Women in Construction week just wrapped up. I went to as many events as I could. For me, I looked at it as a learning experience to hear the voices of women in construction and the trades. What I heard was both heartening and disheartening. While progress has been made, there are still many barriers to women and people from communities of color feeling welcomed into construction and the trades. According to this Gallup Diversity and Inclusion Perspective Paper, 45% of US workers report that they have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in the past twelve months. Based on the massive shift in employee demographics (White, mostly male, baby boomers retiring and increasingly diverse Millennials filling the ranks) in construction and the trades, I imagine that if we looked solely at underrepresented groups in construction and the trades, we would see a much higher number.
Around business office and conference rooms, we are increasingly having conversations around diversity and inclusion. There are a number of reasons businesses want to improve the way they approach diversity and inclusion:
Points two and three bring us to Millennials, the largest part of our current workforce. Millennials are basing application and employment decisions on more than a paycheck. They are looking at an organization’s culture, values, mission as well as their relationship with leadership in the company.
In the early 2000s, companies started leaning into diversity. This was often related to compliance, not to inclusion. These companies were often either given federally mandated targets or were trying to avoid litigation. This meant that the door to the company was opened, but not necessarily that anything changed on the inside of the company to make the new and diverse employees feel welcome. What we see today in some places is that the hard work of changing ourselves and our work cultures to be more inclusive hasn’t been done. This is why I believe you need to lead with inclusion which will lead you to diversity. Being diverse is not enough. What we want to see is a change from a compliance-driven diversity program to an inclusive, welcoming environment.
Being inclusive leads to:
Diversity is who comes through the door. Inclusion is whether they feel welcome. Being welcome means you feel valued, recognized, accepted and are encouraged to participate. Do your employees know how they are unique and how that contributes to their team’s/company’s success? This is where a strengths-based approach to employee development can help companies be more inclusive. Many companies look at strengths-based development solely through the lens of leadership development. It does that and it can move the dial to increased inclusion.
Strengths-based development works to increase inclusion by: