a company-wide education campaign, as well as an ongoing partnership with ISSA Hygieia Network. “I am continuously humbled as I navigate the Hygieia Network with such amazingly talented people, all focused on a core vision in making the cleaning industry one that women actively choose careers in for its unparalleled inclusiveness and the development and advancement opportunities they can access,” added Camhi.

Opportunities with ISSA Hygieia Network

According to Solomon, “Our support of ISSA Hygieia Network programming is about making sure that our industry has quality programming in talent development available to a diverse population.” By getting involved with ISSA Hygieia Network, organizations can support DEI in the cleaning industry and introduce employees to career development opportunities, including:

  • Formal mentoring. ISSA Hygieia Network provides a free mentoring program through the platform Chronus. Mentors and mentees sign up and find a connection to give back to the next generation and seek advice from experienced professionals.
  • Educational webinars. Employees can attend webinars held throughout the year on topics such as building leadership skills, getting the most out of a mentoring relationship, and more.
  • Networking conferences. ISSA Hygieia Network also invites industry professionals to conferences featuring thought-provoking and timely presentations and opportunities to network with peers.
  • Regional communities. Professionals can also join their regional community group on LinkedIn to discuss relevant topics and connect with others in the cleaning industry.

“The ISSA Hygieia Network’s support of mentoring and networking initiatives offers a critical forum for exchanging ideas and building a strong pipeline of female leaders,” said McDermott. “I have enjoyed sitting on the Council, and as a leader, I have learned more about what I can do to advance the careers of women in the cleaning industry.”

Looking ahead

Following the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the world, it is essential to support working professionals and prioritize DEI to ensure your workforce has the necessary tools and opportunities to thrive. “Our people and their well-being are the top priorities of Sunbelt Rentals,” said Camhi. “We, along with the entire industry, have the opportunity to continue to drive change, and we are committed to providing additional resources that will foster a best-in-class organization for our team members and our customers.”

“We will continue to foster a workplace of belonging and remove barriers to success,” added Craven. “This is more than a numbers initiative—this is about people.”

Stay up to date on upcoming events with the ISSA Hygieia Network and get involved by visiting

About the Author.

Dr. Felicia L. Townsend is the program director for the ISSA Hygieia Network. She can be reached at [email protected].