It can be tempting to measure your company’s health and achievements primarily in terms of its financial performance or market position. But the success of any business, in any industry, hinges on its employees. Your people are the ones who carry out your company’s mission and turn organizational goals into realities. Recruiting the high-quality employees that companies need, mentoring them effectively, and keeping them engaged and productive is often easier said than done, however.
By making diversity and inclusion a priority, your company will not only gain the inside edge in attracting and retaining top talent but will be better able to unlock their full potential—and boost your bottom line.
We already know that inclusive companies with diverse workforces outperform less diverse ones. The employees of such companies are more engaged with their work, generate more innovative solutions to industry problems and, since they reflect the diversity of the markets they serve, are often better positioned to understand and meet the needs of their organization’s customers.
Diverse companies also enjoy more expansive talent pools. Thanks to demographic shifts, American workers are more diverse now than ever. Yet the construction industry lags far behind other industries in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a mere 6.7% of construction industry workers are Black or African American and 2% are of Asian descent. And just 11% of construction professionals are women.
To attract and retain diverse talent, construction companies must show these workers they are welcome. That means creating inclusive corporate cultures—ones in which people of all backgrounds and points of view feel supported and empowered. You can’t build such a culture through a one-off initiative aimed at just checking boxes. It requires deliberate, sustained effort.
At NOVO Construction, DEI has been a cornerstone of our operations since the company’s inception in 2000. Our dedication to DEI has driven our success: Today, NOVO Construction is one of the top Minority Business Enterprises in the United States and the largest interior tenant improvement-focused contractor in the Bay Area & Central Texas.
NOVO’s DEI-guided growth is a testament to what a company can achieve when all stakeholders share a vision and fully commit to bringing it to life. Though leaders can’t expect to make their organizations more diverse or inclusive overnight, employing five best practices will help ensure a successful transition:
1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Your workforce, clients and business partners will know if your company is merely giving lip service to diversity and inclusion. You need to demonstrate your commitment through your actions: in how you recruit and support the careers of diverse individuals.
NOVO, for instance, recognized that the construction industry, like many others, has a significant gender gap. We wanted to do our part to close that gap, not just within our own company, but within the industry as a whole. Today, half of NOVO’s corporate leadership team members are women. We also continually seek to partner with community organizations that empower young women by providing them with real-world experience in the trades—such as Girl’s Garage.
2. INVEST IN EMPLOYEE MENTORSHIP AND DEVELOPMENT
Strong relationships and continuous learning are vital for professional success. At NOVO, we have a mentorship program that connects diverse employees and interns with some of the most respected Project Executives, Project Managers, Project Engineers, and Superintendents in the area.
NOVO’s inclusive environment means that everyone, regardless of their job title, receives the support and guidance needed to achieve their career goals. This approach not only helps employees develop their skills but also fosters a sense of belonging and engagement.
3. ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY AND BUSINESS PARTNERS IN DEI EFFORTS
Companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion often boast stronger ties to their communities. Through our “NOVO for Change” initiative, we have partnered with diverse community organizations, contributing to local development and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. This not only bolsters our local communities but also enhances our reputation and relationships with clients, ultimately benefiting our bottom line.
Our subcontractor and supplier diversity initiative, likewise, aims to extend NOVO’s DEI efforts beyond our company. We are auditing our current list of subcontractors to identify existing diverse partners and confirm their certifications. At the same time, we’re working to expand our diverse supplier database through outreach. In the last three months alone, we have personally contacted over 2,500 companies, resulting in the addition of over a hundred diverse subcontractors to our bid pool.
NOVO offers these diverse partners resources to help them expand their capacity and capabilities. We’ve found, for example, that some diverse firms feel they’re too small to bid on many prime construction projects. NOVO not only assures these companies that they are not too small to bid on such projects, we also offer mentorship to help them grow. NOVO will even break up bid packages so smaller companies can take on a manageable portion.
4. FOSTER OPEN COMMUNICATION THROUGHOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
A culture of openness and transparency fosters the sense of psychological safety your people—particularly minority employees—need in order to feel comfortable being their authentic selves, sharing their thoughts freely, learning from mistakes and innovating. If your employees fear discrimination or negative consequences for taking risks or being honest about problems, your organization as a whole will suffer.
At NOVO, we ensure that every team member, regardless of the person’s role, feels heard and valued. We’ve found that this approach not only boosts morale but also encourages creative problem-solving. In our company, everyone, from the newest hire to the most seasoned veteran, has access to leadership and can contribute their ideas and perspectives. This approach helps us maintain the agility and responsiveness of a small team, even as we continue to grow.
5. ENCOURAGE A SENSE OF AUTONOMY
Top-down approaches to DEI risk alienating employees, who may feel they have no say in the organization’s vision. While it is important for company leaders to articulate a clear path for and “why” behind the company’s embrace of DEI, employee input is necessary.
By getting your employees involved in the task of setting and executing DEI-related goals, and soliciting their input about areas where training or new policies could increase equity and inclusion, you offer them a sense of ownership and autonomy. This allows the company’s success in DEI to become everyone’s success.
Pursuing diversity and inclusion is not just the “right thing to do”; it is the secret sauce of enhanced business performance. NOVO Construction’s experience demonstrates the significant effects that embracing diversity and inclusion can have on a company’s bottom line. By fostering a culture that values and celebrates differences, construction companies can help their people thrive, drive innovation and create a positive impact on their communities, business partners and the industry at large.
About the Author:
Troy Geisler is the vice president of sales and marketing for Talbert Manufacturing. He has more than 15 years of experience in trailer sales, including 5 years with Talbert. For more, visit www.talbertmfg. Jim Fowler is CEO of NOVO Construction, which is recognized as one of the most substantial Minority Business Enterprises in the United States. For more, visit www.novoconstruction.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2023
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