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Strategies for Embracing Diversity at Your Construction Company

Benefits packages and advancement opportunities make businesses more inclusive. 

There’s no doubt companies benefit from having a diverse workforce. A McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, and the those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to do so. 

The construction industry has been slow to catch on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overwhelming majority of employed workers — 88.8 percent — are white, and only about 9 percent are women. 

Even if companies do try to attract women and minorities, the monoculture of the workforce may deter diverse applicants from believing the field is open to them, said Michael Bellaman, president and chief executive officer of Associated Builders and Contractors.

“We want to get the best talent on the field. And if we’re only pulling from the white male population, we’re limited to that one segment of people. We need to make the industry attractive to everybody,” said Bellaman. 

Here are four steps that can help your company reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce.

Create employee resource groups

Encouraging the development of employee resource groups (ERGs) formed around diversity-related interests, such as women or Asians in construction, can help foster a sense of community among underrepresented people on staff. 

“They can offer guidance on how to make the company and the industry more attractive to members of their community,” said Bellaman.

ERGs help create a more inclusive culture at companies and give a louder voice to unique issues and ideas related to diverse communities. 

“You need to have individual development plans for people so they can develop into leaders and demonstrate with integrity that career paths are based on merit."
Michael Bellaman, President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors

Partner with minority business enterprises

Teaming up with women- and minority-owned business on contracts is another move to consider. Not only will such a partnership help your company meet the diversity criteria some state contracts require, but it will show your staff and clients that you’re serious about making your business inclusive.

“Joint venture arrangements are great for diversity. You’ll give them an opportunity they might not otherwise have, and they’ll bring their network to the table, as well. It’s a win-win,” said Bellaman. 

The Minority Business Development Agency has a list of state agencies that can help you find minority-owned business enterprises and disadvantaged enterprises to partner with. 

Enhance your benefits package

A competitive benefits package will attract top talent from all walks of life to your workforce. 

Childcare and flexible hours will be attractive to working parents. 

“This is where the employee resource groups can help you out. They know what members of their communities want and can help you create more inclusive policies and benefits packages,” said Bellaman. 

Offer transparent advancement opportunities 

Nothing kills workers’ motivation faster than when they feel that advancement opportunities are open only to people who look a certain way. Offering clear, objective career plans for workers shows that people of any gender, race or background can succeed at your company.

“You need to have individual development plans for people so they can develop into leaders and demonstrate with integrity that career paths are based on merit,” said Bellaman. “Your performance management system needs to be based on merit and commitment to the core values of your company.”

Securing top talent is instrumental to growing your business. By embracing diversity, you’ll draw workers who can drive innovation and open new doors to success. 

Joni Sweet is a journalist with interests that range from workers’ rights and business success to travel, health and lifestyle. You can read more of her work at www.jonimsweet.com.

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