How diversity will shape the construction industry

This article was originally published 20 April 2020.

Growth, innovation and productivity in the workplace are undeniably driven by diversity. Organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusiveness at all levels - especially in leadership - lead within their industries, because they focus strongly on creating rich learning environments and positive cultures necessary for fostering ideation and innovation.

The BDO Construction survey found that the majority of participants are challenged by attracting, retaining and developing talent. Overall, there is historical lack of diversity within the entire construction industry and interestingly, only 58% of those surveyed have a diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) policy.

Having the right D&I policy and initiatives in place is a vital step for setting the ‘tone at the top' that diversity is important and a priority to be considered in all areas of the businesses, such as in the recruitment process. Like many construction companies today, they are looking to attract quality talent, especially when it comes to specialist skills, they need to internally reflect the values and diversity of the talent they are looking to attract.

One topical issue in the construction industry right now is gender balance, which lags behind other industries when it comes to its representation of women, especially in senior management. This low representation of women may discourage talented women with the desired skills from applying, as they may not feel they will be heard, nor believe there is opportunity for career growth. This under-representation is further exacerbated by the notable gender pay gap highlighted in the survey – it is difficult to both attract and retain female talent if they are under-remunerated in comparison to their male peers.

These issues may also have a flow-effect for future talent, with women not pursuing an education or career in construction given the male-dominance, making it viewed as inaccessible to younger women.

Construction companies need to critically review their workplace culture, leadership and businesses practices to identify areas that may be hindering their ability to attract and retain female talent.

These reviews could include the recruitment processes, career development programs, workplace flexibility, remuneration and incentives at the least, and could expand to review the broader operating model.

It’s also important to note that these issues of under-representation of certain groups in the construction industry are not limited to gender but apply to ethnicity, ability and age diversity. Another challenge highlighted in the survey was the management of millennial employees – an understandable issue given the average industry age is quite high and there are often different attitudes and values between age groups. This could also suggest that there may be some barriers to younger people entering and staying in the industry. In the medium to longer term, this poses a significant issue for companies in looking to attract new technical and technological skills – and the longevity of the business. A focus, therefore, on creating a workplace culture that values knowledge and skill sharing from both the top-down and bottom-up as well as encouraging mentoring to help bridge the ‘culture’ gap, plus driving productivity as a result of new ways of thinking.

At the end of the day, if there is only one type of leader in your company, it’s almost certain that you will only attract and retain one type of employee. Therefore, it’s critical from both an innovation and growth perspective construction companies should become leaders in focusing on building a diverse culture and leadership team to attract and retain top tier talent.

Access the BDO Construction Survey 2020

If you would like further information on how to implement a diversity and inclusion strategy, contact our team.