5 reasons why respect for people isn’t peripheral:

Last week we blogged about the amazing news that the CITB   BE FaIR Frameworkhad gained interest from 148 companies in the construction sector, and that 110 of them had been accepted onto the pilot. Off the back of that blog we had some really positive comments supporting the framework and the work that companies have been doing to drive this agenda forward in the sector.

“So encouraging to see such great take up of this by Main Contractors. Well done to Constructing Equality for helping to make some small steps towards a fairer and more respectful Construction Industry…”

By Nicola Dibb

Unfortunately, we also had some comments, like those from Dan Lewis below: that felt the agenda around respect was peripheral to more important issues in the sector – that resources should only be put into this area when there was a surplus and other factors are dealt with.

“It is peripheral because the focus of a company is on serving its clients and customers. The colour of one’s skin, one’s gender, or the nationality of one’s parents has nothing to do with the mission of the company. As an executive, the first and only requirement of an employee is to serve the company’s clients with respect and diligence. Yes, that requires people working together and well. But race, gender, et al have nothing to do with it. Management has to foster an environment built toward service and excellence. In a prosperous market, there are resources and time for such efforts. Most companies have to focus on something else right now. And as Matthew points out, employee development and recognition are important management activities, but that is because it is focused on what is performed, rather than who you are.”By Dan Lewis

We feel this sentiment is missing the point and to consider that issues around respect affect only those visibly different from the norm is missing the point. Furthermore, to assume that equality is only an important factor when recruiting misunderstands the challenges faced by individuals in the sector and organisations trying to retain key talent.
Therefore we felt that we should explain why equality and respect for people are not peripheral but at the core of everything a business does.
1.       Innovation – groups of different people are more likely to be more innovative. This is true of personality types and factors like gender and background. A mixed range of experience is more likely to produce innovative solutions – imagine the solutions that would come from 12 people with the same experience and background. Then imagine the response from 12 people with a varied range. Not only does a mixed group have more experience to share, it is also much more likely to feel able to do so.
2.       Procurement – Public sector bodies procuring work in the UK are legally committed to improving equality in the workplace, so are their supply chain. I’m going to credit you all with the smarts to work out why that’simportant to your business.
3.       Productive teams – We are at our best when we are happy – we are more productive and encourage productivity around us. Therefore, if members of the team are worried, harassed or unable to build a rapport with colleagues we are not able to get the most out of them. Things seemingly unrelated, like sexual orientation or religion, can have a huge impact here; if a colleague makes jokes and other people laugh it sends a message about how the group feels about other groups and can make individuals less likely to talk about what’s important to them. Imagine if you felt you couldn’t talk about your friends, hobbies, partners and interest for fear of giving away an identity that might be rejected by your colleagues.
4.       Retain Talent – If people don’t feel they are respected and valued within their roles, it is highly likely that they will seek employment elsewhere. Women and minority groups, especially those with a visible indicator, are likely to have a different experience in the construction workplace; usually a more stressful and discriminatory one. This experience is not something that others are aware that they are contributing to or think is something negative, but nonetheless it has a negative impact on careers. For example: – the site manager who protects the female trainee from the site environment by giving her more work in the office; the QS who only employs from their own pool of past colleagues; or the colleague who makes jokes around homosexuality. Whilst these acts might seem inoffensive, they can hold back a career by not providing the right experience and limit the opportunities from those trying to get a start in the sector who are not already in the main pool as well as making people afraid to be themselves and form real friendships in the work environment. You see… race, gender and a host of other factors have a lot to do with people working well together, and whilst you can choose to ignore this it will not stop it affecting you as you watch your key talent walk out the door.
5.       Encourage the best recruits – we know there is a shortage of skills in the sector and this problem is only likely to increase as we come out of the recession. That means the fight to attract the best talent is an important one. A good salary is only half the battle people want to know that their place of employment is committed to respect, and by being able to show this you are much more likely to attract key talent.
So there you have it, 5 reasons why this agenda is so important to your business. Thank you to all those who left comments – even ones we do not agree with; this blog shows they are a great way of furthering the debate, so please continue to let us know your thoughts on this agenda.