This article is the second in a three-part series that follows the diversity and inclusion (D&I) journeys of three of the country’s largest construction firms.
Research by the Center for Talent Innovation found that employees with “inclusive managers are 1.3 times more likely to feel their innovative potential is unlocked. Employees who are able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to say they intend to leave their job within a year. And 69% of women who off-ramp would have stayed at their companies if they’d had flexible work options.”
The companies featured in the series are in various stages of their D&I efforts, but what they do have in common is a commitment to bringing about real change.
Skanska USA’s building operations has taken a diversity and inclusion journey that originally focused on compliance and turned it into one that empowers people and teams in the business to succeed through better relationships.
Ivette Vanas, senior vice president Risk Management for Skanska’s building operations nationwide, said the company’s original D&I focus was on the diversity and representation aspects and was very much about compliance and hitting goals.
The Journey to Diversity and Inclusion
In 2014, however, the company set forth a new vision: to mirror diversity within society, in all their home markets, and at all levels in the organization. It wishes to achieve this goal by 2020. Vanas said that although the plan seemed plausible, it wasn’t comprehensive enough. There wasn’t enough effort devoted to either the cultural or inclusion aspects. Gathering such data required asking obscure questions like “what makes us different, what makes us alike, and how do we engage inclusive behavior?”
At first, Vanas tried to improve the D&I landscape by growing it from the bottom up. However, in hindsight, she realizes it was not enough. Driving change in a decentralized organization and succeeding takes commitment and leadership at all levels.
“We tried to make D&I grow in the organization through local initiatives and resource groups, when, in reality, it needed leadership support,” Vanas said. “The senior leaders not only have to commit; they must make it an imperative to succeed, compete, stay innovative and exist in this business. We have an opportunity to be leaders in this industry, which has always been known as a slow adopter of change.”
Value in the Differences
According to Vanas, noticeable improvement started happening after leadership had demonstrated a commitment to D&I by promoting diverse candidates into senior leadership level positions. Today, the senior leadership team (SLT) for Skanska USA’s building operations is 43 percent diverse—seven of its 16 members are women, whereas just a few years ago Vanas had been the only woman.
She attributes some of that change to helping people see the value in differences so that they could better understand how those differences can make the business unit stronger in the long term. Vanas tells of her experience with her SLT colleagues who attended the Catalyst Organization’s MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) workshops and the impact that experience had on the individuals who attended.
“We had an opportunity to reflect and discuss what it feels like to be different from the norm. Those experiences gave us a new appreciation for each person’s journey.”
According to Vanas, Skanska has put a lot of effort into the D&I journey. They continually evolve along that path. Key insights include developing a common language for the topic and building trust among team members in a deep and meaningful way. The company’s leadership team is also leading by example and encouraging change at every level in the organization.
Interested in learning more about building and fostering diversity and inclusion into your company culture? The Procore Building Inclusion program offers three different courses, each addressing specific features for fostering inclusion. The free courses are open now.