Build and sustain a DEI infrastructure

Feb 04, 2024

Organizations can drive positive change and contribute to a culture that values diversity as a strategic asset by setting clear goals and consistently sharing progress.

The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry has never been more crucial, especially as generational shifts continue. The heart of innovation in our industry lies in embracing differences and fostering an inclusive environment.

Let’s explore the evolving DEI landscape and provide a roadmap for AEC firms to prioritize and sustain their commitment to DEI in the future:

  • The state-of-the-state of DEI. To enact meaningful change in the industry and within organizations, we must first acknowledge that DEI in the AEC industry is undergoing a transformative shift, with a heightened recognition of the importance of fostering a more inclusive environment. We must identify and overcome common roadblocks, such as societal pressures and internal biases, as we navigate the path to inclusivity.
    The industry is striving to dismantle barriers and create pathways for underrepresented groups. Companies that empower diverse perspectives experience more innovative solutions and improved problem-solving. Efforts are being made to address systemic biases, promote equal opportunities, and cultivate an inclusive culture where employees from various backgrounds feel valued and empowered. While progress is evident, work is still needed to integrate DEI into policies and the industry.
    A commitment to an inclusive culture becomes more than a checkbox when DEI principles are woven into an AEC company’s purpose, mission, and values. Organizations that embrace DEI recognize a diverse workforce – reflective of various backgrounds, perspectives, and communities they serve – brings a richness of ideas crucial for tackling complex challenges. AEC firms can ensure their workplaces are diverse, equitable, and inclusive by championing DEI initiatives and creating an environment where individuals thrive and contribute.
  • Fostering connection and commitment. Leadership buy-in is vital to the success of DEI initiatives within organizations. Championing diversity goes beyond rhetoric; it requires tangible actions, appropriate resources and a commitment to fostering an inclusive culture. Internally, leaders set the tone by promoting DEI at all levels, leading by example in hiring practices, and valuing every voice. Externally, their influence shapes industry norms and standards as a voice for change.
    Introducing the concept of the policies, processes, and procedures (PPP) review underscores the accountability and transparency essential in supporting leadership’s DEI efforts. This framework involves a comprehensive examination of the workforce polices, organizational processes, and day-to-day procedures. By holding leaders accountable for tangible outcomes, organizations can engrain DEI initiatives in all aspects of the organization, fostering genuine transformation, action, and progress.
    Establishing a culture of inclusion demands deliberate and purposeful initiatives such as investing in employee awareness and education. These initiatives aim to cultivate a shared understanding of DEI principles and foster a workplace culture that values differences. Additionally, employee resource groups provide a community where individuals with shared backgrounds or interests can connect and collaborate within larger organizations. Building a sustainable DEI program ensures inclusivity is a pervasive aspect of the culture and contributes to a workplace where every employee feels seen, heard, and empowered.
  • Creating a sustainable DEI program. Thoughtfully creating a program’s infrastructure – beyond standing up the program – is key to implementing sustainable DEI practices. Start with a roadmap; define what a successful initiative would entail and identify the actionable steps, resources, and metrics needed to be successful. Aligning DEI goals with pre-established company values and metrics is an effective strategy to ensure the program blends seamlessly into organizational structures.
    Technology and innovation are crucial resources for advancing DEI in AEC. Technological solutions allow for more inclusive hiring processes, enable accommodating remote work opportunities, and ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Innovative platforms can be utilized for educational initiatives to encourage continuous learning and understanding. Firms enhance efficiency and leverage innovation for the benefit of all employees by integrating technology into DEI strategies.
    DEI goals must align with the broader company goals for a cohesive strategy that lasts long-term. Setting specific and measurable DEI objectives, coupled with well-defined key performance indicators, is vital for progress and sustainability. Involving stakeholders in the goal-setting process fosters a sense of collective ownership and incorporates diverse perspectives. Regular data-driven assessments can identify areas for improvement and allow organizations to track the effectiveness of initiatives. Organizations can drive positive change, foster an inclusive workplace, and contribute to a culture that values diversity as a strategic asset by setting clear goals and consistently sharing progress.

The DEI landscape in AEC is evolving, with efforts to address biases, and promote equal opportunities for underrepresented groups. The journey toward inclusivity involves leadership buy-in, alignment with company values, and a long-term DEI program. Ultimately, AEC firms can create a workplace where diversity is integral to success by integrating these principles into everyday operations.

Annie Rezac is DEI program manager at Ulteig. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.