The real estate industry needs to build a workforce that reflects our community and makes everyone feel welcome and part of something. As we approach National Inclusion Week, it is a reminder that we are a people business and an opportunity to reflect on just how inclusive we are – and what needs to be done to move the dial.
Countryside is about to launch its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy – a commitment to building a more inclusive culture at work, where people from all different backgrounds, identities, and circumstances can belong. We see this as an business imperative, but it also aligns to our values and who we are.
The power of a workforce should never be underestimated; it is the lifeline behind a business, delivering its purpose – for our team, helping others to create homes, communities and lasting memories. The inclusive fabric of a workforce retains this talent but also helps attract the very best into the business and increases productivity.
Ten years ago, little had been done in terms of inclusion and diversity, but the work that has taken place since is starting to create lasting change. With the real estate industry addressing this, perhaps more sluggishly than others, what are some of the immediate building blocks in the aftermath of the pandemic?
The pandemic put flexible working in the limelight. It prompted the launch of our smart working initiative, allowing flexibility in the workday while balancing business needs and providing individuals with more choice, whether that be to help with caring responsibilities, keep up with a hobby or work from another location. This agility and flexibility has the power to drive a more inclusive work culture and attract the very best talent.
It’s also an opportunity to appeal to those who may have hesitated to look at roles in our industry as they felt they could not work in a way that suited them, and to know they would still deliver and add value to the organisation.
Construction and housebuilding have struggled to shake off their insular identities, traditionally attracting a certain profile. But housebuilding is far more than just bricks, mortar, hard hats and boots. The sector’s diverse range of roles include everything from marketeers and accountants to legal counsel and business development.
It’s the responsibility of all of us to create a culture of inclusion and that’s why we launched an employee inclusion challenge to help people identify how they are impacting a culture of inclusion and what more they can do. It is a powerful method for communicating the behaviours that are inclusive and we seek to emphasise, creating actions that go beyond a statement.
Just as we are proud to create sustainable communities, we must take responsibility for our people and create an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, valued and empowered to succeed.
Iain McPherson is group chief executive of Countryside