Construction is an industry that is still struggling with a lack of diversity.
Focusing on the diversification of your workforce can positively impact your company culture and help you overcome challenges that the industry is facing.
This article is going to explore what diversity in the construction industry looks like at the moment, as well as why it is important.
If you are looking to find out how you can promote inclusivity in your own company and make it a safe and welcoming space for all of your employees, keep on reading.
In this article...
Current State of Diversity in Construction
In order to understand why focusing on diversity and inclusion within your construction company is beneficial, we must first understand what the industry currently looks like in terms of gender, ethnicity, and race.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry is still predominantly white and male. In 2020, out of 10.8 million people working in construction, only about 11% were women.
However, this doesn’t mean that they all fill trade positions. In fact, the majority of women in construction work in office roles:
These numbers go to show that women are still very underrepresented in the construction industry, even though they may be able to take on any role.
Apart from being male-dominated, construction is an industry that mostly employs white men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Non-Hispanic white individuals make up 60.9% of the construction labor force, followed by 30% of workers of Hispanic origin.
Other racial minorities included in the statistics account for a small percentage of workers in the construction industry—only 5.1% of non-Hispanic black people and 1.8% of non-Hispanic Asian people.
Taking into account the fact that women and non-white people in the construction industry are underrepresented, it is safe to say that diversity in the construction industry is still lacking.
Why Diversity Benefits Construction
With the shortage of construction workers, and the fact that the existing labor force is aging, the construction industry has the task of attracting new workers.
Diversifying the workforce can aid in solving this issue.
An industry that is predominantly white and male can have the tendency to create a work culture that is not comfortable for women or different racial and ethnic minorities.
In order to tackle this issue and make the construction industry more diverse, construction companies need to work on making their work environment more inclusive.
Here are some of the benefits of putting in that effort.
It Tackles the Labor Shortage
Apart from the issues stemming from construction material shortages and supply chain disruptions, the construction industry is struggling with a severe lack of construction workers.
To tackle this issue and achieve more equality in the workplace all at once, it is necessary to offer opportunities to those underrepresented in the industry.
Additionally, broadening the hiring pool is going to make it easier for you to find candidates with the skills your company needs.
Paul Robinson, the Founder of ConstructReach, provided some tips on how you can minimize the labor gap by diversifying your team.
Robinson explains that it is important for construction companies to engage with young people and support the communities they come from in order to improve their perception of the construction industry:
Furthermore, the results of Glassdoor’s Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey show that 3 in 4 job seekers find diversity to be important when job hunting.
These findings corroborate the idea that fostering an environment where all genders, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender expressions are welcome is likely to attract more potential workers, thus helping you deal with the labor shortage.
It Improves Employee Engagement
If you choose to make the effort to diversify your workforce, you can not only attract new employees, but also improve the engagement of your current team.
Having employees that are dedicated to and enthusiastic about their job is essential for a construction company to be successful and productive.
To achieve this kind of engagement, you need to create an environment where your employees feel like they can trust and relate to each other.
“When diversity practices and trust co-exist in an organization”, research shows, “it increases employee engagement.”
In practice, companies that nurture diversity and inclusion notice improved employee engagement, which results in better performance and productivity.
Pepper Construction is a construction company that places importance on having a diverse workforce, with 30% of employees being women.
The company’s VP of technical services Jennifer Suerth elaborates on the positive impact increased diversity has had:
Making an effort to diversify your workforce is likely to bring you positive results.
Apart from opening yourself up to new groups of people with a passion for construction, you are also fostering an environment where your employees feel motivated.
It Increases Company Performance
Actively making an effort to remove biases can not only help you make a positive change, but also improve the performance and success of your company.
McKinsey’s 2018 report “Delivering through Diversity” confirms this.
Namely, if you have a diverse executive team—especially with more women in line roles—your company is 33% more likely to outperform your competitors.
If you’re wondering why this is the case, the answer is quite simple: because “a diverse and inclusive workplace is central to a company’s ability to attract, develop, and retain the talent it needs to compete.”
It is no longer enough for companies to offer a competitive salary in order to attract people that are the right fit for the role.
People want to work for companies where diversity and inclusion matter.
Kirby Wu, president of Wu & Associates, has experienced first-hand that welcoming diversity can have a positive impact on a construction company’s success:
If you’re not making it a point to open the doors of your company to the members of underrepresented groups, you are likely missing out on hiring people that could help your company thrive.
It Promotes Innovation
Giving an opportunity to individuals who don’t dominate the field can also help you enhance innovation within your company.
Companies that fail to consider hiring non-male and non-white individuals are missing out, says Sandi Rhys-Jones, senior vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Building.
If you choose to broaden your hiring pool, you are increasing your odds of finding individuals who have a completely new and unique way of thinking.
As a construction manager, you’re likely to find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure what to do.
In such cases, you will probably want to hear different perspectives and creative solutions from your team members.
This is where having a diverse team proves valuable. People with different backgrounds and experiences are going to have different ways of approaching issues.
In fact, research shows that diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time.
By promoting diversity within your company, you are creating a space where the employees feel comfortable being themselves and, as a result, coming up with innovative solutions.
How to Promote Inclusion in Construction
Now that we’ve provided some insight into why you should consider diversifying your workforce, it is time to see how you can implement these positive changes.
We are going to share some of the steps you can take in order to turn your construction company into a welcoming and inclusive space for your current and future employees.
Create a Welcoming Environment
If you’re looking to attract people from different backgrounds, you are going to need to let them know that your company is a safe space where everyone is welcome.
The first step towards making your company a more inclusive place is making your hiring practices diverse.
Take the time to build relationships with apprenticeship programs and trade unions, as this is likely to provide you with access to new talent with diverse skill sets and backgrounds.
You will also need to make sure that your hiring process is in alignment with the values of inclusivity.
Here are some steps you can take to achieve this:
Apart from updating your hiring process to be more inclusive, we also recommended taking a look at and re-evaluating your current company policies.
Make sure you have an anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policy.
You want to make it clear to your current and future employees that they can feel safe and protected from any form of discrimination at your company.
Taking this kind of action is a good way to start creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment that will attract a larger number of talented individuals.
Be a Role Model
While it is important to openly state that your company strives for inclusivity, diversity, and equality, that is not enough.
Your company needs to take concrete steps to enforce these values, and this starts with you.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to set an example for your employees.
Cliff Cole, the VDC Director at The PENTA Building Group, shares some valuable advice on what leaders can do in order to serve as role models for their employees:
As Cole explains, new generations are coming into the industry, and it falls to the leadership to show them they’re all welcome, regardless of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality.
Take conscious action to learn more about the issues that underrepresented groups face.
Listen to their experiences and have conversations about what you can do to improve inclusivity at your company.
If you lead with an effort to make a positive change, your employees are sure to follow suit.
Improve Interpersonal Communication
A good way to include your employees in the process of promoting inclusivity in your company is to work on improving how they communicate with each other.
Make it clear that inappropriate language won’t be tolerated. In order to make sure that communication between your employees is respectful, take the time to highlight the importance of using inclusive language.
By making an effort to consciously use inclusive language to communicate with each other, you are showing that you recognize and respect each other and your differences.
Since fully implementing inclusive language requires time and practice, you and your team need to make continuous efforts to improve your communication.
An efficient way to achieve this is through reverse mentoring.
The idea is to pair up leaders with employees from an underrepresented group in order to learn about their experiences and how they can support them better.
Through this kind of open communication, it becomes easier to understand the importance of inclusive language and respectful communication.
Prevent Disrespectful Behavior
Even with an effort to promote inclusivity through respectful communication and inclusive language, unacceptable behavior still might occur.
If one of your employees finds themselves in a situation where they are being discriminated against or disrespected, it is integral that you stand up for them.
Discrimination in the workplace is one of the biggest issues the construction industry is facing.
According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a shocking number of respondents working in the construction industry have expressed that they experienced discrimination or prejudice while at work.
These results should be a sign for construction company owners and managers that change needs to be made.
Do your best to create a space where your employees feel comfortable coming to you if they experience disrespect or discrimination.
While it may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, it is incredibly important for you to address and discipline such behaviors appropriately.
By actively implementing a zero-tolerance for discrimination policy, you are letting them know that you take their experiences seriously and that you want them to feel safe working for you.
By creating opportunities for underrepresented groups of people, you are also creating an opportunity for your business to tackle the issue of labor shortage and improve employee engagement and company performance.
Focusing on inclusivity plays a big part in making a positive cultural shift, so make sure to set an example for your employees and highlight the importance of respectful communication.