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Diversity category receives support for next year's PFM Awards

30 July 2018

There is a growing awareness of the need for companies operating in the FM sector to include diversity within their business agenda, although recent developments have raised questions over how far this has progressed and how much more needs to be done to make this more widely recognised.

One of those providing input to the debate is Gary Zetter, former Mitie director of apprentices and sustainability, whose considerable experience and recognition in this area has provided the impetus for the category to be included in the 2019 awards.

In recent years he has received recognition from both within the FM sector and externally for his work in the areas of diversity, apprenticeships and corporate social responsibility.

Through his many volunteering activities over a 20-year period, Mr Zetter has established a reputation as a positive role model in all areas of diversity, including BAME, gender, LGBT and disability.

Sharing his knowledge, experience and mentoring many young people from disadvantage backgrounds, similar to the difficult background and journey he had growing up.

“We have a legacy, skills shortage and a diversity issue within FM and it’s obviously disappointing that there were no entries for the Partners in Diversity Award as I know there is a lot of good positive work being done in many FM companies and there are some amazing individuals trying to make a difference, but it just shows that more thought, discussion a real investment needs to be carried out to raise awareness and improve this for the future,” says Mr Zetter.

“If companies need a reason to justify this, we just need to look at how many are struggling to attract and retain the right people/talent for their business, their client’s business – not to mention their future clients’ business.

“Once they understand how much more scope this gives them, by including a wider range of potential employees within their business, it’s much easier to show them how this provides many other benefits,” he says.

“There are increasing calls for issues to be addressed that are deemed to be restricting the advancement of companies in all areas FM and other industries,” Mr Zetter continues.

“Adjusting business strategies to make each company a more attractive employment option for all areas of society therefore provides the opportunity to address this and other issues.”

“One of the important factors to understand in making businesses more appealing to a greater number of people and understand how intimidating the workplace can be for many individuals especially those from a diversity,” he explains.

“It’s too easy to put labels on people and this needs to be avoided, you need to make your companies more inclusive. Remember we are a people business and by having established ‘diversity networks’ you not only attract diverse talent to join your business, but also retain this talent.

"Promote and celebrate your ‘positive role models’ as there is a level of comfort when you see people like you within the workplace. Your ‘vision and values’, do they really represent your business and the people that work there?

“How many people understand that men in particular who are in senior positions and regarded as white male and middle class are in a privileged position? Even though I’m from a working class background and gay, I still would have benefited in some capacity of being ‘white privilege’.

"This can be really intimidating for someone in the BAME, gender LGBT&Q and disability sections of society, who can find it difficult to feel included or feel they have an equal opportunity to be promoted. In many cases they don’t believe they would get the promotion anyway or wouldn’t even put themselves forward.”

Mr Zetter shares his own personal experience to further highlight the challenges that individuals can face at work. He is now openly gay, but states that he resisted making this known to his former colleagues until he had been promoted to a senior position after joining Mitie.

Mr. Zetter states “You can’t hide the colour of your skin, your gender and sometimes your sexuality or disability”.

“I don’t believe I would have been considered for promotion if I’d come out earlier or even stayed within the FM Industry,” he states. “But it’s been fantastic to have received so much support, particularly in raising awareness of diversity issues within the industry ever since.”

Mr Zetter is highly complimentary of his former employer’s drive to include diversity within its culture, which resulted in Mitie winning the PFM Awards 2016 Achievement in Apprenticeships and Skills trophy.

He states that attracting young people onto its apprenticeship programme provided a firm foundation that greatly assisted its drive to employ a more diverse workforce of talented professionals and future business leaders.

“Many of those who started as Apprentices progressed to more senior positions, which again shows how well this can work for a business, when you’re attracting young, talented people. Of course it’s essential that these people have the right behaviours and the people with these should be supported and encouraged, in order to help them in their career, which will also help the business,” he says.

“It’s also essential to have honest conversations and talk about the difficult things. There will always be the need for businesses to focus on profit and loss, but companies can do a lot to improve their position by changing their business culture and many people don’t realise that this can be done very easily with very little expense,” says Mr Zetter. ”Behaviour breeds behaviour”.

During his successful career at Mitie, Mr Zetters’ figures showed a retention rate of 89% qualified from the Mitie Apprenticeship programme, with 48% going on to more senior positions with one becoming a regional director. Much of which was due to the level of support provided to individuals and providing the confidence to be different and to be the best. With It is additionally essential to challenge colleagues to achieve high levels of success, he states, but this needs to be done in the right way.

“I always expect my Apprentices and anyone else I have developed to do better than me and go beyond their own expectations,” he continues. “I’m happy to break the glass ceiling for others with the right skills and behaviours to go on to reach more senior positions.

“Implementing the correct procedures will also increase employees’ length of service, providing further benefits such as the reduction of recruitment costs, amongst others: Companies can then use the money saved to reinvest and increase diversity engagement further,” he continues.

“You need to manage people in the right way and let them know if something isn’t right, but you don’t have to make this a huge issue and the use of humour can help to get the message across and back up with evidence to prove the point.

“I like to manage inside the circle, while others prefer to manage around the circle, but the managers that get the best results from people are those that make the effort to get to know their teams. This is just about using simple behaviours and showing an interest in the people to make them feel more supported, which is the best way to get them to commit to achieving the objectives of the business,” says Mr Zetter.

“Please understand that although what I am saying maybe uncomfortable reading – especially when I say things like ‘white middle class privilege – but it does exist.

"For example at this year’s PFM Awards look across the tables to see who is in attendance, as your eyes won’t lie. If we could only get equality right and pay women the same as men for doing the same job, then the rest of diversity will stand a chance,” he continues.

“As someone from a diversity, I am very grateful to PFM for putting diversity on the front page with the Partners in Diversity category, although I am disappointed and saddened that there were no nominations, I do believe in the FM Industry and trust our business leaders to do something about it and challenge themselves and those that work with and alongside them.”

To finish Mr Zetter states: “After experiencing the PFM Awards back in 2016 and winning the Apprentices & Skills category, celebrating and being around all the good and great within the FM Industry. But a powerful message must be delivered because one PFM Award in 2018 will never have a home.”

Discussions are continuing with interested parties to drive entries for the Achievement in Diversity category in the PFM Awards 2019, allowing companies and individuals to enter on the basis of their achievements in this area.

Gary Zetter’s awards success

• Global Equality & Diversity Awards 2016 Winner of the Noon Award 

• Excellence in Diversity Awards Winner 2016 Employee of the Year Award 

• National Diversity Awards finalist as a Positive Role Model for LGBT&Q 2015 

• Women in the City Finalist for Gender Diversity Award 2015 

• Business in the Community Race Equality Award Finalist in 2016 & 2013 for the Executive Sponsor and Champion Award

• Finalist with the Association for Black Engineers (AFBE-UK) for the Leadership Award 2012 at the Race for Opportunity Awards 2012

• PFM Awards 2016 Winners Apprentices & Skills Category

• National Apprentice Awards 2017 Winners

• The Sunday Telegraph 2015 Top 50 Apprenticeship Career List & The Top 10 (Unranked) Apprenticeship Career List for the STEM Sector 

• Winners of the Young London Working Award for Mayor’s Fund for London Awards 2014

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