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Hard Hat Required – Print – Issue 207 – January 2022 | Article of the Week

HARVEY FRANCIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT - SKANSKA UK PLC

ALTHOUGH CONSTRUCTION HAS ALTERED IN MANY SIGNIFICANT WAYS, THE PERCEPTION IS IT IS HAVING TROUBLE CATCHING UP WITH CHANGING REALITY. IT ’S A MUCH-MISUNDERSTOOD SECTOR FOR SURE, BUT IT IS TRUE TO SAY THAT WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO, TO HAVE THE DIVERSITY THAT MOST OTHER SECTORS BENEFIT FROM.

Skanska, the company I work for, has done a lot over the past few years to attract more people from typically under-represented groups, with some success. But this requires an open-minded approach at all points in the resourcing process, as our traditional talent pools are still quite un-diverse. Whilst the number of females graduating from civil engineering degrees is increasing, the change is not happening fast enough and therefore we have been taking a wider approach to early career recruitment, focusing more on apprenticeships and non-engineering degrees. The result is, half of our annual emerging talent intake is now from underrepresented groups. But there is a fundamental issue to be addressed, which is to do with the perception – and, to some degree, the reality – of how inclusive a male dominated workplace can really be. This is where we are placing most of our focus and why we refer to our work in this area as I&D rather than D&I.

If the workplace culture isn’t inclusive and appreciative of difference, then there’s really no point in trying to increase the number of people from under-represented groups. Organisations must put in place the initiatives, infrastructure and support mechanisms required to retain diverse talent. We have six active Employee Networks, each of which plays a critical role in supporting colleagues and amplifying their voices within the business and the network leads sit on our I&D Leaders Forum, along with our CEO. This allows us to better understand the needs of our diverse groups and helps us design actions from the point of view of the lived experience of our employees.

So, with that in mind, we have set about really trying to understand the lived experience of how all demographic groups experience our culture, what helps them feel included and crucially, what is in the way of realising that.

The critical ingredient in making sure we are successful, is leadership. If leaders aren’t convinced by the need for and benefits of inclusion and diversity, then simply put, it will not happen. We have run strategic narrative workshops with our leaders, to help them personally develop and articulate their own authentic business case, as to why I&D is vital to the delivery of their business objectives. If leaders believe in the benefits and want it to happen, they can make it so. HR can’t do it, but it must be considered and valued as a priority at business level, not at a functional level. The tried-and-tested approaches used over the past few years have taken us to where we are today, but simply won’t take us where we need to go next. Over the last 18 months, we have engaged over 100 of our senior leaders in discussions about, how to have conversations about race and LGBTQ+, helping them understand the different experiences and issues underrepresented groups can face.

Construction has an ageing workforce and historically has under-invested in skills development, due in part to the volatile nature of the work pipeline and the plentiful availability of workers from Europe and elsewhere. This availability is no longer there. Therefore, the key to remaining sustainable is the development of home-grown skills and talent and taking full advantage of the wonderful diversity the whole labour market has to offer. By definition, I don’t believe it’s possible to build for a better society if our workplaces are not truly inclusive, so the business case for greater inclusion is very clear.

FOR FURTHER INFO SKANSKA.CO.UK

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