All Inclusive

The winners of ABC’s 2023 National Excellence in Inclusion, Diversity and Merit Awards set the standard when it comes to building the 21st-century workforce.
By Christopher Durso
June 4, 2024

Every year, ABC’s National Excellence in Inclusion, Diversity and Merit Awards honor ABC member companies that “display exemplary inclusion, diversity and meritocratic leadership in their workforce, supply chain and community, with best-in-class recruitment policies, retention practices and education and mentoring programs.”

At ABC Convention in March, four companies were recognized as part of the 2023 IDM Awards program, sponsored by United Rentals. Construction Executive asked each of them to share their IDM success story.

John B. Cruz Construction Co. Inc., Roxbury, Massachusetts
John B. Cruz III, President and CEO, Cruz Companies

Why is IDM important to the construction industry?

The construction industry has a complicated past when it comes to inclusion, diversity and merit. On the one hand, many of my colleagues at Cruz Construction, and I have direct and firsthand experience of racial discrimination and have even been shut out from opportunities to bid on major projects. On the other hand, in the face of well-documented racism from trade unions, merit-based groups such as ABC have long provided a welcoming community for many builders of color. These challenges and complexities are not all in the past, either. The need for equality and fairness is an ongoing conversation with significant material implications for tens of thousands of tradespeople nationwide.

That’s why it’s essential for the construction industry to prioritize inclusion, diversity and merit. Developing a career in this field offers a motivated worker one of the most consistent and enduring paths to economic empowerment, and everyone deserves a seat at that table. As a 100% Black-owned firm with more than 75 years of construction experience in numerous cities, we’ve also seen firsthand how communities and the building projects themselves benefit when a talented, diverse—and, oftentimes, local—workforce is literally and figuratively invested in these initiatives’ success. From generating a recruitment pipeline to fostering community good will, a focus on IDM will drive money and wealth into the neighborhoods where construction happens.

As one of the country’s most important large-scale job creators, we believe the construction industry has both an obligation and a crucial opportunity to be a leader in this regard. It’s also our hope that the field can set an example for the wider real-estate industry, which for too long has passed off the task of promoting MBE participation to contractors alone. Pushing for these fair and equitable approaches and putting them into practice should not fall only on the builders—owners and other actors in the real-estate world must take responsibility as well.

Inclusion, diversity and merit have to be priorities across the board. When this commitment comes from the very top down, the needle starts to move much faster.

What is an IDM initiative at your company that you’re particularly proud of?

We’re especially proud of how Cruz Construction and our broader organization, Cruz Companies, have built a track record of local workforce utilization, with a priority placed on hiring workers of color. This is an explicit goal and a key part of our business model, and it has paid off. Over more than half a century, we’ve been able to bring millions of dollars directly into the communities where we’re building while also building strong and lasting relationships with skilled subcontractors and tradespeople—many of whom we hire again for subsequent project work.

Our network now includes 50-plus MBE specialty contractors and suppliers, and we pledge a goal of 75% minority representation among subcontractors.

In a similar vein, we’re also proud of how our approach to workforce development serves IDM goals. For example, Cruz Construction has a longstanding apprenticeship program in which we pay for these workers to enter local trade schools and become licensed journeymen—creating a path for dozens of minority tradespeople to earn full rates. We partner with nonprofit organizations such as YouthBuild Boston, Gould Construction Institute and Building Mass Careers, creating career paths for workers from historically underrepresented populations.

How do you define success when it comes to IDM?

We believe there are a few critical measures of success when it comes to inclusion, diversity and merit. On the one hand, numbers don’t lie. We can review our statistics and see that, across Cruz Construction’s five most recent building projects, 78% of project dollars went to MBEs, with 83% minority workforce and 65% local residents. Looking back over the past 70-plus years, our records show that we’ve utilized an average of 70% MBE contractors and consultants and 70% minority workers on all construction projects. For any organization in the construction industry that promotes a focus on IDM, being able to prove that commitment with facts and figures is a must.

On the other hand, there are more subjective measures of IDM success as well. For instance, do your employees feel valued and that they have every opportunity to succeed on merit no matter who they are? Is your recruitment pipeline full of diverse, talented workers from a range of different backgrounds? Are you delivering economic opportunities to the communities where you have projects, and are you finding other ways to give back? The construction industry is built on relationships, and bringing more people into the fold is key to IDM success.

Turner Construction Co., New York City
Christopher McFadden, Vice President, Communications and Marketing

Why is IDM important to the construction industry?

The construction industry is comprised of very diverse groups, be it trades, races, genders, religions or political affiliation. The industry needs more workers to meet demands for our services. To attract more workers to our industry, we must continue efforts to make it a better place to work for people of all backgrounds. We must create spaces where people feel safe, treated with respect and can work with dignity. In the construction industry, we continuously talk about maintaining a safe work environment. Respect and dignity are critical to having a safe work environment.

What is an IDM initiative at your company that you’re particularly proud of?

As we construct buildings that add resources and character to our communities, it is incredibly rewarding to create and sustain an environment where people can be at their best, be authentic and are treated with dignity and respect. Creating the right environment and eliminating hate and bias in the workplace is lasting and life-changing work.

How do you define success when it comes to IDM?

We will not solve the world’s problems, but we do have an opportunity to utilize our position to lead and participate in efforts to make significant change in our industry. The improvements we make through purposeful actions will have lasting benefits far beyond our careers and lifetimes. And that is incredibly rewarding.

Interstates, Sioux Center, Iowa
Danielle Crough, Vice President of People and Culture

Why is IDM important to the construction industry?

From a business perspective, IDM is important to the construction industry because we need talent. The way to attract and retain that talent is through making sure an organization is operated in a way that promotes inclusion and is merit-based. By doing this well, all populations of people will want to be part of our organizations and the construction industry.

Additionally, innovation is consistently shown to occur most often from diverse teams. Making sure the construction industry is attractive to people from all backgrounds and perspectives is another way to ensure we have the creativity needed in the future to be successful.

What is an IDM initiative at your company that you’re particularly proud of?

One of the most impactful IDM initiatives at Interstates, which was initiated through our safety team, is focused on inclusion and belonging. It’s called “You Matter, I Care.”—and this entire program is focused on teaching people how to have simple yet meaningful conversations to show people they care about them. All team members seem to have taken ownership in showing others they care and making sure others feel they belong at Interstates.

It’s also been an opportunity for leaders to communicate with other leaders when we may have an opportunity for improving inclusion. This has been instrumental when discovering some barriers that may make connecting more difficult, such as language barriers, aspects of neurodiversity or struggles with mental health.

How do you define success when it comes to IDM?

Success for IDM at Interstates is when all people feel like they have a sense of belonging at the company, all people have access to opportunities and the organization is demographically representative of the communities in which we reside and work.

United Rentals Inc., Stamford, Connecticut
Monica Rodriguez, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Why is IDM important to the construction industry?

We see so much value in having a diverse workforce not only because our team is reflective of the communities we serve, but we’re able to grow and expand because of the unique perspectives, experiences and talents. Attracting and retaining talent is critical to ensuring we’re able to serve our customers and communities across our global footprint.

What is an IDM initiative at your company that you’re particularly proud of?

Our commitment to DEI is demonstrated through many efforts, including employee-led employee resource groups, which I’m most proud of. Our seven ERGs aim to represent and support the diverse communities that make up our workforce by facilitating networking and connecting with peers, education and awareness efforts, and leadership and skill development.

How do you define success when it comes to IDM?

For our employees, we know that accelerating diversity is not only about hiring. We also need to develop and retain talent—at all levels of our business—as well as invest in a robust pipeline of future leaders. We track this through our Diversity Momentum tool, which helps us determine how we are doing in this aspirational goal of increasing the number of women BIPOC employees in sales and management positions.

by Christopher Durso

Chris leads Construction Executive’s day-to-day operations—overseeing all print and digital content, design and production efforts, and working with the editorial team to tell the many stories of America’s builders and contractors. An experienced association magazine editor, writer and publications strategist, he is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University and lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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