Four Ways Diversity Will Save the Construction Industry
Hiring minorities is simply good business. Recently, diversity has been a buzzword in the construction industry—so much so that construction trade associations, such as Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), have established inclusive policies and councils. Today, construction companies are facing a myriad of challenges that are mainstream as well as specific to the industry—including a particularly significant skilled labor shortage and increasing project complexity.
Here are four ways diversity will help the industry overcome those challenges.
1. Diversity is the solution to the systemic labor shortage
The skilled labor shortage currently afflicting U.S. employers is hitting the construction industry particularly hard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 263,000 construction jobs were open in June 2018, an increase from 202,000 a year ago. A 2017 survey of National Association of Home Builders’ members revealed 82 percent of those surveyed expect the cost and availability of labor to be their number one issue, compared to 13 percent in 2012. This means that if the industry is to thrive, it needs all hands on deck, and one solution is prioritizing diversity to broaden companies’ pool of potential employees.
Additionally, since the U.S. workforce is becoming increasingly racially, ethnically and gender-diverse, construction companies will be ahead of the curve if they embrace diversity now. For example, the BLS says that by 2060, white representation in the labor force will drop 17.5 percent from 2015, while Hispanic representation will jump 13.7 percent.
2. Inclusive work environments lead to greater engagement
Studies have shown that employees in a diverse environment are more engaged and happier than those who are not. This is especially important in the construction field because the work relies heavily on teamwork and good communication. Kirby Wu, president of Wu & Associates, said at the ABC’s 2016 summit on diversity in construction that increased diversity has positively impacted his company’s culture and success.
“When I interview candidates, they're very comfortable coming in. They see all the diversity here,” Wu says. “I think we have a competitive edge when we're trying to hire candidates. We have a culture and work environment that the employees will feel comfortable going to.”
3. Diversity increases productivity
Employing minorities not only fosters a positive work environment but also helps construction companies recruit the most qualified workers by widening the candidate pool from which they search. Gallup reports that removing bias from the interview process and hiring based on skills and talent leads to 41 percent less absenteeism, 70 percent fewer safety incidents and 59 percent less turnover.
And since construction projects are growing in complexity, to the point where companies are sometimes unable to deliver on time, talented workers are needed now more than ever. According to McKinsey & Co, gifted employees lead to a remarkable increase in a company’s performance: One talented person can be up to eight times more productive than average employees in high-complexity jobs. When contractors widen their candidate pools, they increase the chances of finding that gifted employee.
4. Diverse teams excel in decision making and innovation
Critical reasoning skills enable construction workers to assess problems and fix them, and a diverse team enhances these skills. When faced with an obstacle, a group comprising different perspectives will reach a better solution faster.
Also, McKinsey reports that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33 percent more likely to outperform other teams’ profit results. That’s because bringing together people with varied experiences and backgrounds promotes creative problem solving and decision making. Leaders understand it’s counterproductive to ask people who think the same way to reach innovative business solutions; diverse thinkers stir the pot and brew better ideas.
By recruiting women and minorities, construction companies will not only be able to hire more talent; they’ll be able to hire smarter. Promoting diversity in the industry—and thereby opening the doors to greater employee engagement, business innovation and performance—is a strong solution for ensuring future success.