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Tackling diversity will enable industry to recruit, retain and inspire

“Being transparent and open about positive efforts to improve diversity is the right step for our industry, GDP growth and achieving the UK’s infrastructure goals”, according to Allan Cook, chairman of Atkins and the Royal Academy of Engineering's diversity leadership group.

At the launch yesterday (Tuesday) of a suite of RAE reports on delivering diversity, Cook stressed  the strides already made, as well as the remaining work to be done. And he initiated a call to action for the industry to seek improvements within workplace diversity and inclusion.

Fostering diversity is key to solving many of the challenges facing the industry, specifically those posed by the widening skills gap, retention issues, as well as an aging workforce, said Cook. And he underlined that for businesses, increasing diversity boosts their financial performance, spurs greater innovations, increases staff motivation and leads to betters customer relations.

“Choosing to improve a company’s diversity and inclusion is a long term commitment which must be led by the top. Without the senior leaders being on board, this commitment will not be action centred, and our industry needs action regarding diversity as well as inclusion,” Allan Cook.

He added that while the true development of a diverse and inclusive workplace is a long term and gradual process, the Academy's work showed that the rewards were undeniable and it is time all organisations across the infrastructure sector got involved.

The Academy launched three separate reports this week - a survey of the current state of diversity and inclusion in the sector and two tool kits to help industry improve its record.

“Choosing to improve a company’s diversity and inclusion is a long term commitment which must be led by the top. Without the senior leaders being on board, this commitment will not be action centred, and our industry needs action regarding diversity as well as inclusion,” explained Cook.

ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin challenged the industry to take up Cook’s call to action, and learn from others within the industry as to best practice, benchmarking, as well as external resources. 

Even small strategic changes within a business can have a positive impact upon the nature of the workplace, he said. And while extra resources to devote to diversity and inclusion are helpful, many solutions do not require that, allowing SMEs and large multinational corporations alike to commit to varying degrees of actions which will improve their diversity and inclusion.

Diversity is about all underrepresented groups, and ultimately it is about fostering a sense of inclusivity in which the differences amongst the workforce is a strategic business strength, Ogunshakin said.

"Implementing the changes necessary to take advantage of these business benefits does not appear to be a priority for some employers. Often, this is simply a case of not being sure where to start." Sue Percy, CIHT

The Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation CIHTchief executive Sue Percy  emphasised points made about the need for continual efforts to share good practice, including the need for regular revisions to the observations and recommendations made throughout the industry.

CIHT published a parallel toolkit in October to help employers in the highways and transportation sector recruit, retain and develop a diverse workforce. Routes to Diversity and Inclusion offers practical guidance, case studies and links to expert advice.

“The business case for diversity and inclusion has been highlighted a number of times in the media recently," said Percy. "However implementing the changes necessary to take advantage of these business benefits does not appear to be a priority for some employers. Often, this is simply a case of not being sure where to start."

The publications from Royal Academy of Engineering diversity leadership group are available online.

Increasing diversity and inclusion in engineering – a case study toolkit

Diversity and inclusion in engineering survey report 2015

Routes to diversity and inclusion – a toolkit to help employers recruit, retain and develop a diverse workforce

ACE will be releasing a further report, to build on the work already done, later this year.  

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