With civil rights movements being at the forefront of 2020, diversity has become more important than ever. But what does the term ‘diversity’ mean for the world of bids and tenders? Particularly in the construction sector?
The construction sector is trying hard to diversify its workforce. Initiatives encouraging diversity, such as ‘Women in Construction’ and ‘BAME in Property,’ were created with the sole purpose to increase diversity in the workforce.
Despite this, construction still struggles a lot with gender diversity. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, the percentage of workers identifying as female in sub-sectors of construction are:
• 13% in Construction
• 20% in Transportation
• 21% in Energy and Mining
• 11% in Engineering
Figures from the ONS's Labour Force Survey show that in 2018, just 5.4% of construction workers were Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME).
There is more to diversity than just gender and race in the workforce. In 2013, the government published Construction 2025, an industrial strategy setting out Britain’s long-term vision for construction. One of its five key components was focusing on ‘becoming known as an industry known for it’s talented and diverse workforce.’ To meet this goal, there needs to be an emphasis on diversity of ‘outlook, values, experience and behaviour.’
How does diversity relate to bids?
There will often be a question in a tender relating to equality and diversity, and the construction sector has a harder time with scoring criteria in tenders. So, there are a few things you can do to ensure high marks.
Your company must improve diversity in workplace settings, offer different initiatives and engage in the wider conversation, which will all help build an inclusive workplace, as well as improving your chances at winning the tender.
Ask the Big Questions
Assessors may ask questions on how the project will help those most disadvantaged, how inclusive it is and what measures are put in place to meet their needs. For example, thinking about what the accessibility options for wheelchair users are. Will there be lifts and ramps so they can access the building?
Equality means that the company must treat all the people the same, but diversity highlights that differences must be addressed to bring the disadvantaged to the same level as those in an advantageous position. You need to highlight the groups you are supporting, the issues they face and how your project will address those. Surveys are a good way to collect this research and give you raw data to base your answer on.
Combat Workplace Discrimination
When completing bids, your company will need to demonstrate that it is promoting diversity in the working environment. One of the best ways to evidence this for the marking criteria is to write an equality and diversity policy specifically for your own company, if you don’t already have one. By having this policy, it shows that your organisation is taking diversity seriously and means staff must adhere to the policy.
Do not just write the policy to add to your evidence. That alone will not win you the tender. It should be properly implemented across all departments. Best practice tips for following a good equality and diversity policy includes being mindful of language and recognizing unconscious biases.
Types of unconscious bias include:
• Confirmation bias – Forming an opinion of a person based on an inconsequential factor, such as their accent
• Name bias – Forming an opinion based on a name or name’s origins
• Gender bias – People given preferential or non-preferential treatment due to their gender
• Ageism bias – Forming an opinion about someone based on their age.
By confronting unconscious biases, a more inclusive working environment will be fostered.
The Equality Act (2010)
For your equality and diversity policy to be up to date, it needs to align to The Equality Act (2010).The Equality Act (2010) legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, such as The Equal Pay Act (1970), making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations.
Protected characteristics, which are often discriminated against, include age, gender, sex, disability, race, sexual orientation, and religion. Therefore, having policies in your company is so important. They need to be available to hand, should a customer, client, stakeholder, marker, or anyone else want to read it.
Taking Diverse Action
In order to improve the inclusivity of your organisation, you should monitor diversity during the recruitment process, advertise job roles in platforms you normally wouldn’t, and work towards obtaining accreditations for diversity, such as the ‘Disability Confident Scheme’ and ‘Clear Assured.’ These will help you with more evidence for the Equality and Diversity question in bids.
Companies can also provide evidence of positive action to promote construction to minority groups and cultural awareness and diversity training initiatives that have been implemented in your workplace. A diverse team allows staff to collaborate with their unique strengths and insights for the good of the company.
Skanska Succeeds with Diversity
In 2019, Skanska conducted an employee demographic survey to find out their protected characteristics. 94% of their staff completed the survey, which gave Skanska fantastic data to survey the landscape of their workforce. They found that 26% of their workforce are from minority groups. According to the Construction Industry Training Board, the construction sector average for ethnic diversity is 13%, so Skanska had doubled this.
Their secret? They used several non-discriminatory forms of recruitment processes, such as asking for blind CVs. They also completed local recruitment campaigns and talent retention.
Skanska placed their job opportunities on 385 job boards, rather than focusing on a few, and built relationships with local universities and colleges with a diverse range of students, to keep the recruitment pool as wide as possible and build those early relationships with potential future employees.
Skanska, and other companies like them, have proved that they are able to increase diversity in their organisation by using an array of different proven techniques that work.
Imagery is Key
You might be saying all the right things in your answer, but is your imagery matching up? Are the images you use on tender documents and in the interview presentation diverse?
If not, it is time to have a re-think about the images being used in the documents. Use images of a variety of people to convey your message.
It is important to make sure your message is consistent across your other marketing materials too. Your client will go to your website to see what you’re all about, and they may not consciously take it in, but they may notice if the images do not reflect the content you have evidenced in your tender.
Examples of Equality and Diversity Questions
1. Does your institution have a published equality and diversity strategy/policy/scheme?
2. What structures are in place to manage your equality and diversity strategy?
3. How do you prevent discrimination and advance equality in the following aspects of employment?
Equality and Diversity questions in bids are becoming more relevant as they are shaping future projects, and the livelihoods of future construction workers. At the end of the day, the tender process is a competition, and to win, you need to go above and beyond the requirements outlined, whilst improving diversity internally at the same time.