Delving deeper into diversity

3 min read

Across industries, from education to financial services, companies now know that there is value in building a diverse workforce. Diversity can boost innovation, increase creativity and employee engagement, leading to better company performance.

Companies are factoring in age and sexual orientation, disabilities and gender identity when building their teams – and those who set diversity goals tend to outperform their peers.

However, if there is a real business case for diversity, the construction sector is still lagging behind in making the most of it. Construction is, in fact, ranking lower than the energy & mining sector on any diversity measure. 

So, how can the industry wake up to the value of diversity and how can we do more to unlock it? Part of the answer lies in leadership and strategy. 

Can diversity unlock productivity?

McKinsey & Company conducted a survey of 180 companies across Europe and the United States and found that those with the most diverse teams were among the top financial performers. 

The same is true for construction and the work we deliver as an industry. Diversity of age, gender identity and race results in a variety of perspectives and ideas - which can lead project teams faster to the best solution. 

Diversity can accelerate the pace of innovation in construction, as project teams can draw on ideas from individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. 

It can also build an authentic work environment, where teams reflect the diverse communities they build in, creating a sense of belonging for people in the organisation. 

Construction companies which operate globally and whose teams look more like the communities where they work, are more likely to have a competitive advantage to companies that may not have embraced diversity. 

As an international business, the construction industry must make a conscious effort to reflect these markets and continue our efforts to recruit the brightest individuals across the industry.

Leadership and strategy 

We have to recognise that everyone has different methods of achieving success and understand that if we are all contributing to the same goals, it won’t necessarily be in the same way. 

Leaders understand that one size does not fit all regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation although this can have an effect. This results in a great butterfly effect – boosting team morale, attracting and retaining talent and ultimately overall positive results. 

Leaders who prioritise diversity understand the individuals in their teams, their ways of working, and give them the best opportunities to succeed. 

What can we do differently?

If you’re thinking about driving change and productivity in your organisation, encouraging diversity is the right action. 

Listening to people in the organisation and offering them the right platforms for open conversations around inclusion is the place to start. Encouraging diversity initiatives and activities can quickly snowball if they’re led by your most determined employees. Highlight diversity leaders in your organisation, make their voice heard or offer them the right opportunities to speak and encourage other people to join in. 

To attract people to your organisation, you can review your hiring practices. Is diversity at the forefront of what you’re communicating to potential employees? Changing demographics comes with a greater concern from people on the job market about an organisation’s culture of inclusivity, equality and social purpose. 

Mace is continuing to grow as an inclusive company, and we’ve been actively setting up diversity and inclusion groups. In 2019 I took the lead to form the new EDIN (Ethnic, Diversity Inclusion Network) group and I was overwhelmed with the positive reaction and support from senior figures in the business. The group is now a strong network of support, safety and conversation. 

EDIN’s key objective, alike other inclusion networks, is to promote a progressive and inclusive culture within Mace. We are led by a steering committee, and we meet regularly and actively to engage our employees across the country, leaving nobody behind. 

Mace is not just about construction but about people – our greatest asset. We want to reflect the diversity of our international work and global programmes in the diversity of our teams. Knowing the value of diversity in driving productivity is the first step in this direction. 

Priya Aiyer and Poonam Parmar are co-founders of Mace's EDIN group.