Increasing Diversity isn’t a One-Person Job

Increasing Diversity isn’t a One-Person Job

It was in the news this week that Network Rail’s Diversity Chief, is the highest paid public sector Diversity Chief on a salary that equals the prime minister.

Diversity across the Transport & Infrastructure sectors is always a hot topic, and increasing it across all walks of life is fundamental to the success, growth and innovation of the markets we work in.

When we take a look at our Diversity Report from 2021, public sector businesses are actually amongst the top performing organisations when it comes to gender diversity. This may, in part, be attributed to having a centralised Diversity Chief who forms the diversity strategy and policy for the company.

And, there is no argument that having an expert bringing new and fresh ideas into your business is only a good thing. But recruiting a Head of Diversity alone isn’t going to suddenly overhaul your organisation.

If we take a look at the organisations who are really achieving outperforming the market when it comes to a diverse workforce, some don’t even have a Head of EDI or a Director of Inclusion, or a Diversity Chief.

They do have a truly inclusive culture, that enables them to retain and attract a diverse team at all levels.

Their success comes down to working with people to embrace the changes that are needed in order to achieve diversity. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and you are only ever going to improve diversity of your executive leadership long-term if you get buy in from all levels of the company. You cannot afford to lose your future diverse board members of 2032, by not taking action in 2022.

The key to achieving diversity long-term is by building a solid foundation of diversity at graduate and apprentice level, and then nurturing that talent and fostering an inclusive environment to encourage them to grow and progress within the business. In the short-term you can improve diversity in your leadership team by poaching talent from other sectors or your competition.

There are some fantastic examples across the Transport & Infrastructure sector where companies are taking some really great steps to be more inclusive.

1. Flexible Working

Covid-19 forced many companies to switch to remote working, and now lots of companies have realised the benefits of flexible working. Flexible working helps many to achieve a better work/life balance. Especially for those balancing work and childcare responsibilities.

Arup was one of the first big names in the industry to announce their new flexible working policy. Their 6,000 UK employees will have the flexibility to work their hours across all 7 days of the week, with only 2 days needing to be spent in the office.

2. Setting Targets

Laing O’Rourke recently set itself the target to employ equal numbers of men and women across its 5,500 global staff by 2033.

3. Returner Programmes

Atkins have implemented a Returners Programme to celebrate diversity within the workplace. They offer a 6-month returnship for talented, experienced professionals with the opportunity for a permanent role at the end of the programme.

4. Mentoring & Networking

Networking and mentoring are critical. It helps to ensure that diverse talent in the sector are expanding their personal networks, building relationships, and creating opportunities. In recent years we have seen the construction and infrastructure sectors really stepping up on this front. In transport we’ve seen the rise of “Women in Transport” and “Women in Rail”. For the Built Environment there is “The National Association of Women in Construction”.

5. Reverse Mentoring

Senior Directors passing on their wisdom to up and coming talent is one thing but reversing the roles can also be hugely beneficial.

Giving junior employees the opportunity to voice their experiences and the forum to discuss what is important them can give you insights that may never have occurred to you given your own background.

The world looks very different to each individual and there is an awful lot we can learn just by listening to each other’s point of view.

6. Role Models

This is something we are seeing more and more of on social media, particularly this month with LGTB+ History month. Having people within the business who act as role models and spokespeople for acceptance and inclusion can go a really long way to attracting talent to your business and making everyone feel like they work in a safe space.

Attraction is one hurdle but retention is equally as important if you want to see the results of your efforts at board level down the line.

So while having a Diversity Chief is a positive thing, it is also not by a long shot the whole solution to fostering a diverse workforce.

Author: Jim Newsom

Jim Newsom

Managing Director