Looking for a Business Boost? Diversify Your Staff

Diversity in the workplace fosters innovation and better customer understanding.

Historically, the construction industry hasn't been known for having a diverse workforce. Whether this characteristic is the result of one demographic—mainly white men—being the most interested in the field or the consequence of construction companies assuming white men could do the job best, the industry clearly needs more diversity, for a number of reasons, including the following findings from Talent, Business, and Competition: A New World of Diversity & Inclusion, a report from workforce supplier Allegis: 

  • Diverse companies are 35% more likely to financially outperform others in their industry sector.

  • Companies with mature diversity programs may see 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.

  • Organizations with diverse employee bases are 1.7 times more likely to be an innovative leader in their markets.

  • Sixty-seven percent of job seekers consider diversity a factor when they evaluate job opportunities.

As John McManus reports in BUILDER, women are breaking into the executive-level rank in many different areas of housing and making a big impact. The strong representation of women at Village Green is a great example. Although nearly 60% of the Detroit-based property management firm's 1,100 employees are male, 60% of its executive leadership positions are held by females.

“As a result of our attention to diversity and inclusion, as well as improvement of the role of women in housing, we've seen a higher level of employee satisfaction and engagement, positive social media feedback, a higher level of mutual respect and consideration for one another, and an overall better sense of community within our organization,” says Diane Batayeh, CEO of Village Green. “All of this has led to attracting a higher level of talent, which has led to better financial results.”

Industry observers agree that diversity can be a financial boon for businesses. Researchers at North Carolina State University analyzed diversity-policy data from 3,000 large, publicly held domestic companies and found that a diverse workforce in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation performs better at developing innovative products and services than other companies. Their study Do Pro-Diversity Policies Improve Corporate Innovation? reveals that although diversity policies don’t necessarily result in immediate improvements in innovation, companies with diverse workforces can expect about two more new-product announcements each decade than nondiversified firms. These data show that adding diversity to an organization can result in a number of tangible benefits, including better morale, more innovation, and a stronger bottom line.

But it's not enough to maintain a diverse employee base: The leaders of a company committed to diversity must also actively advocate for the policy, embracing a variety of cultures.

By designing programs such as Vida at Bozzuto, a Latino/Hispanic group, along with monthly inclusion forums and cultural and employee resource group events and communications, Bozzuto has received a number of accolades. The company three times has been named "Top Work Place" by The Washington Post and four times the property management company of the year by the National Association of Home Builders.

Other organizations, including Village Green, are focusing on changing the business environment to attract high-potential women. Village Green uses a training and mentoring program that pairs women with other successful females within their cohort. The firm’s diversity and inclusion initiative started a year ago with a complete evaluation of its workforce.

“We learned we had a relatively diverse employee base at the entry and middle levels of our organization, but within the executive level, we didn’t have as much diversity as we'd like,” Batayeh says. “So [we] didn’t adequately represent the majority of our workforce and/or the customers we serve. Furthermore, while our general employee base was relatively diverse, we realized we could be doing a better job of being more inclusive. So, attention to diversity and inclusion is an ongoing activity [at Village Green].

"We've developed new training and development programs and elevated the focus on inclusive policies and procedures, such as developing employee practices that take into consideration religious beliefs,” adds Batayeh.

Others are taking more-aggressive measures. Cory Boydston, CFO of Ashton Woods Homes, based in Roswell, Ga., partnered with Leigh Austin, principal at Long Beach, Calif.–based Arroyo Capital, and Cindy Gilmore, senior vice president at Calabasas, Calif.–headquartered Hearthstone, to put together the Women’s Housing Leadership Group to provide mentorship, leadership, professional support, and a platform for shared knowledge between executive women leaders in the housing industry.

Boydston is sharing her professional insight to raise visibility in the industry, describing her path to an executive leadership position at Ashton Woods, where three of the top five leaders are women, and her role as the first woman on the board of construction-supply giant BMC Holdings.

“As people see more women in leadership roles and speaking at conferences and being on panels, It will feed on itself and create its own momentum,” Boydston says. “It will help the next generation of women to step out of the shadows and give them more of a platform. But it’s going to be slow going; it will need to build its own momentum.” 

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