20171117 Anita Singh

NW in 2018 | Cultural evolution

Skills shortages, lack of diversity, recruitment by type. We’ve all heard the criticisms and challenges about the property, construction and engineering sector, writes Anita Singh of Hydrock.

To many, the sector can lack appeal and appear unwilling to break away from a certain socioeconomic demographic. Why is this?

The simple answer might be that many people don’t even know that certain occupations exist within construction and property. Nationally, many companies are on a drive to go into educational establishments and ‘spread the word’. That’s great, but what other explanations could there be?

I think we have an image problem, and let’s face it, there’s a reason for that. It’s a problem that extends to people leaving the industry because of the environment and culture.

Partly it’s an inability by some people to recognise that working practices and society have changed and that not everyone thinks and behaves in the same manner. The more I explore this, the more I realise that some people genuinely don’t realise that what they’re doing and saying is inappropriate and alienating, causing other people to feel awkward and marginalised at work, in meetings, or even just out and about in the industry – creating the ‘out crowd’ as opposed to the ‘in crowd’.

So how do we address these outdated behaviours and views, if the power of ‘group think’, the ‘in crowd’, means they don’t realise the impact they are having?

We’re seeing the impact of bad pervading cultures in the high-profile worlds of Westminster, the BBC and Hollywood. But we’re also seeing a response, a willingness to speak out and a willingness to change through high-profile hash-tag campaigns such as #metoo and #howiwillchange.

Thankfully, action in our own industry is increasing; organisations are making a determined effort to recruit from a more diverse pool, welcoming different opinions and talents to make our outputs more inspiring and eye-catching. I believe education is key, and perhaps we should make appropriate behaviour a part of the induction process for our organisations.

So, what does an attractive workplace environment or culture look like?

In the modern-day workplace, how much should we actually care about what someone is wearing, where they were sitting or at what time they actually did the work, as long as they delivered a competent, fit-for-purpose product as specified, and worked well within their team, creating respect and being respected?

The demand for this environment and culture is not an experiment, or simply mimicking other industries – this is evolution. It just so happens that our industry has been lagging behind in embracing this, although I appreciate that not all role types in construction can accommodate this level of fluidity.

Greater diversity will bring a change to business culture. And the result? A positive effect on employee loyalty, satisfaction, productivity, retention, engagement. A sense of belonging as opposed to a sense of needing to fit in to avoid being in the ‘out crowd’. Ultimately, it’s a positive impact on the economy which is a win-win for everyone in property and construction.

If you can create an attractive place to work, the people will come, irrespective of background.

My predictions for 2018 are:

  1. Companies will undergo cultural evolution, or be subject to Darwinism
  2. The industry will reap the benefits
  3. Organisations with outdated behaviours will be called out
  4. Hopefully we will deal with the point above better than Westminster
  5. The change in our industry culture will be noticed, and we will attract more people

There is a lot of work to be done, but in the North I believe we have a distinct advantage: we’re renowned for our ingenuity, ability to adapt and inclusiveness. We can be that best practice example.

  • Anita Singh is land quality consultant at Hydrock and national representative from the Forum for Tomorrow at the FBE national committee

The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.

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