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Building a Culture of CARE Within the Construction Industry

BY BOB LANHAM
AGC PRESIDENT

Bob Lanham
AGC of America President

The escalating racial tensions across the country have been weighing heavy on all our minds. Prophetically, AGC of America released, earlier this spring, a new program called Culture of CARE that is designed to help members create a more inclusive, and ultimately di-verse, work environment.

Culture of CARE was originally developed by the AGC of Washington as a proactive step for construction firms who don’t just want to recruit diversity into the industry but want to retain those workers for the long-term. Retaining workers is vital, and in many ways far more challenging. Employment research data shows that workers especially new ones who do not feel welcome and comfortable on jobsites will leave. The problem is compounded during periods of economic growth.

Culture of CARE is designed to help construction firms create a more welcoming and inclusive environment at all jobsites – whether in the front office or on construction projects. The program is designed to help team members appreciate their differences, understand the impact their words or actions may have on others, and help them develop skills to create a welcoming work-place. The program makes clear that off-color jokes, inappropriate wall calendars, catcalls and other unacceptable behavior have no place in the modern jobsite.

The new Culture of CARE program offers firms a host of educational materials and tips on how to become more welcoming and inclusive. These resources are designed for employees at all levels. Having the CEO send well-meaning emails to all staff is helpful, but jobsites will only become more inclusive when every worker understands they have a role to play in creating the right jobsite culture. Just like a safety program, Culture of CARE includes materials needed to help everyone buy-in to the program.

AGC worked to nationalize the Culture of CARE program because expanding the diversity of our industry is the best way to ensure its long-term success. The biggest issue facing our industry prior to the pandemic was workforce shortages, and many members report those chal-lenges have not gone away since the pandemic. And we know that labor shortages will become even more severe as our economy continues to recover.

We are fighting those workforce shortages with what is essentially one hand behind our backs. Half of the American workforce are women, yet they represent only nine percent of the construction industry. Twelve percent of American workers are African American, but they are only five percent of the construction workers. If we can’t find a way to recruit and retain more diverse workers, we will never be able to keep pace with future demand for construction.

As important, studies show that firms that are more diverse and inclusive are more innovative, have better safety records and are more profitable. That is because bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives forces firms to think about old problems in new ways, allowing them to be more creative. In other words, becoming more diverse isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing.

I encourage all members to visit BuildCulture.org to learn more about AGC of America’s Culture of CARE program. Review the materials, learn about what the program offers. And I hope you will join with the hundreds of AGC member firms that have already engaged by signing the Culture of CARE pledge. They are doing their part to ensure an even stronger tomorrow for the construction industry. Are you ready to do your part?