I work a lot in the construction sector and am rarely surprised by the things I witness, not only on site but in the office environment. Although there are a few things that would probably make you shudder if I was to describe them here!
The one thing that doesn't surprise me is the stereotyping that takes place within the industry especially around LGBTQ because, and as one director said to me "it's OK Grant, because we don't have any of those!" You can imagine the look on their face when I responded with, "you have 100 plus employees. Let me tell you that at least 6% of those will be LGBTQ, they just haven't told you yet, or maybe it's because they don't feel they can!"
This led to a discussion around how people are made to feel at work and I approached it like this....
I asked this director to imagine their best employee, one who is site based and one who is office based. I asked them to describe what they did to make them say that they were the best, which they did. I asked them to describe the impact on the business if they left. I then asked them to describe the culture within the business, which was described as "well you know Grant, it's construction a bit of banter never did anyone any harm did it? You know, how it is, it's very blokey and it can be a bit in your face at times." I then confirmed that this was encouraged and that the jokes can be a bit sexist, racist and homophobic to which this director added "that it was all done in good fun with no malice intended."
OK, let's go back to your best employees," I said. "One day, let's say the site employee comes along and says they are leaving. You ask them why and during the discussion they admit to being LGBTQ and that they can't cope with the banter anymore. How would you feel? They admitted they would be disappointed as they felt they would have let this employee down. I asked them to describe what they meant by that. They said "as a director it's my duty to make sure I look after all my employees and I wouldn't have done that and we'd be losing a good member of the team which would hurt our business."
Now, I've paraphrased this discussion somewhat. To have relayed it all would have probably meant this article would have been War and Peace Part 3 (it may already be getting that way anyway), but it was amazing to see the change in the individuals demeanour when I made it personal to them and their business and the potential damage that a "bit of banter" might cause.
The fact of the matter is that, too many organisations don't know their employees as they should. Too many encourage behaviour that is unacceptable and that they would probably not approve of, if it was to happen to them or one of their loved ones or friends.
However, if you work in construction (or even if you don't) there is a framework to help you. Be Fair was developed by the CITB to help businesses develop Fairness, Inclusion and Respect within their organisation and its supply chain. It provides a clear route for organisations to work through and (whisper it) there is the potential of funding to help you do this if you are a construction business, making your organisation a better place to work, retaining your people, managing your supply chain (how many times have you risked losing business because of the actions of a subcontractor) and improving your bottom line as a result.
To find out more about Be Fair, the process and the potential funding then get in touch or go to http://www.citb.co.uk/health-safety-and-other-topics/fairness-inclusion-respect-topic/ and start your journey...