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The current multi-generational construction workforce is more culturally diverse than ever. Recruiting, training and collaborative thinking play a critical role in hiring, retention and marketplace success. 

Focusing on diversity as a company is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Promoting and adapting to diversity in the workplace and when working with diverse joint venture partners, subcontractors and suppliers showcases good corporate citizenship practices and potentially gives the company a competitive advantage. 

Following are six reasons why construction companies should embrace diversity.

1. The U.S. workforce is rapidly becoming more diverse.  
Plenty of quantitative data shows a trend toward a more diverse society. According to a 2008 study by the Pew Research Center, the overall workforce of 2050 will be dramatically different from that of today. By 2050, the total foreign-born population will reach historic peaks. Additionally, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women will continue to increase their participation in the labor force, but not enough to offset the expected decline in white male participation as a percentage of the total workforce. All of these trends are exacerbated when examining the construction workforce population as a sub-sector of the population as a whole.

2. There is a marked demographic shift in construction company ownership toward minorities and women.
By the end of 2020, more than 50 percent of businesses entering the construction industry will be minority- or female-owned. This trend is driven in large part by Hispanic contractors that now represent 17 percent of construction companies.

3. Companies already are gaining value from the diversity initiatives they’ve implemented in workforce development and joint ventures/subcontracting.
Qualitative responses from Fortune 500 companies implementing diversity initiatives demonstrate the benefits of increased workplace diversity. In addition, studies of effective subcontracting strategies suggest that companies with proactive strategies at the outset find greater success in winning and performing increasingly larger contracts in both the public and private sectors.

4. Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. 
Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of Fortune 500 executives agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that  foster innovation.

5. An inclusive workforce and diverse strategic partnerships are crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent and grow their business.
Because competition for talent is fierce in today’s global economy, companies need to have plans in place to recruit, develop and retain a diverse workforce. Likewise, opportunities for partnering are becoming increasingly competitive in construction, as broad teams of companies with differing areas of expertise and experiences are competing for the larger projects being bid.

6. The first companies to adapt to the inevitability of a more diverse workforce and construction ownership environment will reap a competitive advantage. 
These companies will have a head start in identifying the human resources and business development issues related to diversity and in devising and employing best practices to address these issues.

Sam Carradine is development and diversity consultant for The Surety and Fidelity Association of America and a founding member of Associated Builders and Contractors’ National Diversity Committee. For more information, email [email protected].

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