The annual AHRI Awards celebrate the best of HR practice. AHRI Diversity Champion Award winner Chris Lamb from Lendlease spoke to HRM about the initiatives behind the win and what the win means for him and his team.
How did you feel about winning the AHRI HR Diversity Champion Award?
I was honoured to make the final list for the AHRI Awards, particularly given the calibre of people we were up against. I think it shows we are doing things really well compared to our peers. But it’s also a recognition that a lot of work has been done by many people, over a long period of time and the consistency and commitment that we have shown towards achieving diversity at Lendlease.
Is diversity achieved through a top down or bottom up approach and which is harder?
Diversity is top down and bottom up. I think most board members and executives understand intellectually the business case for diversity. Helping them to translate that at a practical level is much harder. Equally, at a grassroots level, when you talk about fairness and equity that is understood. But when you talk, for example, about gender diversity and actual targets that can be threatening to some groups. It is a more difficult conversation to have but it is one you have to have because if the arguments for it are not understood it won’t happen.
Because the construction industry is male-dominated, does it have particular challenges for achieving gender diversity?
That’s true but Lendlease has a strong history in this area. We were among the first Australian organisations to have a female board member and among the first to introduce paid maternity leave. We have 18 weeks paid parental leave for men and women. We also have introduced a Parents@Lendlease program providing support to parents as they approach, and return from, parental leave. Yes, there are many more men than women in our sector, particularly at senior levels. Traditionally, we’ve recruited many people from civil and mechanical engineering backgrounds where even currently only between 15 and 20 per cent of graduates are women. But we’re starting to broaden our thinking in terms of recruitment and talent pools. It’s a big challenge in our industry, that is for sure.
The award also recognised the strides you have made in LGBTI diversity.
Lendlease is a foundation member of Pride in Diversity and we participate every year in their workplace equality index which gauges overall impact of inclusion initiatives on workplace culture. We have consistently ranked in the top 10 across all industries. We have also launched a site-based network which was a big turning point in shifting our LGBTI focus out of offices and into a broader employer space. On construction sites that was particularly challenging, but we leveraged our sponsorship of the Bingham Cup Rugby tournament and involved sportspeople in talking to our workers about LGTBI issues – and that really helped.
What are some other challenges around diversity in the years ahead?
Cultural fit is I think the most misused term in organisational recruitment. We assume that people who have a similar background will fit in better and are easier to manage. But instead we are narrowing the pool of ideas. A more diverse employee base leads to greater innovation and greater productivity.
Applications are now open for the 2016 AHRI Awards and close 20 May. If you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague, your team or your company, click here to learn more.