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October 16, 2023
Attracting, retaining and developing the best talent in the construction industry and every industry will only happen when companies fully embrace the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) not just during one specific week, but 365 days a year. It’s more than just understanding the concepts that’s critical; it’s putting in the work to make a real difference that matters.
That’s why I’m particularly proud of what Skanska is doing in Seattle and nationally to continue to build and foster a culture of inclusion both internally and externally.
INVESTING IN INCLUSION NATIONALLY
Skanska has been making strides to grow its inclusion efforts nationally. When I joined the company a year ago as national director of supplier diversity, my job was to help lead our supplier diversity professionals from 23 different offices and to focus and sharpen our work. I’m thrilled with what we’ve accomplished and with our ability to onboard additional regional and local team members to continue to strengthen this important work.
This year, Dina Clark our senior vice president for D&I at Skanska USA Building, added two new roles to help achieve our internal and external diversity and inclusion goals. Ayesha Adams was named the first-ever national director of culture and engagement for Skanska USA Building. In her new role, Ayesha is responsible for expanding the company’s internal D&I infrastructure and engagement efforts, enabling leadership to continuously drive higher levels of engagement and cultural efforts anchored around Skanska’s core values.
Also this year, Skanska named its first national director of inclusion and partnerships, Kelly Daige. Kelly is focused on building and integrating our relationships with key external organizations and networks in the D&I space and helping us develop metrics around community and employee engagement. Through more diverse partnerships, sponsorships, participation in panel discussions and ongoing dialogue about how to be better partners with suppliers, we hope to broaden our supply chain pool.
4-PART SUPPLIER DIVERSITY FIELD EXECUTION PLAN
Skanska’s Seattle office has been intentional about its D&I efforts. This includes the creation of a D&I council and formally established diverse supplier spend goals. The Seattle office has established DB (diverse business) goals for all its projects to ensure that its procurement and subcontracting actions more accurately reflect the make-up of the community at large.
To help achieve that goal, the office has established a formal supplier diversity field execution plan that is comprised of four main sections:
• Intentional procurement and subcontracting
• Community engagement and training/development
• Bidding process with diverse business maximization
• Compliance, tracking and reporting
Each of these sections has three to six sub-sections that include multiple elements, resources and action items. It is a comprehensive and robust plan that can become a model for other offices around the country.
Our program has become a part of our culture. It’s not about finding a lumber or steel supplier who meets the federal DB definition; rather, Skanska is looking at suppliers across all our professional service groups throughout the company. That’s because we believe D&I is not the job of just the people who have those three letters in their title; it’s everyone’s responsibility.
Courtney Goldstein, manager of supplier diversity in Seattle, who developed the supplier diversity execution plan, has held three in-person trainings with Skanska team members in the few weeks. More than 40 people, including project engineers, project managers, project executives and all levels in between, have completed the program, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
DIVERSIFYING SUPPLIERS ACROSS THE INDUSTRY
Working with a diverse set of suppliers is a great first step for any company. What I’m excited about is the work we’ve undertaken to actively recruit small, traditionally marginalized minority-owned businesses and train them on how to work not just with us, but also on how to grow their business with any general contractor. That’s what Skanska’s Construction Management Building Blocks (CMBB) training program is designed to do.
Established more than 15 years ago, CMBB teaches small businesses how to be more competitive in the market, because we believe that our entire industry will benefit from a stronger and more diverse set of suppliers. The 10-week CMBB program provides instruction from both Skanska and other industry professionals on topics ranging from business development and estimating to project planning, bonding and more.
In spring 2023, for the first time ever, all Skanska Western Region offices coordinated their CMBB programs on the same topics and schedules, allowing participants thousands of miles apart to learn from Skanska professionals across five offices through synchronized virtual learning platforms. While most of the education sessions were virtual to allow for more participation across the region, two of the 10 sessions were held at local Skanska offices (including Seattle and Portland) with opportunities to meet and network with office leadership and project teams in person.
Our initiatives and efforts through CMBB and numerous local outreach events have allowed us to pre-qualify more than 40 diverse local firms and thereby expand our database of certified and pre-qualified DBs. Many suppliers who have gone through CMBB have been able to build capacity and strengthen their businesses, leading to the growth of supplier diversity across the marketplace.
Alivia Thomas, chief operations officer at Keeping Up With the Jones landscaping, based in Salem, Oregon, shared that her firm has been able to win more business because they were able to learn more about the bidding process.
“CMBB was an invaluable business experience that I will take with me for the rest of my professional career,” said Alivia. “As a young woman of color in the construction industry, there are, what feels like, infinite barriers to success and permanence. Skanska’s course for construction management is a masterclass on running a successful project from bid invitation, all the way to the closing paperwork.”
Alivia added that as a direct result of participating in CMBB, Keeping Up With the Jones has signed more than $1 million worth of commercial construction contracts.
“This program is a must for any small business looking for in-depth knowledge on seamlessly running a project from start-to-finish,” added Alivia. “I cannot thank Skanska enough for making this program available and free!”
Like Alivia, building a business takes hard work, but in the end, it pays off. Building a culture of inclusion also takes hard work, and that’s why it’s so important that we all do our part. Our companies, our industry and we as individuals will be better for it as a result.
Inclusion and diversity are about putting in the work and making a real difference that matters. A great first step is for companies big and small to identify what we all can do around core ideas like: commitment and accountability; belonging; supplier diversity; workplace culture; and community engagement. Having a specific week where we elevate the conversation as part of an effort to address D&I opportunities in boardrooms, offices and jobsites nationwide shows me that as an industry, we’re on the right path and I can’t help but get excited about where we go from here.
Joycelyn Yue is national director of supplier diversity at Skanska, where she leads a national supplier diversity team of professionals in 23 offices. Yue partners with regional and national leadership to further develop and elevate the company’s Supplier Diversity Compliance program. Yue is based Los Angeles.