AMID this year’s National Inclusion Week (23-29 September), Aggregate Industries has commented that, despite progress being made, there is still more employers can do to support diversity, inclusion and equality across the construction industry.
Created and run by Inclusive Employers, National Inclusion Week is an annual opportunity to raise awareness of inclusion in the workplace. The theme for this year’s week is around ‘Everyday Inclusion’; a celebration of the everyday, practical ways companies can create an inclusive workplace environment and inspire others to do so.
As an industry pioneer in this remit, Aggregate Industries continues to focus deeply on its Diversity & Inclusion strategy. Among other key initiatives, the business recently implemented an industry-leading maternity and paternity policy; became the first WORK180 fully endorsed employer within the sector and is about to become a Working Mums Top Employer, showcasing all of their fantastic family-friendly policies.
Demonstrating strong commitment to supporting career development amongst female employees, Aggregate Industries has also introduced a successful female mentor programme, and is about to host a Career Development event specifically designed for women organised by the Aggregate Industries Diversity and Inclusion task force.
However, at a wider industry level the consensus is that diversity is still not as highly prioritised as it should be – with various evidence suggesting that unconscious bias and prejudice continues to be an issue.
James Roberts, HR Director at Aggregate Industries, commented: “While we’ve certainly made great strides in terms of greater diversity and inclusiveness, the reality is that there is still a long road ahead.
“Unfortunately, the perception that construction is just for men persists, with evidence suggesting that women and other minority groups are typically confronted by a significant number of barriers, beginning with difficulties joining the field of construction through to progressing to more senior positions. However, this must continue to change, and quickly – and not just because there’s a moral imperative but also in terms of safeguarding our future.
“We must remember, after all, that our sector remains in the throes of its worst skills deficit on record; it’s estimated that we need 168,500 skilled workers to enter the industry over the next five years to meet current demand, with success in attracting and retaining from a wider talent pool being key to this.
“Also, increased inclusivity could help drive innovation and agility as we seek to address the ongoing challenges of the housing deficit and sustainability – with research suggesting that inclusive organisations are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.”
As part of its Diversity & Inclusion drive, Aggregate Industries has also introduced an ongoing ‘Respect at Work’ campaign whereby employees are actively encouraged to treat each other fairly and considerately at all operational levels.
James added: “When it comes to this important topic area, it can be all too easy to get swept up in the big-ticket strategies when, as highlighted in this year’s National Inclusion week theme, the everyday, practical items can also can make a difference. This could be creating a more nurturing working environment through to actively encouraging employee rapport, the remit being that everyone, irrespective of who they are, feels they are treated fairly.
“In this way, we can continue to propel the transition towards an industry which attracts, nurtures and develops from all sex, ages and backgrounds and – creating a much bigger pool of future talent.”