Discussing diversity: “It’s good for business”
In case you didn’t know, it’s Pride month! And what better way to celebrate Pride than to get talking about it, engage with colleagues and share experiences. Last week, we brought you an article from our Accounts Assistant, Darrell Butler, about playing for one of the UK’s first LGBTQ+ cricket teams.
Darrell also mentioned our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) workgroup which was set up at Speller Metcalfe at the start of 2022. Since then, group has been raising the profile of issues and challenges to create conversations and help bring lesser known (or talked about) issues to the forefront of our staff communication.
Here our EDI Chair, Molly Lydia Shaw, tells us more…
Hi Molly, thanks for your time today. I know you are proactively raising the profile of a number of issues from sustainability to young people in construction, but can you tell us a bit about EDI?
As it stands, the construction industry is not a particularly diverse workforce, with ethnic minorities making up less than 6%, only a further 6% are registered as having a disability and approximately 2% of women are working in on-site roles.
Overwhelming independent research evidences that creating a more diverse workforce can significantly benefit an organisation and it’s staff across a number of areas, so we want to do more to promote and encourage inclusion and diversity at Speller Metcalfe, and to contribute to making the industry a fairer and more welcoming one.
What’s the purpose of the EDI group?
The main purpose of the group is to generate discussion and understanding of equality, equity, diversity and inclusion issues, and to come up with areas for improvement.
We hope that by raising awareness and creating opportunities for change, we will enable Speller Metcalfe to continue to embrace and support diversity.
Much like we must evolve and change with the times to keep pace with industry and new methods of construction, so should our attitudes and behaviours.
How did the EDI team get started?
When the team formed at the start of last year we started with a questionnaire that identified everyone’s experiences and ideas as a roundtable discussion and starting off point.
It was a surprisingly successful and proactive meeting, and made us realise that there are a lot of shorter-term goals that are very achievable, with long-term aspirational items that will need further planning and support to roll out.
Who is in the EDI group?
The group is made up of Speller Metcalfe employees from all facets of the business who have volunteered their time to work towards a more equal, diverse and inclusive business.
As Chair, I facilitate the meetings to support the group’s activities and allow members the opportunity to lead meetings with this position being rotated every few months. We currently have 15 members from across the company including directors, pre-construction and site staff, quantity surveyors and SHEQ representatives.
What are the EDI targets?
In our first two meetings we identified our short-term (3-6 month), mid-term (6-12 months) and long-term (12-24 months) objectives, which are rated by a traffic light priority system.
While the longer-term objectives take more consideration and planning, many of our targets have been small changes that, with the support of our staff, have made an immediate positive difference to the workplace, such as:
- Reviewing Speller Metcalfe company values;
- Ensuring any new member of staff joining the company takes part in a second interview with the Managing Director (who is also part of our workgroup) to make sure that they meet these values before being offered a position;
- Embedding EDI in the PDR process to help drive towards positive behavioural changes;
- Ensuring sanitary facilities are priced into every project;
- Ensuring that female on-site toilets are not used as storage;
- Mandatory EDI training for all staff;
- Supporting national awareness initiatives such as Pride, International Women’s Day, the menopause, Dyslexia Awareness Week and Ramadan through social media posts and articles;
- Promoting inclusivity to industry through our Knowledge Series CPD events;
- Developing an EDI calendar that recognises these days and using internal communications to promote these to staff;
- Creating marketing material that is more representative of a diverse workforce;
- Making EDI incidents reportable through a specific email address and clear route of communication;
- Asking staff to choose if they would like to display gender pronouns on their email signatures (non-compulsory).
Have you come up against any challenges?
In terms of promoting EDI issues and setting out objectives we have found staff to be very supportive and keen to join us in creating an environment of inclusivity.
What has been more challenging is understanding that there is a wealth of initiatives and opportunities to support EDI, but actually you can’t do them all. This is why having the traffic light system has helped us to refine our objectives and targets to a more manageable level.
As a follow on from this, I think you do need to be aware about communication overload for staff. As a company, we regularly communicate via a number of mediums such as e-shots, bulletins, newsletters, the intranet etc., and you have to be mindful that many of our teams, especially on site, are often dealing with high pressure, fast-paced environments and we have to be reasonable in our expectation of what they can manage.
Saying that, we’ve only ever found them to be supportive of the work that we are trying to carry out.
If you had any advice for another business looking to set up a similar workgroup, what would it be?
Like anything in life, you just have to give it a go! We get things wrong sometimes, but by not talking about EDI issues, we’re missing out on the opportunity to be more inclusive and employ a more diverse workforce – I would go back to my first point that as a business, the evidence is all there to suggest it can only benefit you in the longer-term.
I would also say that having an EDI group shouldn’t be made up just those considered minorities, such as women and LGBTQ+ identifying staff, you need representation from right across the business to enable all voices to be heard, but also to stand a good chance of creating behavioural change. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to say or do the wrong thing, the whole point of EDI is educating and supporting others in how to be more inclusive.