Many will agree that the personality of a tradesperson will include at least one of these characteristics:

  • Curiosity
  • Working with one’s hands
  • Humility
  • Pride in one’s work

Overwhelming, tradespeople will agree that seeing and touching something they created and built in its finished state is what contributes to their overall job satisfaction.

For these reasons, a standard, out-of-the-box diversity and inclusion program (D&I) will likely lead to little or no change within your organization.

Instead, we are going to present a different way to approach D&I by focusing in on your team’s strengths and weaknesses to create a more cohesive and diverse organization.

The most important point that we will make throughout this article is that it is key that all employees, regardless of their title or tenure are involved throughout the process. They need to be able to learn about the problem, think through a solution and make mistakes to eventually create something that is theirs to be proud of.

Step 1: Gather Team Feedback

Leadership cannot make assumptions based on what they believe is the problem. The thoughts of employees need to be heard and they need to be heard in a private and anonymous channel.

Create a survey, digital or paper, that contains 10-15 questions that all employees must complete. Of course, with it being anonymous, it may be difficult to know who did or did not complete it, so provide a set time during work hours that all employees can sit down and complete the survey. Creating an opportunity will return the highest response.

Here is an example survey:

Use “Strongly Agree, Agree, No Opinion, Disagree and Strongly Disagree” to respond to each statement.

  1. My opinions seem to count at work.
  2. People of all different backgrounds, characteristics, and beliefs are welcome here.
  3. I feel accepted by my immediate coworkers.
  4. I know I can depend on the other members of my team.
  5. My immediate manager cares about my development.
  6. My work gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  7. My job gives me a chance to learn and grow.
  8. My manager has spoken to me about my development during the last 6 months.
  9. This organization strives to maintain a safe work environment.
  10. I am provided with the tools and resources I need to do my job.
  11. What level of flexibility are you given to manage your work-life balance?
  12. How informed are you about what is going on in the organization?

Once results are in, determine your 3 greatest strengths and 3 weakest points. In a group setting, present the findings to your entire organization.

Step 2: Enable Employees to Contribute to the Solution

As you learn where you need to improve, you can then take action. This is where your employees will play an integral part of creating change. The issues addressed can range from safety concerns to increasing productivity to training and development. Whatever your team is most affected by and wants to improve should be the focus.

Depending on how many employees you have: 20 to 3,000, break team members into groups that will focus on one of the specific areas. These groups should be no more than 7 to 10 people which means there will likely be multiple groups focusing on the same issue and that’s okay. Regardless of the amount of groups, it is important that there are employees from all levels and job types within your organization in each team. It is best to get at least one person from each job type – from a picker/packer to receptionist to CNC machinist to floor manager to CFO. Each person will be representing and advocating for the others on their immediate teams.

The goal of each team is to get to know to each other, through team building exercises such as Lego challenges or lunch together, whether onsite or offsite. Casual activities should be a part of solution development as it allows everyone to become more comfortable with others they have no previous relationship.

Once the initial awkwardness of meeting new people has subsided, provide time and space for each group to meet to discuss the issue they are responsible for solving.

There will likely be a series of these types of meetings, 2 to 3, to discuss and develop a plan for success. A team leader should be designated to present their team’s solution to leadership.

Step 3: Take Action

Based on solutions presented, leadership should determine how to best approach each problem and implement a plan for resolution. Leadership should then share next steps with the entire organization. It is important to be transparent as to why some ideas will be implemented and some will not – budgetary restrictions, timeframe, resources, etc.

Step 4: Keep the Conversation Going

After initial plans are put in place, continue to survey all employees on an ongoing basis. We recommend 90 days after changes have been implemented and then every 6 months afterwards. You can use the same survey that was used at the very beginning. Continue to adjust your processes as new ideas and thoughts are shared. D&I programs are never going to be perfect and should always be evolving as your workforce develops and grows.

Step 5: Reward Team Members Making a Difference 

This time of reflection and resolution within your organization will create an opportunity from previously overlooked employees to really shine and stand out. Employees at all levels should advocate for the career progression of their fellow workers that show promise and talent. Don’t miss a chance to train up the next generation of your workforce!

The last and final step…Recruiting a diverse team! 

This part is easy once you have completed the steps above. Why? Because companies with employees that are satisfied, fulfilled and feel safe at work become the strongest tools to market for new talent.

  1. Skip sign-on bonuses and offer employee referral bonuses for new hires instead. This initiative has proven to be wildly successful and leads to more qualified, more loyal employees.
  2. Update your careers page with photos of your actual team, not stock photos. Job seekers need to see themselves at your company and highlighting the real faces of your employees will help them envision a place for themselves.
  3. Use more unique channels to find your talent.
    • Get involved in the community – Sponsor and attend events to meet the locals to get your brand more known.
    • Create partnerships with nearby schools and non-profits – There are a number of training programs with graduates ready to meet you and get to work.
    • Improve your social media presence – Post on a regular basis, but make sure your content is focusing on what your employees are building and the pride everyone has in their work.