The Constrafor Diversity Council is a forum for leading industry professionals to provide in-depth perspectives about obstacles and opportunities in diversity, equity and inclusion for the construction industry. This interactive discussion was led by Constrafor’s Vice President of Business Development, Adam Wolf.
Diversity in Construction
Diversity and inclusion practices in the construction industry are increasingly scrutinized and, in a growing number of instances, a critical factor for winning or losing a project. The Diversity Council forum is a place to share ideas, provide best practices, spotlight obstacles and find optimal solutions on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s a place where individuals with a similar role in diversity at their construction firms can bounce ideas off each other, share successes and challenges with the goal of learning from each other and building a community.
In the third Diversity Council forum, the participants took an in-depth look at the challenges associated with building a diverse pool of partners and the importance of tracking to ensure goals are met and as a way to establish precedent for funding new initiatives. The following document is a summary of the discussion.
Outreach Disconnects: When Conventional Communications Don’t Work
When it comes to expanding diversity initiatives and programs, one of the common challenges in the construction industry is building a pipeline of qualified subcontractors and sub consultants, particularly when it comes to finding small and disadvantaged consulting firms.
While in many cases there may appear to be a significant number of potential candidates, many organizations are challenged to get the attention of these groups. Conventional methods, such as broad emails announcing an upcoming bid opportunity, often don’t work.
Building a consultant database seemingly requires a much more personal and intentional interaction.
Summarizing the Diversity Council’s discussion, a preliminary phone call with a personalized email follow-up offered the most reliable results. Further, it often takes multiple touches to engage with these groups—and one-on-one interactions are still the best. For instance, meeting someone at an industry event and following up to talk on the phone has been a strong way to start a relationship and build a pool.
Gradlin Franks, director of Diversity and Inclusion at The Beck Group, said, “The reason, in part, for this more focused interaction is that consultants are typically looking for long-term relationships. Therefore, our approach must also demonstrate that intent.”
Another piece of advice is to provide as much detail as possible. Brian Sanvidge, principal and leader of Regulatory Compliance and Investigations at Anchin, Block & Anchin, said, “One of the things we always find helpful, especially on very large construction projects, is to make sure that everybody understands it’s about a specific job opportunity that’s available to them. Provide as many specifics as possible.”
→ The Importance of Teamwork
Business development can be a high intensity job, entrusted to few people in an organization. While business development managers might work together on certain initiatives, the job tasks are largely solo with each manager working a defined portfolio of projects. Building a strong portfolio of potential partners requires these individuals to consider many different needs, often across multiple offices each with a range of needs.
However, in today’s environment, achieving diversity numbers and building an enterprise-wide portfolio of potential partners may require some process adjustments.
For instance, when it comes to working through all the potential opportunities, some have found internship programs to be beneficial. Interns are ideally suited to sorting through potential opportunities and creating a database that could then be used to pre-qualify.
As well, a more focused outreach can also help. For instance, LinkedIn professional groups are a great way to get the word out about new opportunities on the horizon.
Where are We? Measure Success for Greater Investment
The adage that you can’t improve what you can’t measure holds especially true when it comes to diversity tracking and expanding opportunities.
How do you know if your programs and initiatives are working if you don’t have a way to measure goals? Effectively measuring diversity requires that organizations put in place a system, a platform that accepts inputs from various sources with analytics to create dashboards and reports.
L+M Development Partners is an industry leader in this realm with new programs and initiatives to improve the organizational diversity across the enterprise. Krystal Peartree, Director of Workforce & Diversity Contractor at L+M Development Partners, said, “While it took time and effort to put this platform in place, we now have a way to talk about workforce diversity in our organization with confidence. We can show what we’re doing and the subsequent outcomes with confidence. More importantly, with this platform we have a way to drive change, get investment to create new initiatives and change mindsets in the areas where we couldn’t before because we didn’t have any documented proof where our programs worked and where they didn’t.”
With the diversity platform, Peartree is able to see how many women are placed through the company’s local hiring program every year across the board, in the office and in the field. She also noted that the tracking program has been helpful in commanding more resources towards these initiatives.
She concluded, “It allows me to at least come up with a methodology of staffing, because I know how many projects each of my team can handle, including the amount of time they have to spend on non-project related stuff. Therefore, I know exactly, based on a product timeline, when we’re going to need to hire another person.”
→ Expanding Opportunity Begins with Training
L+M Development Partners recently introduced a new diversity initiative designed to attract more women to the construction industry through training.
Krystal Peartree, director of Workforce & Diversity Contractor at L+M Development Partners, explained, “Many times, our initiatives focus on drawing more women into the industry through hiring. But many of these jobs require training and certifications. So we introduced a free training program to local community members.”
One such program is the company’s annual free OSHA and Site Safety Training (SST) training program for women. The next step is to find a way to track the people that received free training. How many got placed on a job? How many maintained consistent work for the year, even if that was on multiple jobs?
“Those are things that we can track once we actually have the initial data. We’re also looking to look beyond the construction spend side to see how we can improve our diversity numbers in corporate retail, property management, etc.,” she added.
→ Community Focus
Andersen Construction continues to expand their diversity efforts by partnering with local pre-apprenticeship programs to create opportunities. One initiative is focused on helping young people ages 18-24 who are experiencing housing instability realize opportunities in the industry by working on a local Andersen project. Through the program, these individuals are given a chance to shadow someone on a jobsite to see if construction is a career that they might be interested in.
Meet the Panelists
Principal, Leader of Regulatory Compliance and Investigations
Anchin, Block & Anchin
Manager, Supplier Diversity
Brasfield & Gorrie
Manager, Supplier Diversity
Director, Workforce & Diversity Contractor
L+M Development Partners
Director, Diversity & Inclusion
The Beck Group
Constrafor Diversity Tracking
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