2020: A curate’s egg but a trailblazer for change in construction

2020: A curate’s egg but a trailblazer for change in construction
Published: 18 November 2020

2020 has not been a year that anyone could have predicted. Displacement of good talent, altered supply chains and leadership challenges are just some of the themes that have dominated conversations. Usually conversations around construction & infrastructure focus on the contribution to economic revival, creation of jobs, increase in trade and bridging the North / South divide. However, this year more than any other, there is a more pressing topic that has been brought to the forefront of discussion.  Below, Joe Hughes, Consultant in the Property, Real Estate & Built Environment Practice, looks at some of the progressive elements that are working towards revolutionising the construction landscape across the UK. 

Whilst 2020 will not be remembered fondly in the first instance, in some respects it has been a promising time for change. Not change driven by CSR or to receive industry recognition, but change driven by passion and purpose.  The change in question is comes in the form of diversity and inclusion.

There is no denying there has been some pioneering work completed across the D&I agenda over the past five years, 2020 has seen a shift into deliverable action across the construction and infrastructure landscape. Conversations have shifted from commitments to achieve greater diversity, to the delivery of tangible inclusion policy and action across every tier of the organisational chart.  Purpose has been the driving force in this change, leadership teams throughout the sector are striving to invest in educational resources for their workforce, to bring about sustainable alterations in attitude and practise. One example of note comes from the Murphy Group, who are leading the way in ardently using the ‘Inclusive Employer Toolkit’. The group are the first largescale construction employer to start using this comprehensive guide, that details how employers can make measurable changes to the diversity and inclusion of their employees. 

Emerging talent comes in many guises, and in the past, it may have been overlooked when major project delivery teams were being built. It has been the work of some of the construction sector’s biggest D&I champions that has cemented a change in the way talent is unearthed and reviewed. This has not come from a singular commitment, but rather from colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds whose personal journeys are helping to shape the future of talent selection thereby securing a future where construction can be fully diverse and inclusive.

There is still work do be done, and it will take time for the change to become fully evident, but we must celebrate the momentum at which this change in direction is gathering pace. Companies are investing heavily in D&I education, moving towards an era where the knowledge on the subject will be as commonplace as a health and safety induction on a live construction site. For instance, Wates Group has just completed its first ‘Inclusion Month’, running a series of workshops, covering topics such as building a LGBT+ workplace and overcoming imposter syndrome. The group has also published its third Gender Pay Gap report, indicating some promising figures. The proportion of women employed across the Group increased from 18.9% in 2018 to 20.3% in 2019 and there was growth of 1.5% in the proportion of women in the most senior levels of the company, to 11.5%.

Our industry holds some of the most inspirational leaders, many of whom I have been fortunate enough to work with. Whilst many share common traits, one thing that is uncompromising in all, is the purpose that drives them to bring about real change. A purpose that paired with the guidance of the aforementioned champions should give us all confidence in the future of the inclusivity of this construction and infrastructure.

For more information, please contact Joe Hughes, a consultant in our Infrastructure practice.

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