Fairness, Inclusion and Respect – A Pathway to Prosperity

The construction and built environment sector faces skills shortages at all levels and across all disciplines. Yet, compared to sectors like retail and hospitality, we have a wealth of fulfilling and well paid career opportunities waiting for the right people.
Has the construction industry been its own worst enemy? Traditionally, the sector has overwhelmingly recruited white males. Women and people of different origins or sexual orientation have an unwelcoming picture in their minds.

In 2016 the importance of the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) agenda shouldn’t really need explaining. Does anyone want their business to be seen as unfair, non-inclusive or disrespectful to employees?

But perceptions are perceptions. The Farmer Review rightly highlighted the need for concerted action to make the industry more attractive to new entrants. We are going to have to work doubly hard with the FIR agenda if we really want to change minds and encourage more diverse recruitment.

There are realities here that no construction business can afford to ignore:

  • We need to recruit our share of the brightest and the best if we are going to survive, never mind thrive. We literally cannot afford for talented people to be put off because they see the industry as old fashioned and unwelcoming.
  • The traditional recruitment pool is shrinking. A report published by CITB highlighted how in 2007 the number of white boys aged 5-9 was 15% lower than those aged 15-19.
  • Public sector contracts will be increasingly difficult to win for businesses that pay lip service to FIR. Equality and Diversity is increasingly important in the procurement process.
  • Reputational damage and tribunal costs can be severe for cases of discrimination.

Most importantly, employees who are respected and treated fairly work harder, have less time off and are less likely to leave. Culture can be part of your competitive edge.

Changing perceptions will be tough. Employers have to set high expectations for how people behave. We need to be more creative with training opportunities and career pathways. And we need sustained and meaningful engagement with schools, colleges and universities.

Osborne has been investing in raising awareness of the importance of addressing diversity and inclusivity to collectively make the construction industry an attractive and rewarding place to work.

We are supporting fairness, inclusion and respect with a director level resource on the Industry FIR Steering Group and have had 3 FIR Ambassador Volunteers through a training programme facilitated by the Supply Chain School.

The FIR Ambassadors have been busy organising FIR Workshops for us and our supply chain partners in October and November. One co-hosted with Network Rail that aligned with “Everyone Week” and one co-hosted with London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Richard King Chairman of CECA Southern and Director at Osborne commented “The FIR programme is a vitally important initiative to help attract and retain the very best talent in the Industry. Only by developing more respectful and resourceful ways of working will we widen the pool of available skills and talent as the industry faces probably its greatest ever challenge to replace a rapidly ageing workforce. 

The FIR workshops are explaining what FIR means, why it is matters and importantly connects attendees to free materials contained in The FIR Toolkit. These can be accessed through the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Toolkit for the Construction Industry.”