The construction industry has long faced challenges in improving diversity and meeting significant skills shortages. The new HS2 programme – and its huge recruitment needs – offers an opportunity to drive real change. Here are 12 ways SCS JV are making progress.
In June, our Commercial Director Neil Armstrong took to the podium at the IHR Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Conference, alongside SCS JV’s ED&I Advisor Laura Roche.
SCS JV is a joint venture between Skanska, Costain and STRABAG, working on the challenging final 26.4km of the high-profile HS2 project. The HS2 project is set to generate 30,000 job opportunities overall. SCS are responsible for 4,000 of them and have committed to increasing the recruitment of previously unemployed people, especially in the local area.
As you can imagine, that’s no easy feat.
Keep reading for twelve hands-on tactics SCS JV have embraced, to build a fair, inclusive recruitment process and workplace culture.
Redesigning recruitment for ED&I: people, process, and technology
“We’ve been given very specific ED&I works information [a contract outlining scope of work] from HS2”, Laura says. “They’ve set significant goals and targets for us and other joint-ventures working on the route, defining key contractual requirements around diversity and inclusion”.
Laura sits on SCS’ ED&I team, tasked with several core challenges:
- Monitoring and reporting on ED&I data throughout the recruitment process, segmented by stages and across different roles.
- Building a workforce that represents the seven key London boroughs SCS are working across.
- Building an inclusive culture that appeals to diverse groups, especially those often marginalised from the traditional construction workforce.
- Assessing how ED&I thinking contributes to every business process, like procurement, inclusive web design, and recruitment.
Moving the needle on ED&I is about more than meeting their contractual obligations though. Laura and SCS recognise the exciting potential and profound business value of ED&I, especially from a recruitment point-of-view:
“We have a huge skills shortage in construction, so we are really eager to access new pools of talent to build our projects and share the opportunities available in our industry. That includes groups like women, returners to work, ex-military, previously homeless people and young people through apprenticeships and placements”.
For Laura, true change comes from the combination of people, process and technology working in harmony.
“We’re trying to design a process that finds the best person for the job,” she says, “rather than just relying on unconscious bias training for the recruitment team. How do you build a system that’s supporting ED&I and our staff; how do you design bias out?”.
Let’s talk about some of the practical ways SCS JV are actioning their commitment to ED&I, in recruitment and their wider culture.
Six practical ways to build a fair and inclusive recruitment process…
1 – Tackling unconscious bias
A while back, HS2 ran CV-free recruitment trials across 20 roles. This experiment saw candidates being shortlisted based on anonymously completing a work-based task related to the role, rather than submitting a CV or application.
They found shortlisting by blind audition saw interviews for women increase by 53% and for BAME candidates by 64% – huge leaps that testify to dramatic unconscious bias.
Looking at their own stats, SCS knew this prevalence of unconscious bias during shortlisting was echoed in their recruitment process: “We noticed the biggest drop in our diversity comes at shortlisting stage”, Laura explains. “That reminds us our recruiters really aren’t immune to unconscious bias either”.
To that end, using recruitment software to automatically anonymise applications has been a game-changer. “Our recruiters used to anonymise CVs manually before sending to hiring managers, but that took several minutes per CV. Now that all happens automatically – it’s much faster and nobody in the recruitment process is seeing information that could trigger bias”.
2 – Mandatory ‘Passport to Hire’ training
“Our hiring managers all have to all go through a mandatory two-hour virtual training session on fair, inclusive recruitment and selection”, says Laura. “This training ensures they have their ‘passport to hire’ so they can interview and recruit onto the project. Otherwise they can’t, because we’re not assured they know what we’ve committed to around ED&I and how to get there”.
SCS also provide resources to hiring managers – like a tool for spotting gendered language in job adverts. (Adzuna research finds 60% of businesses show significant male bias in their job adverts, for example. Not ideal, in an industry already battling a perception problem around gender).
3 – Ensuring multi-brand consistency
One of SCS’ major recruitment challenges comes from being part of a three-way joint venture. You’ve got three expert organisations who have separate teams and brands, as well as three separate recruitment processes. Consistency can be a challenge.
As Laura explains, “For us, designing out bias means having a really consistent recruitment process that everyone is aware of and everyone follows.”
Choosing recruitment technology that effortlessly supports multi-brand recruitment has been super important for SCS. “Our ATS offers us one platform that all three companies use, not three places that CVs go. It unifies our approach and ensures consistency and accountability”.
5 – Building automated processes to support ED&I commitments
For recruiters and hiring managers to consistently take the right actions to make progress on ED&I, those actions must be easy to adopt. If ED&I becomes a burden on already-full plates, it simply won’t happen.
It’s been crucial, then, for SCS to embed their commitments to ED&I into their processes and technology so they’re easily enacted, in the flow of work.
For example, automatically shortlisting candidates who apply through the Disability Confident scheme and meet minimum job requirements. That’s integral to SCS’ Disability Confident Leader status.
Or automatically filtering returnees to work into a post-hire support workflow based on application questionnaires, to uphold their commitment to hire and retain more returnees.
6 – Robust diversity reporting
Part of SCS’ contractual mandate is robust ED&I reporting throughout the recruitment process. Progress hinges on having granular recruitment data that reveals problems and bottlenecks, and shows where solutions are having a positive impact.
For SCS, having robust reporting functionality within their recruitment software has been critical, allowing them to segment diversity data by recruitment stages and across different roles so they can target action.
… and six practical ways to build a fair and inclusive culture
7 – Monthly ED&I toolbox talks
One of the most powerful levers for SCS to drive culture change has been their monthly ED&I toolbox talks.
“Every month we produce a morning briefing that goes out on-site on a particular inclusion topic”, Laura says. “We also run a webinar with guest speakers from outside organisations or our employee networks.”
8 – Online ED&I calendar
SCS’ online ED&I calendar is a simple way of sharing, embracing, and celebrating dates from different cultures. “We want to build a culture where people can share their experiences and fully bring themselves to work”, says Laura.
9 – Gathering (and acting on!) ED&I feedback
SCS prove their commitment to ED&I and surface any issues using an anonymous ED&I feedback app.
The app is accessible via scanning a QR code and empowers employees to anonymously report their positive or negative ED&I experiences. And, crucially, get a response from Laura and her team. “We want everyone to feel listened to; feel heard”, says Laura.
10 – Industry collaboration
ED&I isn’t just a company issue – it’s a wider industry and societal issue. Whatever your sector and challenges, there’ll be organisations who share your mission and can speed progress.
For example, Laura talks about their collaboration with groups like Women Returners and STEM Returners. “We work with these organisations to address construction’s leaky pipeline – where skilled people leave for various reasons but then don’t re-enter the workforce”.
11 – Supporting flexible working
SCS are pioneering flexible working in the construction industry, with their internal ‘Flex Success’ program to allow flexi-time on-site.
“We’re very proud to lead the way in construction because it’s stereotypically a rigid industry around working hours and productivity. But we know flexible working is something, especially post-COVID, people are really looking for in job opportunities”.
By offering flexible working, SCS open their employer proposition to workers who’ve traditionally been excluded – like working parents or part-time students.
12 – Championing employee networks
Laura also talks about the importance of employee networks, to empower employees to make their concerns and priorities heard.
“These are spaces where people can come together, and we hear their voices. It allows them to put pressure on senior executives and our team, to hold us accountable for what they expect from their workplace”.
If Laura and the SCS JV team can make progress on ED&I despite the challenges facing construction and the monumental pressure on recruiters not to delay the UK’s most high-profile project, we all can! Hopefully these twelve ideas are some useful food for thought…
The construction sector faces unique recruitment challenges that threaten project delivery and hurt sector growth. Discover how we’re helping other organisations in construction improve their recruitment outcomes.