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Diverse Company Culture at Chinook Roofing

rae-july-nov-2022-culture-for-retention
November 16, 2022 at 8:00 a.m.

RCS Influencer Rae July says Chinook accommodates and appreciates the variety of culturally diverse perspectives essential to the company’s success. 

Editor’s note: The following consists of a conversation between RCS Editor Karen Edwards and director of steep-slope operations at Chinook Roofing, Rae July. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.  

 

Karen Edwards: 
Hello everyone, I'm Karen Edwards with RoofersCoffeeShop, and I am here today with Rae July one of our roofing influencers from Chinook Building Envelope Services out of Washington State, right? 

Rae July: 
Yes. 

Karen Edwards: 
All right. And Alec Doniger, who is one of our team writers. And we're going to talk about the November topic for our influencers and that's about culture and how important culture is for not only recruitment, but retention. 

So maybe, Rae, you could tell us a little bit about the culture at Chinook. 

Rae July: 
So, our culture here is very inclusive, and one of the reasons for that is because, we feel like, if you're going to ask people to invest in a career in your organization, and give their best, and show up every day and perform, and do good work, then you have to create the kind of culture that is accepting of who they are. And so, we've created a diverse and inclusive culture because we know that it's important for employees to feel like they belong somewhere. 

I think a lot of times people always ask, "Well, why do we have such high turnover and why is it that we can't keep people in a position?" And well, you have to start looking at what kind of company culture you have, because if your company culture is one where someone doesn't feel welcomed, where your employees are treated as the help as opposed to as vital members of your organization, then they're going to give you that output. They're not going to want to stay for very much longer because they don't feel like they belong somewhere. 

Karen Edwards: 
How has the culture that you've created there, has that helped with recruitment and hiring? People telling their friends, "Hey, this is a great place you want to work." 

Rae July: 
Yeah, absolutely. The bulk of our installers, about 80% of our installers, are Hispanic and every year they have a rodeo that they host because they're from a region in Mexico called Michoacan, and they celebrate a saint, usually in August, and they have this big celebration. And those of us who are not Hispanic, we attend and we participate. We get to know their families and learn more about their culture. 

We're also an employee-owned company. And so, that employee-owned culture, that mindset of you are part of an employee-owned company, you have to not just look like an owner, but think like an owner. And we always say to our employees, "It's we before me and you have to do nothing but do good work. That's all you have to do your job and do it well." And we're a profitable company. And so, when they see their annual earning statements from the ESOP, and when they see how engaged we are into who they are and their culture, they reciprocate. And we treat our employees very well and we want them to be here. 

And so, we have a lot of our roofers are, it's a family. So you'll find a lot of the crews, it's an uncle and nephews, or brothers, or father and son. And part of that is because they've been treated very well, so they tell others. 

Karen Edwards: 
That's fantastic. And I know that you are involved with National Women in Roofing, part of their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. And I think that's a great example too of how committed your company is to support your involvement in that. 

Rae July: 
Absolutely. Yeah. And I kind of become the resident and DEI person here inadvertently and it's great. I appreciate it very much and we'll have very open conversations and I'm always ready to say, "Well, we have to think about how the other person is going to feel." There are policies that we, as a leadership team, look at implementing. And then we have to think about, okay, how is this policy that we're implementing for, what we think is for, everyone? How is it going to affect someone else? Because the value systems are very different. 

Those of us who are born in the US, grew up here, we have a different value system from someone who was born in the third world country, grew up poor when they have but a third grade education. There's things that they've seen, there's violence that they've seen at a very young age. And so, their value system is very different from others. And so, you have to take those things into consideration as you build your team and you build an employee culture as you put systems in place. Those are things that always have to come to mind. How would this person react to this? 

Karen Edwards: 
That is great advice because so often we just are moving so fast and oh, we need to put this process in place, or we need to change how we're doing something and we don't think about how it's going to affect the people. And so, yeah, great advice. 

Rae July: 
And it's meeting people where they are. A lot of our guys are not technologically savvy, and so we make it a point to every document that we produce, every memo, has to be bilingual. We have an English version and a Spanish version, and we always make sure that the Spanish version is not proper technical Spanish, it's colloquial Spanish because that's what they speak. 

And again, if someone has but a third grade education, or no education at all, you're asking them to read a document that is chock-full of proper language that they never really learned. And so, that's meeting them where they are. Creating these documents so that they can understand and taking the time to sit with them. And if they don't understand, going over it and saying, "Okay, this is what this means, this is how it's going to impact you." And to some people they might see it as time consuming and oh my gosh, how do you guys have time for that? You have to make the time because these people are important to your organization. Without those guys, we wouldn't have a company. 

Karen Edwards: 
Right. Yeah. Another great point, too, is making the time. Yeah. I know everyone's pressed for time, but if you want to keep your people and be able to get new talent, then that's really important to put the time into it. 

Rae July: 
Absolutely. 

Karen Edwards: 
Wow. Well, Rae, thank you so much for this look inside your company and hopefully someone else out there who is trying to work on their culture and make changes will be able to take some of your tips and your advice and do that in their own company. 

Rae July: 
Absolutely. Thank you so much. 

Karen Edwards: 
Thank you. We'll talk again in a month. 

Rae July is the director of steep-slope operations at Chinook Roofing. See her full bio here 



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