This article was originally posted in a longer format at nccercornerstone.org.
A large portion of society is still under the impression that diversity is limited solely to gender, race and religion, when in fact, it encompasses a great deal more. Individuals are beginning to realize that a diverse workforce brings incomparable value to an organization and that the unique combination of different experiences, backgrounds and skill sets, when coupled with hard work, has the power to propel industry progress forward.
If you’ve ever completed a group project and given a basic PowerPoint presentation, you know that there are those group partners with fluent speaking skills that you want eloquently presenting the information and then there are those who effortlessly design the template and ensure all technical aspects are in order before presentation day. It is not a new concept that we tailor tasks toward the strengths and weaknesses of our team members. However, what seems to be overlooked is that this very basic concept of having teams made up of various types of people with different attributes is directly linked to diversity and the varying skill sets that when combined, make projects successful.
Picture a group of construction craft professionals and without hesitation, the first image in your mind is middle-age men with hard hats, tool belts and steel-toed boots. With an image that is both outdated and undesirable splashed across all media outlets, our industry’s recruitment efforts are suffering. The issue is not that there is a shortage of jobs available in construction. In fact, it is quite the opposite as seen by the headlines across industry newsfeeds about the skills gap and labor shortages. There are an abundance of jobs available for those with the necessary skills and credentials. The bigger problem stems from the fact that jobs in our industry appear to be reserved only for those resembling the cookie cutter construction craft professionals portrayed in the media.
Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industries, commented in an article that “diversity drives innovation.” While the recruitment of a diverse workforce is important, the work doesn’t stop there. Retaining these individuals necessitates a great deal of attention. If current employees continue to look elsewhere for industries that are more innovative and forward thinking, our shortages and skills gap will grow exponentially faster than they already have. By rethinking the meaning of diversity, we can begin to understand the value it can bring to our industry. Only then, will we begin rebuilding the diverse workforce that builds America.