2020 will always be a year remembered as, well, unprecedented. From a global pandemic causing businesses and schools to pivot to remote environments, to new questions surrounding racial and gender equality, the events of 2020 have had an impact on all industries. Businesses are looking internally to make their corporate environments more inclusive and representative of all employees, and the construction industry is no exception.
Many companies in the construction industry are working aggressively to make the workforce more diverse, equitable and inclusive (DE&I). But what does that mean? What is a diverse workforce?
A simple definition is that a diverse workforce is one that has employees who are all different. And while this is true, a diverse workforce is more complex than just having women and men of various racial backgrounds. A diverse workforce is comprised of employees with unique backgrounds and perspectives that enable them to contribute new ideas to the organization.
More Than a Race or Gender
While gender and racial backgrounds often come to mind when discussing diversity, they are just a piece in the diversity puzzle. Age, disability status, self-identity and veteran status also play a big part in a diversified workforce.
For example, people are staying in the workforce longer, and many are opting not to retire at age 65 for a variety of reasons. This shift is causing a broader spectrum of ages in the workplace than in the past. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2029, those 55 and older will be a similar percentage of the workforce to the 25 to 34 age group. What does this mean for business?
For business, this span of ages can be a huge asset. You now have a workforce that has the experience with a workforce that brings in new ideas. Through blending, this can help a company achieve goals beyond the imagination.
In addition to the benefits of age diversity, people with disabilities can bring more to the workplace than meets the eye. Studies have shown that employees with disabilities take fewer sick days and are more likely to remain on the job longer than non-disabled workers. Also, according to The Chicago Lighthouse, people with disabilities are less likely to have work-related accidents.
Fostering a culture in which employees feel comfortable sharing the details of their personal identity also helps a company’s productivity. According to GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy organization, fostering an environment where LGBT staff are able to be their authentic selves at work leads to employee retention. This, in turn, leads to better overall productivity. It also allows for co-workers to better know their co-workers, leading to better bonds and an increase in productivity.
Another piece of the diversity puzzle is veterans. Veterans bring with them an understanding of the value of their work, are accountable and mission-focused. They often possess the ability to remain calm even in highly stressful situations. In addition, they are often used to handling confidential information and understand the importance of handling such information responsibly.
Where Diversity Starts
How does a company begin to diversify? You may think it starts with hiring, but it starts way before you hire your first employee. It needs to be woven into the fabric of your business; it needs to be the foundation of your company.
Leading companies commit to delivering a promise to their employees, clients and communities that the company is committed to DEI. This commitment drives their innovation and ensures you act as a responsible leader.
In order to achieve this commitment, make sure you look at your company as a whole and identify what you are trying to achieve. Don’t just say you want a diversified workforce – understand what your goals are and work towards finding the best talent to help you achieve those goals.
According to Forbes magazine, too many diversity initiatives do not accomplish the intended goal because companies are just copying and pasting from one another. Rather than a rinse/repeat, companies should work to outline goals and develop practices that implement these goals.
Don’t forget that your initiatives should include everyone. When you have a workforce that truly believes and understands the value of diversity, you start to cultivate a diverse workforce.
It’s About Your Company Culture
Whether you are just starting your business or looking to grow your workforce, remember to consistently embrace inclusion, celebrate the diversity of your workforce, and commit to fostering a positive work culture.
As you look toward developing your own DEI program, remember that it takes time. Have patience, practice what you preach and commit to making DEI part of your culture, not just a program. Once you do that, your workforce will flourish with not only diversity but with increased innovation.