The construction industry often has a difficulty when it comes to the Equality and Diversity scoring criteria in bids and tenders. Despite the best of intentions the team presenting to the client often ends up being almost exclusively white, middle aged males.
It’s not through lack of effort. Construction businesses want a more diverse workforce. They want to be more representative of the general population. Indeed, as the Farmer Report highlighted, attracting enough talented people into the industry means recruitment has to be significantly more diverse than in the past.
I’ve also seen, first hand, how diversity strengthens a bid team. I recently worked with a diverse bid team from a consortium of three companies. The team was over 30% female and from a range of nationalities. Within the scope of our engagement with the team we carried out a detailed analysis of the behavioural and communication styles of all members of the group. The results were shared with the client to demonstrate the collaborative and problem solving abilities of individuals and the group as a whole. The bid was successful.
Changing perceptions to make construction the sector of choice for a wider range of recruits takes time. And recruitment, development and gaining the experience needed to be credible in front of potential clients won’t happen overnight. Which means you may well still be left with a white and male public face when it comes to your next bidding opportunity.
It’s tempting to say ‘we’re doing all we can’, attach your E&D policy to the bid and hope that you’ll score highly enough on other criteria.
Yet, Equality & Diversity, and Social Value continue to become more significant scoring criteria in many public sector tenders. Being more imaginative and dynamic in these areas could actually be your significant advantage.
So, what can you do?
Have a good story to tell You can’t necessarily create a diverse bid team overnight. But you can certainly do much more than fall back on generic policies and statements of commitment to equal opportunities. Can you provide evidence for the following in your presentation?
Positive action to promote construction careers to underrepresented groups.
Cultural awareness and diversity training initiatives you have implemented for your workforce.
Active engagement with schools, colleges and community groups to provide work experience, tasters and training opportunities.
Often, because it’s challenging, equality and diversity doesn’t feature significantly in the presentation. Perhaps companies don’t want to emphasize an aspect where they believe that competitors may have an advantage. In my experience there is usually a more positive story than they imagine.
And tell your story consistently Your responses to questions in the tender documents might have all the right words, but what about the images you use in your slides, on your website and in your submissions? Do they reflect an organisation that is truly committed to diversity and widening participation?
Updating website images and copy can be one of those tasks that gets stuck forever on the to do list. But clients will often go to your website to get a better idea of who you are. If you look like a business stuck in traditional attitudes and practices it can create doubts about the words in your bid submission.
Client presentations play a significant part in the awarding process, which means they need to be delivered by skilled and experienced people. For now you may have little option other than your team being predominantly white, middle aged and male. But you do have choices about how you present yourselves as being committed to changing that situation.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.