Every February, we come together as a nation to celebrate Black History Month. This month is the time to reflect on black Americans’ past and celebrate their achievements. As a future-focused industry, we, for one, want to use this month as an opportunity to focus on black Americans’ future.
To make a positive impact on the future for black Americans, we must do the work inside our industry first and foremost. To do so, we all must prioritize inclusion today and every day. And we as members of the construction industry have a unique opportunity to do so. The construction industry is responsible for positively impacting our communities’ progress. But, the industry itself isn’t representative of our communities. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 6.2% of construction workers are black.
“The population is changing and becoming more diverse. It is important that as we bring diverse talent into our company, that they feel their opinions are valued and respected.” – Michael, Quality Control Technician, Valley Asphalt
There is untapped potential waiting for our teams in black Americans’ hands. We must encourage them to explore careers they are interested in, no matter the color of their skin.
How can you promote diversity and inclusion in your organization?
- Connect with your local minority-owned businesses to collaborate and support one another.
- Work with your local schools to make sure every student knows about the opportunities in construction.
- Get leadership buy-in to influence from the top-down.
- Speaking of leadership, prioritize equitable representation.
- Set a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment, empowering employees to take action.
- Establish a diversity and inclusion policy and stick with it, from the hiring process to daily work life.
- Take the time to create and implement training and mentoring programs for new and existing employees to create a more comfortable environment for all.
Not only will prioritizing diversity and inclusion support Black Americans, experts say it will positively impact the construction industry, too. A commitment to diversity and inclusion sets in motion a powerful domino effect:
Employees feel welcomed > Their overall engagement increases > They are more productive > Turnover decreases > New hires feel comfortable right away.
Over time, this more diverse workforce will:
- Help combat the labor shortage.
To fill the gap in skilled workers, we need to take an all hands on deck approach, not just hire certain types of people from specific backgrounds.
- Foster more creativity.
When like-minded people from similar backgrounds work together, it’s common to get caught up in a groupthink mentality. By falling prey to this phenomenon, our workforce creates more of the same for the industry, rather than using their critical thinking skills to come up with fresh, innovative solutions.
When we bring people together with varied experiences, we naturally promote creative problem solving. Diverse thinkers don’t delay the process. If anything, they inspire more innovative solutions. Whenever new perspectives are present, construction firms report an improvement in both performance and profitability.
“By having more diversity in our company, we will have better decisions that will be made because of the diverse experiences and knowledge being brought to the organization.” – Michael, Quality Control Technician, Valley Asphalt
- Improve the industry overall.
Gallup reports that emphasizing hiring based on skills and actively removing bias from the interview process leads to 41% less absenteeism, 70% fewer safety incidents and 59% less turnover.
Not only that, McKinsey reports that companies that have more ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform less diverse companies.
“Construction can benefit when they have people of color in leadership roles that are contributing to the success of the organization. By having that diverse representation, it gives other people of color within the company hope that they too can have a successful career at our company and that the company values diversity.” – Michael, Quality Control Technician, Valley Asphalt
Promoting diversity within our industry will open doors for individuals and the industry as a whole. Let’s all commit to promoting diversity and inclusion starting this month.
Photo credit: Ivette Carolina Agudelo-Lopez + Yerba Buena Engineering & Construction, Inc