As a franchisor, it’s important to ensure you prioritise diversity in your network if you want to witness success, says Gemma Tumelty from The HR Dept
Diversity must be prioritised in modern businesses. It’s the offering of opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical ability, religious belief or political persuasion.
To achieve diversity within an organisation is to recognise, respect and value people’s differences, their ability to contribute and to realise their full potential by promoting an inclusive culture.
Achieving diversity and inclusivity within a franchise organisation is a no-brainer because it makes business sense to open your brand to as wide a target market and customer base as possible. Greater knowledge and cultural richness within your organisation can only help with that.
So how do you make your brand as attractive as possible to a diverse range of franchisees. Firstly, understand what might be acting as a barrier to diversity. This may be access to finance or working capital, childcare issues or even the current diversity of your network and your staff how your organisation looks and feels. Is your brand visible to different sectors of society? Think about where and how you advertise. What qualifications and experience levels are expected?
Is your type of franchise more appealing or accessible to certain groups? At The HR Dept we have more female than male franchisees as you might expect from a female-dominated profession. Business is hard no matter your gender but our offering does appeal to senior HR professionals escaping corporate life in search of something more family-friendly.
In the past, we’ve found it hard to attract prospects from BAME and disabled backgrounds but we’re delighted about several new franchisees who differ from our traditional franchisee base type and have nevertheless been attracted to our business model.
It’s taken persistence on our part but we’re in this for the long haul. We now plan to use our minority franchisees’ stories to further increase our inclusivity.
Franchisors should consider what their franchise looks like from the outside. Try and look objectively with fresh eyes from the point of view of a diverse potential customer base at your website, your publications, your social media, your team and your franchisees.
Does it look and feel like an inclusive organisation? Do you need to change your imagery, social content or your website accessibility to be more appealing to a wider audience?
We expect leads for our franchisees to come to us, so if we aren’t attracting diverse leads we need to change our strategy and go to where our targets are – for example publications, networks, events and websites with diverse audiences – to illustrate that our opportunity is very much open to minorities.
There can be a lack of information and education out there about different business opportunities, including franchising, to all audiences, more so for those which may traditionally be less represented by conventional marketing methods. So, have you promoted your franchise to representative groups and gateway organisations which can access harder to reach audiences?
Given that access to finance can be more challenging for some minority groups, you may also consider changing your financial model to be more accommodating especially in the early years of business development.
Franchisors should also have a head office team with thorough unconscious bias and inclusion training, so they can play their part in an inclusive franchisee recruitment process. If diversity is inviting people to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance. Once you have attracted diverse prospects, you must be set up to cater for different needs in the recruitment and induction process.
We recently provided a prayer room during an induction and a room for breast feeding at a recruitment event. Have you really thought of practical steps to provide for different needs, such as childcare during an induction process, providing materials accessible for people with disabilities and appropriate access to your building? Do you have a loop system?
Even the timing of your events can impact your recruitment efforts – you may be preventing Jewish people from attending Saturday recruitment days and, just like many Westerners wouldn’t work on Christmas Day, don’t hold an event on Eid or Diwali.
Diversity and inclusion isn’t something that can be box ticked and then moved on. Franchisors must recognise that it’s an ongoing process and will be far better and more effective if you involve your diverse staff and franchisees in the programme, seeking their advice and experiences.
If business realised it was excluding 30% of its potential customer base, it would act. The same should be true of franchisee recruitment. I advise franchisors should put marketing plans in place to help progress better diversity throughout our sector.