Like many construction businesses, Morgan Sindall had traditionally found it problematic to attract a more diverse workforce. In a male-dominated industry where hours are long, conditions can be difficult and the culture can be off-putting or sometimes outright hostile to under-represented groups, the nationwide business – under the leadership of HR director Dawn Moore – wanted to be balanced, family friendly and inclusive.
Clearly, that meant recruiting and retaining workers from outside the usual pool of talent. The HR team knew that finding people with both a background in construction and greater diversity – including BAME applicants, women and working parents – would lead to a more innovative and progressive workforce.
The question was how to get there. In 2014, Moore began working with the HR and communications team to design a variety of programmes with diversity and inclusion at their heart. Resources were limited, and ideas were implemented through the existing workforce without additional spending on promotion, events or technology.
Soon, however, change was being rolled out through the sheer determination of those involved. It included enhanced policies for maternity and paternity leave, with a buddy system matching returners with another worker who has recently taken maternity leave to create an informal support network. Line managers were provided with extra guidance on how to stay in contact with new parents on leave, ensuring they felt part of the team.
Morgan Sindall also organised virtual career fairs, a first for the construction sector, and a returnship programme, aimed at attracting professional level applicants from a variety of backgrounds.
Additional unconscious bias workshops were held with senior management to challenge preconceptions and promote new mindsets. Hiring managers will soon begin coaching sessions on inclusive recruitment practices.
In two years, Morgan Sindall almost doubled the proportion of female employees in the business, which is now five per cent above the industry average. Voluntary attrition has halved and huge numbers of employees are enjoying flexible working patterns; 90 people applied for the inaugural returnship programme.
But most of all, the business learned to be open to questions and suggestions from employees that would make work better for everyone. One of Morgan Sindall’s BAME employees, for example, worked with senior leaders to develop and implement Burka-friendly personal protective equipment – which was not only a first for the business but the entire sector.
The judges were suitably impressed that diversity and inclusion was a core objective within the company, which leadership championed and which has led to the creation of a truly inclusive culture for all – particularly in the context of an industry that has been slow to embrace change.