Power to the people

Putting the customer first is the traditional business mantra but Rentokil Initial believes in order to genuinely achieve this, you have to put your own people first

by John Stern
Last Updated: 23 Jan 2020

Leading by example is crucial. The vision of Andy Ransom, Rentokil Initial CEO since 2013, is that by ‘putting people first’ his business recruits better and more motivated employees, retains more of them and delivers better customer service, which in turn provides improved returns to shareholders.

It’s an approach that is yielding impressive results, both reputationally and financially. In the Management Today awards for Britain’s Most Admired Companies (BMAC), Rentokil Initial has increased its overall ranking from 120th in 2018 to 11th in 2019. It also tops the Business Support Services sector, as well as achieving first place for Diversity and Inclusion.

But the company isn’t stopping there – it regards equality and fairness as a fundamental right of all its employees. Its approach to improving and promoting diversity and inclusion companywide is an integral part of how it runs the business, and is ultimately making it stronger. In the most recent HamptonAlexander Review of gender balance in executive leadership roles, Rentokil Initial is in the top ten for female representation on boards of FTSE 100 companies. At 42.9%, its representation is 10.5 points above the national average. It can also claim a gender pay gap of zero, against the national average of 8.5%. Its increased focus on recruiting more women into front-line technician roles has been helped by holding ‘Women in Pest Control’ events across the world to generate valuable feedback and insights from female colleagues.

Team spirit

There is no head of CSR or a head of diversity at Rentokil Initial. Instead, it believes that responsible business practices are part of every department’s remit – there are definitely no posters or platitudes here. On Glassdoor, the online platform for employee-company ratings, Rentokil Initial receives an overall 4.4 out of five score and a CEO approval rating of 95%. Listening and acting on feedback is part of its culture to support colleagues and customers. The recent all-colleague confidential survey placed Rentokil Initial among the world’s ‘high-performing’ companies for colleague engagement and motivation. The highest-scoring areas from colleagues were on ‘safety’, ‘clear direction’ and ‘diversity’.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, either to recruitment or retention. The process starts with bespoke, innovative training to create motivated line managers and knowledgeable, agile technicians. The company also produces more than 500 pieces of learning content (courses and videos) each year, created in-house as opposed to off the shelf.

At the heart of it all is the Power Centre, the company’s British-based innovation and training centre. Here, it studies the behaviour of many of the world’s insects and pests, and develops its range of innovations such as the use of LEDs in fly control, heat treatment to eradicate bed bugs, and AI and the Internet of Things to deliver a level of big data insight and transparency that shakes up perceptions of pest control. The scale of some projects are jaw-dropping and, by colleagues sharing these stories via social media, can provide must-see moments to help inspire other employees, while also reflecting on a job well done.

The figures certainly back up this progress. Rentokil Initial has, over the past five years, been the fifth largest creator of total shareholder return in the FTSE 100, while moving from position 180 to within the largest 50 companies in 2019.

Despite employing around 43,000 people in 80 countries the company views itself as ‘multi-local’ rather than multi-national. Over recent years, it has moved into Latin America, establishing centres in cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where it was responsible for pest control at the 2016 Olympics. Through acquisitions, it now has a significant presence in the USA, the world’s largest pest control market. Proof indeed that progress is achieved by putting people first. 

Climate care

Rising global temperatures and the ensuing public health risk present big challenges – but also opportunities – to Rentokil Initial. With regard to its own carbon footprint, the company aims to reduce its emissions globally by 20% by the end of 2020. By the end of 2018 it was 16% there but wanted to make a greater and faster impact. So it teamed up with Cool Earth, a UK climate change charity. By protecting circa 1,000 acres of rainforest each year the company is now mitigating its entire annual carbon footprint.

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