While the residential construction industry has made strides toward becoming more diverse, the industry still has work to do to better incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the forefront of business practices. Diversity—in gender, culture, age, ethnicity, and mindset—can bring unique perspectives to the workforce and help drive more attractive cultures and successful bottom lines. During the education session “We Rise Together: Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter in Residential Construction” at the 2022 International Builders' Show, Angelica Rivera of Colmex Construction, Kerry White of Home Quest Properties and Paran Homes, and Charner Rodgers, senior program coordinator of industry relations and recruitment and associate professor in the construction science and management department at Tuskegee University, discussed what the construction industry can do to diversify and the benefits companies can reap.
Rivera said that by bringing diverse perspectives to the table, it helps in the decision-making process. Creating a diverse workforce also means companies drive productivity—as many underserved demographic groups are highly qualified for work in construction—and can help business performance through culture development and low turnover. Additionally, companies can help alleviate the burden of the ongoing labor shortage by searching for diverse candidates and casting a wider net in the hiring process.
“Diversity matters because the world is diverse. The home buying industry is diverse. People want to see themselves represented in the products that they buy, that includes the sales team, the management team, the executive team,” White said during the session. “People go on your website to see who they are purchasing from. They want to see that the organization has them in mind when they are building products and in order to do that, you have to have a diverse team.”
While many companies in the industry focus on diversity through the hiring process, the lack of attention given to equity and inclusion of their diverse workforce leads to higher turnover. Employees want to feel engaged in the company culture and feel as if there is opportunity for them to grow within the company, not that their hire just checked off a box, Rodgers said.
“Diversity helps innovation, reputation, and bottom line. If you get a diverse in the workforce and they just check [off a box], that door is going to be revolving [because] you get them in and they don’t like it and leave,” Rodgers said. “You’re spending money if you have to move employees, on training, on man hours. If we have people that get in there and like [the company] and stay, then our bottom line increases.”
The panelists emphasized the importance of having a plan once diverse hires are brought into a company. Companies need to create a safe space for new employees, to train other employees on the importance of diversifying the workforce, and show everyone there is an opportunity to grow within the company. Oftentimes, companies fall short in their equity and inclusion because there are no systems in place once diverse hires are in the door and there are no pathways for them to advance their careers.
“Everything goes down to the culture [of the company]. We need to create a culture that welcomes diversity,” Rivera said. “It’s actually not effective to have like-minded thinkers in an organization, we want to have different points of view because that helps [a company] grow. [Diversity] is not supposed to be a requirement, it has to be something that we want to do in order to grow our company.”