Tackling the war for talent

By Amanda Clack, Executive Director, CBRE Ltd and PwC Alumni

What difference can tackling the war for talent make in the built environment sector – and why does this even matter?

Addressing the war for talent is a key consideration for any leader, but for the built environment sector it is about life saving as it struggles to deliver the skills required to meet the demands from creating infrastructure to homes.

More worrying is that the sector is acknowledged to be notoriously behind the curve when it comes to the attraction and retention of talent (and let’s not even mention where real estate and construction comes in terms of Gender Pay Gap Reporting).

It is important to remain cognisant that at the entry level, apprentices and graduates, have a choice, a choice they exert in selecting organisations that suit their values. Meaning they want to join an organisation with a strong positive culture, authentic leaders, that embrace new ways of working and enables them, to not only bring themselves to work every day, but perform at their best.

As a result, the war for talent is now firmly on the boardroom agenda, tackling it by addressing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is essential in disrupting today’s status quo and preparing to embrace the talent of the future.

Progressing cultural change

The importance of D&I makes business sense. A growing number of leaders are reinforcing their commitment to embracing a better culture coupled with aligning their business practices with the principles to recruit, develop and retain an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce. Progress is slowly being made – step by step - around gradually challenging and changing aspects such as: culture, language and behaviour.

But for some, the road to understanding and embedding a D&I culture is multifaceted, multi-layered and multi-complex. It is continually evolving, with established cultural norms being challenged in support of greater equality and the creation of a balanced harmonious workplace. Consequently, a true D&I culture is unlikely to land overnight as it can take time to change the organisational dial. We are on that journey, but there is more to do.

A breadth of talent

The Chartered Management Institute in London has estimated that by 2025 improving D&I could add as much as USD 12 trillion annually (75 billion USD at 2017) to the global economy. The answer to tackling the war for talent is to start disrupting the sector to make it more diverse and inclusive, but that needs to begin now.

The need to attract, develop and retain talent is key to business survival and organisations are having to attract people from a wider and more diverse pool. Nowhere is this more acute than in the built environment sector where organisations have been slow to react and move with the working demographic.

It goes without saying that this is much bigger than the gender debate, it needs to be considered for all aspects of diversity, based on the understanding of “protected characteristics”. Protected characteristics vary by country but generally these refer to the nine groups protected under the Equality Act 2010, set out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission including Age; Disability; Race or ethnicity i.e. BAME – Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic; Religion or belief; Sex or Sexual orientation.

Worth considering is that the percentage of RICS professionally qualified members who are female is 15% or is around 1% from protected characteristics such as LGBTQ, BAME or people with disabilities, meaning organisations are missing out on talent.

Looking to the future demand for increasingly more talent, we must raise the importance and awareness of embracing a diverse workforce and considering greater inclusivity to optimise the widest possible opportunity for employment.

This is particularly heightened at entry level where the sector is often not seen as very attractive by those in schools or entering further and higher education, which is why initiatives to take the message of the opportunity needs to be taken into schools to attract the professionals of the future.

To improve the sector’s approach to D&I there is a need to improve understanding and why embracing D&I in the workplace opens-up the potential to a better working environment, but importantly makes business sense in terms of attracting the best talent to the organisation, which enhances the bottom line.

Talent is in demand. To enable organisations to get the best selection of the best talent they need to be fishing in the widest possible pool of people, otherwise people will be in a vacuum of self-reliance and static monolithic thinking. Diversity of thought comes with a diversity of people.

Therefore, the four principles for organisational leaders to focus on (established as part of the RICS IEQM) are:

  • Leadership - demonstrable commitment at the highest level to increasing the diversity of the workforce;
  • Recruitment - engage and attract new people to the industry from under-represented groups; best practice recruitment methods;
  • Culture - an inclusive culture where all staff engage with developing, delivering, monitoring and assessing diversity and inclusivity;
  • Development - training and promotion policies that offer equal access to career progression to all members of the workforce.

The role of CEO as visionary and leader is often tested in business. Setting the vision for D&I and understanding what you need to do to improve what you may be doing already is at the heart of the book I co-authored with Judith Gabler entitled “Managing Diversity and Inclusion in Real Estate and Construction*”.

*All Royalties donated to LandAid, the UK charity supporting youth homelessness.

Follow us