CIF View: Lead by example with a goal-driven diversity & inclusion policy

05 Jul 2017

Lead by example with a goal-driven diversity & inclusion policy. By Jean Winters, CIF Director of Industrial Relations and Employment Services

Attracting workers into construction will require a radical shift in the sector’s corporate culture, but make careers in the industry more desirable to a wider talent pool.

The DKM Report Demand for Skills in Construction to 2020 predicts the industry could expand by 33% to €20 billion by 2020,requiring 112,000 additional employees across management, crafts and trades to deliver the houses and infrastructure needed to support Ireland’s rapidly growing population and economy.

As construction activity expands and competition for talent intensifies, it is time for the industry to recalibrate in order to facilitate greater diversity and cultural difference on- and off-site.

In its broadest sense, diversity refers to those dimensions that can be used to differentiate groups and individuals from one another. In a work context, it means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has become a “Big Idea” in business and society. It is being seen as a source and driver of innovation, and of greater business success.

By embracing diversity and acknowledging difference, companies are taking the opportunity to respond to the social changes of the past few years in a way that is beneficial to individual employees and the organisation by creating a corporate culture that values equal opportunities for all.


The CIF Breakfast Briefing on Increasing Female Participation in Construction, held to mark International Women’s Day, was attended by a large cross section of women working in the industry, as well as a number of male industry leaders. Response to the event shows that there is an appetite for change and the promotion greater inclusion of women in the industry.


The need for a more diverse and inclusive industry is further highlighted in the recently published EY Diversity & Inclusion Report – the first ever piece of research carried out in the Irish market to look at all elements of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) within business.

The Report found that one in four Irish businesses attribute higher revenue and profitability to their having a D&I strategy in place. The vast majority (94%) of Irish business leaders believe that an inclusive environment is vital to business performance.

Most significantly the Report found that the majority of executives believe that D&I contributes to attracting and retaining the best talent (97%) and that it is vital for business performance (94%).

Despite this, only half (50%) of Irish firms have a D&I strategy in place and less than a third (31%) have set D&I goals and targets within their organisation.

Coupled with the fact that 53% of organisations do not measure D&I progress and success, this reveals a significant disconnect between the importance companies place on D&I as a business imperative, and their actions which do not reflect this.


The findings of this Report may have an even greater bearing on the construction sector when you consider that of the 140,000 workers employed in the construction sector, just five percent of those are female.

If you are a construction business owner, director or HR manager, take a moment to consider this statistic in terms of your organisation and ask yourself if your company and staff would benefit from having a D&I Strategy with clear goals and targets in place.


Companies competing to attract new talent and retain key staff will be fully aware that there is a Talent War ongoing and that this war is heating up.

Having a D&I Strategy in place could go some way to helping your organisation in that war. Having a D&I Strategy in place will also help make your organisation an attractive career choice for a very important and growing pool of talent.


There are now more than half a million millennials (The generation born between the early 80s and 00s) in the Irish population. In 10 years, millennials will account for nearly 75% of the Irish workforce.

If an organisation is looking to attract millennials to join its ranks, having a progressive D&I policy in place will be a prerequisite before the vast majority of them consider your company as a potential employer as the millennial generation absolutely expect Diversity as a matter of course.

Research from the US-based Billie Jean King leadership initiative reports that millennials see D&I through a completely different lens and that there is now a trench between the generational mind-sets on the issue. Fundamentally, for millennials D&I is a necessary element for innovation.

For a company to survive and thrive into the coming years it will be vital that its management has a clear understanding of the motivating factors that drive staff and present the organisation to outside talent pools as a progressive place where any talented person, regardless of gender, background or belief, can develop as an individual, be rewarded appropriately for contributing to the success of the organisation and build a sustainable career.

Jean Winters, CIF Director of Industrial Relations and Employment Services

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