Sounding Board: How DEI improves workplace safety, employee attraction and retention

How do employers in these sectors stay profitable and attract the next generation of workers? One way is to foster a more inclusive workplace, with a focus on the physical and psychological health and safety of employees. The result is reduced risk for organizations and a more productive work environment, where differences become strengths and a culture where people like to come to work. However, much of this is based on the day-to-day experiences of employees.

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Construction and mining jobs are inherently risky. But what about the less obvious risks that workers fear? What happens when employees don’t feel psychologically safe before they even start their day? Humiliation, fear of making mistakes or even losing your job can have a huge impact on worker safety.

A transparent and inclusive work environment helps employees stay focused on operating safely. Teams with psychologically safe environments – where everyone is free to share and be themselves – have employees who are less likely to leave and more likely to use their diverse perspectives as an advantage.

But diversity does not necessarily mean inclusiveness. Hiring a diverse team of employees can help address labor shortages, but fostering a culture that validates and facilitates everyone’s growth and development can lead to higher retention rates, better innovation and improvements in overall business performance. A 2019 survey by the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion found that 100% of senior leaders believe diversity of perspective adds value to their organization and 95% believe diversity is a business strategy that contributes positively to innovation, creativity and problem solving.

Traditionally, construction has not been one of the most diverse industries. And as the tides begin to turn, shifting to an inclusive work environment takes time, commitment, and an acknowledgment of any conscious or unconscious biases that may exist within an organization.

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Safety is at its best when it is embedded as a core value in the corporate culture and buy-in starts at the top. When leadership works directly with the front line, they can help articulate the best solutions for each employee. Engaging workers who represent a wide range of opinions and perspectives can ensure that the right practices and solutions are put in place for everyone in the organization, not just the select few.

Imagine being one of the few women on a construction site, showing up for work every day but feeling unrepresented – not to mention being expected to work and meet industry standards. company with unsuitable safety equipment or equipment that has not been properly installed. Open dialogue, improved transparency and a real commitment to change can not only improve individual performance, but also contribute to overall company morale and play a role in reshaping the reputation of the industry.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many construction and mining companies to leapfrog to new, more efficient ways of working and keeping workers safe and healthy. Technology has become an indispensable part of these industries and is now one of the main drivers of profitability.

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But technology is only as good as the people who use it. Best practices in documenting security processes and procedures ensure that everyone has the right information, when they need it. Going forward, organizations should focus on investing in new technologies as a way to attract workers to the industry by simplifying processes, finding more efficient ways of doing things and ultimately , attracting the younger, tech-savvy workforce. By providing challenging, safe and fulfilling opportunities, organizations can tap into a broader talent pool and drive improvements in DEI programs across the enterprise.

When leaders prioritize DEI, they are twice as likely to exceed financial goals, six times better at anticipating and responding to change, and generating 30% more revenue per employee, according to a 2021 report from Deloitte.

With this in mind, many companies are also beginning to implement mandatory training for employees and leaders to foster a diverse and inclusive work culture. Mentoring and networking programs can help build connections and increase employee satisfaction. In an environment where employees can be themselves at work, diversity becomes a tool for productivity and innovation. Unique perspectives and new ways to solve old problems can strengthen the emotional dynamics of any organization.

Safe work environments are key to fostering inclusion. Every organization follows its own journey, and with this mindset, employers can develop healthier, motivated and productive teams.

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It’s not just a moral imperative to do the right thing – it’s actually good for business. There may not be a straight path, but employers can start by examining their current values, successes, and failures, and then use that information to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Frankie Fuchs is the General Manager of Environment, Health and Safety at Finning Canada. Jennifer Leaman is Director of Talent, Learning and Development at Finning Canada.

Keith P. Plain