Why the built environment sector needs to attract diverse talent

A diverse group of business people
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Lucile Kamar
Equalities Manager
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
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With an ageing workforce and ever-growing competition for skilled labour within the construction industry, the need to attract more talent from diverse backgrounds is greater than ever.

As Equalities Manager at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), I passionately believe that the built environment, as well as all business sectors, must put inclusivity at the heart of everything they do if they want to remain relevant and fit for the future.

Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also makes sound business sense – diverse and inclusive organisations are more attractive and have better financial performance.

In a recent survey commissioned by RICS, over a fifth (21%) of young people stated the most important factor in choosing a job is whether an organisation has a diverse range of employees. Furthermore, nearly three quarters (73%) of young people believe it is important for CEOs to encourage gender diversity across their business.

Most young people surveyed by RICS believe that the attitudes and behaviours of CEOs and senior leaders are important to encourage a more gender-balanced workforce.

This is sending out a pretty strong message that, although we all have a role to play to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, CEOs must lead this change if they want to attract, recruit and retain the best skills.

We are in a war for talent.

The built environment industry needs to make progress

Diversity and inclusion must be a business priority to ensure skilled workers aren’t discouraged before they even step through the door.

Nowadays having a good reputation overall isn’t enough to sustain your business, if your diversity and inclusion policies and workplace culture do not match words then any hard work being done to attract talent is diminished.

While the built environment industry is aware that inclusivity is key to its sustainability, it still has a long way to go, with recent RICS data revealing that 33% of young women view the sector as "for male employment only".

We all have a role to play to create diverse and inclusive work environments where everyone can fulfil their full potential regardless of their background.

Additionally, most young people surveyed by RICS believe that the attitudes and behaviours of CEOs and senior leaders are important to encourage a more gender-balanced workforce. This is again a strong incentive to change current practices to attract the best of the next generation.

These statistics are related to gender specifically, but the sentiment applies to other protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010, including but not limited to social background, beliefs, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.

The Inclusive Employer Quality Mark

So what exactly can professionals do to address these and drive their business forward?

The RICS has invested in creating an online portal designed to encourage knowledge sharing and provide practical advice to members and external bodies on how best to embed diversity and inclusion principles in their workplace.

We believe that collaboration is key in our industry and beyond to ensure that we drive positive change in an efficient and sustainable manner. In addition, this portal encourages members to sign up to the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark (IEQM), the industry benchmark that aims to make the land, property and construction sector more diverse and inclusive.

It was launched in June 2015 and continues to gain more signatories each month with currently more than 150 signatories employing between them 160,000 people.

The IEQM is voluntary and self-assessed. When a firm signs up to it, they are committed to improving inclusivity according to the following six key principles spanning throughout the life of the employee cycle:

  • Leadership and vision
  • Recruitment
  • Staff development
  • Staff retention
  • Staff engagement
  • Continuous improvement

We believe all businesses should sign up the IEQM.

Not only does it provide a competitive advantage through increased visibility of their brand, but it can also help gain clients who look to employ firms with inclusivity standards.

It also provides firms with the support they need to improve their workplace policies and practices regardless of where they are in their diversity and inclusion journey.

Collaborative action is the key to success

Last year, RICS made a pledge to lead the way on diversity.

Our senior leadership have committed to question speaking on any conference panel that isn’t diverse or representative to help showcase and promote women in our profession and industry and to inspire a new next generation.

This is a very simple and efficient way to drive change by ensuring that new and existing role models from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to showcase their expertise and contribute to the industry debate.

Coordinated and collaborative action is needed to maximise its impact.

We also recognise the importance of mentors in equipping the next generation with the skills and support they need to be successful in their careers.

As such, we recently set up a global mentoring partnership with female chartered surveyors in the UK and South Africa to share insights between a network of women in the industry.

Effective work is currently taking place throughout the built environment industry and more widely within businesses, but coordinated and collaborative action is needed to maximise its impact.

We all have a role to play to create diverse and inclusive work environments where everyone can fulfil their full potential regardless of their background. The importance of visible leadership, role models and mentors to champion change is paramount to break down these barriers and ensure workplace success.

Want to learn more about this topic?

Visit our diversity hub featuring expert articles, interviews and opinion pieces on creating a workplace that brings together individuals from all walks of life.

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