Engineering an Inclusive Environment: Think Different - Be Different

Planning, Environmental Impact Assessment, safety advisory, regeneration specialists, and all the related skills, are needed to advise, support and deliver our country’s infrastructure needs. Increased use of technology and digital solutions should help improve productivity and address part of the challenge, but all the indicators show that we are still facing a talent shortfall in the UK. Arguably, there may never have been a better time to be an Environment or Safety consultant!

Diversity in the Workplace

The need for Talent 

400,000 new people per year need to be recruited if the UK is going to meet its housing and infrastructure needs, according to the Arcadis Talent Scale 2017.  This includes a full range of skills across the Environment and Safety sector. 

Think differently 

The immediate response to this resource crisis is to join the race to recruit from the same resource pool as everyone else – leading to a fight for talent and challenges with delivery. Which, if the truth be told, the Environment and Safety sector has been guilty of for some time. If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, let’s instead do something different. What if we don’t just think about the same routes as everyone else? Instead, I ask the following question of the Environment and Safety sector:

“What does a high performing environment and safety team really look like in the 21st century?”  

Such teams may be more emotionally intelligent, may embrace the use of technology and have a greater understanding of the context of their projects. But I want to focus on the potential impact of increased diversity in our high performing 21st century team. 

Harvard Business Review identified that businesses in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management “were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean”. So the business case for diversity is well established – and improved financial performance is a good metric for measuring the performance of a team.  

What does this mean?  In effect, I believe we should be able to turn the talent ‘crisis’ into an opportunity, by building more diverse and inclusive teams. This means thinking differently about the scale and extent of our talent pool. 

Having a positive impact

I was excited thinking about what the wider benefits of embracing this opportunity would be for our clients, our people and the communities we work with – and wanted to share two examples in practice.

By taking advantage of the talent coming through the government Apprenticeship programme and creating Environmental and Safety Apprentices training programmes to cover key skills and client need, we are building a new core of talent for the sector.  Diversity in age is bringing a new dimension to our team and I have been really pleased to witness how a range of academic experience provides real and positive challenge to conventional thinking. It challenges the limitations of ‘group think’.  I have also seen enhanced digital and technological skills across our teams, which we are using to increase productivity and plug some of the gaps the skills shortage is throwing up. 

We have also identified another route to talent. Our Arcadis Global Excellence Centres (GECs) bring new insight, new perspectives and are part of our diverse ‘One Team’ approach. GECs have been supporting excellence in delivery from an engineering perspective for many years.  The opportunity to embrace the talent within the GECs from a consultancy perspective is part of the solution to the UK talent shortage. Our global Environment and Safety business has now fully embraced the value that engaging with specialists from around the world, including in our GECs, can bring to create teams that think differently, create solutions differently but always meet client expectations. Benefits are wide-ranging, from diversity in thinking to flexible delivery. It is a true one team approach. 

Where Next?

To create a 21st Century, high performing environment and safety team - while also helping to meet the UK’s housing and infrastructure needs - we have to have different points of views, different ways of thinking, and new ways of doing: truly diverse teams which take advantage of the global talent pool.  
Society’s needs are evolving.  Do we want to lead or follow? It’s more fun leading, so why not embrace difference and help to engineer inclusive teams in our sector. 

Cath Greaves

Client Development Director – ES&I Ask me a question