April LoebickBy April Loebick

Diversity, Inclusion, Infrastructure, and Emergency Services

Diversity and inclusion are concerns for most HR departments, but the struggle is felt acutely in rural communities, particularly in the small towns that make up much of the Appalachian Region of the US. The task of diversifying your staff becomes herculean, and enticing folks with the charm of small mountain town life seems like it would be easy, but you can’t honestly tell someone it’s not going to be a difficult transition.

We actually had one employee pulled over for speeding and the cop pointedly asked him (a gentleman of middle-eastern decent) what he was doing around here, and didn’t believe that our employee worked here.

That’s when it really hit home that, even though our company is welcoming and inclusive, some members of the community around us are less so.

Ideologies aren’t the only things that lag behind.

Infrastructure can also straggle, leading to some unique issues.

Our office is actually quite lucky. We are 10 miles out from even the nearest town, yet we still have access to high-speed fiber internet. Downloads and uploads are lightning-fast and we can video conference all day long, but we are extremely lucky. Many businesses in rural communities won’t have this particular luxury.

BUT, our other utilities can be bothersome. Like I said, we’re 10 miles out from downtown, meaning we are several miles away from the nearest water and sewer system. We have a well and a septic tank and all the fun equipment that comes those things. When the electricity goes out, the well pump goes out, which means no water, so we can’t wait around to see if the power is going to come back on due to health and safety code reasons.

We have had to send people to work from home because they can’t use the toilet on multiple occasions.

A couple years ago, the well went completely dry. While it was being re-dug and refilled, we had no water, which meant everyone worked from home for almost 2 weeks (luckily, we have that option). While everyone could do their base jobs, there was definitely some productivity loss.

Somewhat related to our water woes was something that happened this past Friday as we were all chilling at the cabin for our 4th quarter team-building event. A smell invaded our nostrils.

Something was definitely on fire, something electric.

A thorough search of the building eventually lead to our crawl space (dirt floor, super cramped space, and spiders), with one of our web developers (who was a plumber in his past life), discovering our hot water heater was not only leaking, but leaking into its own electrical panel, causing sparks and smoke.

The fire department was called, and after they confirmed our electrical fire woes, instructed us to cut the power to the building. Afterwards, because they weren’t busy that day (the joys of small-town emergency services), we got to play on the fire truck and take pictures with our home town heroes.

One of the firefighters was named “Lord,” so you can bet my colleagues had a field day with that one.

“We were saved by the Lord!”

What experiences do you have with D&I, Infrastructure, or emergency services at your rural company?

Read more Unique Concerns of Rural HR:

  • Part 1 - Recruiting Where Everybody Knows Your Name
  • Part 2 - Diversity Challenges & Infrastructure Woes
  • Part 3 - Tractor Traffic Jams & Wild Animal Encounters


About the Author

April Loebick is the Recruitment & Retention Specialist for GetUWired, an internet marketing firm located in Dahlonega (Duh-lawn-uh-guh), GA – about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. GetUWired is a full-service digital marketing agency with a team of 45 web developers, graphic designers, marketers, copywriters, and more who are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed all from a large cabin office in the middle of nowhere. She's also an HR for HR steering committee member and community steward for the Rural HR and Talent Acquisition groups.

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