How the construction industry is increasing inclusion and diversity: 3 key steps

Woman in a construction uniform, hard hat and goggles having a discussion with three men wearing the same gear

When considering inclusion and diversity on an industry level, some lessons can be gleaned from the construction sector. We’re seeing a number of workforce challenges being addressed through inclusion and diversity — from the industry’s talent shortage due to an aging workforce, to perception issues among younger workers and the need to attract digital talent as the industry becomes more reliant on technology.

But where should companies begin their journey toward advancing inclusion and diversity in the workplace? To find out, Willis Towers Watson held a discussion with senior construction executives* who shared their views on inclusion and diversity and what they’re doing to promote it within their own organizations.

Here are three tactics gleaned from their discussion:

1. Diversify the talent pipeline

Panelists agreed that by opening up the talent pool to include younger, more diverse workers of all genders, you’ll get different perspectives – which can lead to better outcomes on the jobsite, in project management and design. It can also encourage teamwork, leading to a better dynamic and more cohesiveness. They also mentioned the importance of fostering relationships with diverse sub-contractors by integrating them more during the pre-qualification stage and into training programs.

To address the issue of the lack of women in construction, the panelists encouraged getting senior management support for recruiting practices that could attract women to the industry. Examples include partnering with universities to award scholarships to women in disciplines related to construction, such as engineering, architecture and construction management. Other examples include mentorship programs that enable women leaders already in the industry to aid other women in their professional development.

2. Lead by example

When asked about the key actions critical to nurturing inclusion and diversity in the construction workplace, the panelists agreed that it starts by leading from the top. It’s critical that senior leadership have the “willingness to try” by being intentional about inclusion and diversity and investing in the workforce in order to nurture it. In essence, leaders need to set the tone and lead by example. This echoes our research, which found that I&D initiatives are more successful when leaders work beyond the compliance imperative and embed inclusion as part of the management processes within their organizational culture.

3. Listen to your employees

Most of the panelists agreed that organizations must engage their employees to understand their needs relative to inclusion and diversity. By soliciting feedback, organizations can empower their workforces to enable change and participate in shaping what their organizations will look like in the future. Simple actions such as employee engagement surveys or town halls were mentioned as effective ways to capture employee needs and feedback. Additionally, sustaining a culture of inclusion and diversity hinges on ensuring the right people who fit your culture are brought into the organization.

Taken together, these approaches can help construction companies increase workforce diversity and help ensure all employees feel they belong and can achieve their work goals. As the construction industry continues to experience the effects of a shrinking qualified labor pool, I&D efforts can help transform the labor landscape industry-wide.

* “The Changing Face of Construction: A Panel Discussion on Inclusion and Diversity”, part of the Willis Towers Watson 2018 Construction Risk Management Conference, featured Linda Rabbitt, Chairman and CEO Rand* Construction & Director Willis Towers Watson, Lorraine Bergman – President/CEO Caliente Construction and Darien Grant, VP Inclusion, Turner Construction Company

About Paul Becker

Paul Becker is Willis Towers Watson’s Global Practice Leader, Construction, with 30 years of insurance experience…
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