Encouraging A Diverse and Inclusive Company Culture
It’s no secret that the construction industry workforce has diversity challenges. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report found that 87.9% of workers identified as being white and just 11% of employees were women. This is to say nothing of the presence of contributors with neurodivergent traits or from different cultures. Yet, having a more diverse workforce is an ethical imperative and can impact businesses’ ability to be innovative competitors in the field.
In many ways, the issue here is at a cultural level. Construction companies need to ensure they are cultivating environments that attract and retain workers from different backgrounds. Importantly, the company culture needs to actively support and nurture these employees throughout their careers. This also tends to make a more positive workplace for everyone involved, which can boost morale and productivity.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into this subject. How can your company encourage a more diverse and inclusive culture?
Educate Your Staff
A truly inclusive culture is difficult to achieve if your employees don’t have a good understanding of this concept. Indeed, one of the challenges businesses face is that workers may have less-informed perspectives on the matter. It’s certainly not unusual for people to have blind spots when it comes to their personal biases and discriminatory behavior. As such, there’s an ethical and practical imperative to provide training here.
This education should be designed to help staff manage various facets of discrimination in the workplace. Firstly, it should be geared toward providing an understanding of what types of actions are considered to be offensive. This should include examples of not just the overt examples of bias, but also more subtle forms of linguistic and behavioral discrimination. Alongside this, you must also provide training on how to react when discriminatory behavior is witnessed. It helps workers to be clear on their responsibilities and helps them feel secure that action can be taken.
One of the most overlooked yet vital areas of this education is impact. Alongside the language of bias and the practical steps to take, staff must understand how prejudice affects victims. Explore how frequent microaggressions can cause or contribute to long-term mental and physical health challenges. Work with community organizations that represent marginalized groups to provide accurate insights to workers.
Provide Appropriate Resources
Providing resources to employees can help bolster their engagement and strengthen their relationship with your business. In most cases, this involves companies offering health benefits, wellness programs and educational opportunities. However, it’s vital to recognize not all resources will be suitable for all employees. An inclusive culture is one that ensures all workers have access to resources appropriate to their needs.
This is a common issue when it comes to healthcare resources. Offering subsidized therapy sessions is a great way to improve workers’ mental wellness. However, you mustn’t overlook the potential for some workers to require access to specialist providers.
For instance, LGBTQ+ members of staff are likely to get better care from professionals experienced in the challenges queer patients face. Not to mention they’re less likely to experience discrimination from these therapists. Your wellness program should include protocols for helping workers identify the right professionals for their circumstances.
Adjust Recruitment and Development Programs
Recruitment and development programs are vital components of a diverse and inclusive company culture. Recruitment helps you to identify and attract the best talent to your business. Development ensures potential innovators and positive influencers rise into positions of leadership. However, too many of these programs aren’t well-designed to ensure diverse employees are found and nurtured.
One of the more common issues is that many traditional recruitment methods exclude those from traditionally marginalized socio-economic backgrounds. Wherever possible, avoid posting job requirements or setting applicant tracking system (ATS) filters that prioritize a university education or trade school. This helps to ensure those who couldn’t afford formal schooling or had to navigate family schedules can be equally represented. It also means your business may benefit from those with the drive to independently learn away from the classroom.
This commitment to supporting diversity should also extend to further training and development opportunities once they’re hired. Put alternative educational resources in place so workers with neurodivergent traits or learning challenges have the chance to grow. Identify mentors from a range of racial and social backgrounds so that employees can be guided by those who understand the challenges they face in the workplace.
Seek Staff Insights
Inclusivity is not something that should be dictated by leadership. This is especially important when the executive makeup of the business is largely composed of those of similar backgrounds. Your efforts to make the workplace more diverse and inclusive should be informed and led by the perspectives of your workforce. After all, they are likely to have a better understanding of the day-to-day culture of your business and how included they feel.
Implement a strong staff listening strategy. Issue annual employee experience surveys that include questions surrounding their perspectives on diversity and inclusivity. This should include contractors as well as full-time staff where possible. Make sure there are opportunities for workers to provide more expansive feedback. Importantly, be vocal about the challenges identified by these results. Show your workers you have heard them. Then invite them to be involved in devising solutions.
Part of this can involve forming a diversity and inclusivity committee. Build this with employees from a range of backgrounds and at all levels of seniority throughout the business. Give them the resources and freedom to make changes. Ensure executives are present at meetings and acting on the recommendations of this group.
Diversity and inclusivity are vital cultural elements for all industries, and construction businesses especially need to step up their efforts. This should include implementing thorough training on recognizing and responding to discrimination. Your company should also be cognizant of providing resources and developmental resources appropriate for those from varied backgrounds. Perhaps most importantly, keep your staff meaningfully involved in informing and influencing continued cultural improvements.
When you make efforts to help everyone feel more welcome in your company, all stakeholders stand to benefit.