As Head of People and Culture at Rider Levett Bucknall, I often get asked about our culture, and how we, as a global construction and property management consultancy, can ensure our culture is as diverse, inclusive, and transparent as possible, especially in a hybrid working world.

Culture is something I am passionate about. Employee experience is key to putting the brakes on the great resignation and having a fair and consistent culture is an integral part of that experience. At RLB, our cultural rock is at the heart of the business. We want everyone to be the best version of themselves, we look to nurture a culture that instills trust, warmness, kindness, and fairness and is consistent in its approach.

The key to success is how we, as the built environment sector, can advance and embed inclusivity within our cultures. It is a huge progress that as an industry, we now talk about culture, and we also have actions and programmes, rather than just statistics and problems.

It is vital that, as employers, we create cultures and workplaces that people want to be part of – whether in the office, site, home, or elsewhere. But we also need to look at how we attract people into the industry in the first place, whether that involves more active engagement with schoolchildren, people returning to work after a career break, refugees, or ex-service personnel. We need to create a welcoming culture and one that promotes a level playing field for all.

Changing the Culture in the Short and Long Term

As part of that welcoming culture, we need to look at the bigger picture and long-term goals, yet be responsive as well. As a business, we act quickly when issues arise or events require prompt responses rather than waiting until a quarterly update or board meeting. It is always about doing the right thing and never just a tick-box exercise.

It is very important that we are in tune with all the factors our employees dealing with. When the cost-of-living crisis escalated last year, we were quick to take action with enhanced fuel payments for employees and have ensured we have an open dialogue about how we can continue to support our employees.

Having an open culture where employees feel comfortable talking about their challenges, whether, professional, mental, or physical is essential. We introduced a menopause policy in 2020 and a menopause support community and mental wealth champions are being trained in each team to help support the open dialogue.

Benchmarking Progress to Create a Better Culture

It is also important to recognise that well-being and employee engagement are all aligned when it comes to creating opportunities for employees to be brilliant. Many initiatives cover all areas, for example, our Carers’ policy that provides paid time off, was introduced from feedback that 6 percent of our employees identify themselves as carers. This helps increase productivity, while a clear vision and purpose enable a level playing field for all: we know that people are happier, more motivated, and perform better when they can bring their whole selves to work.

“Employee experience is key to putting the brakes on the great resignation and having a fair and consistent culture is an integral part of that experience”

Data is also key. We all need to know where we are starting to monitor progress and see whether we are making a difference. We send out an employee survey to collate all our yearly information then set benchmarks based on these insights. We can now see whether our initiatives are having a positive effect on the culture of our business and ask for suggestions on how we can enhance this. I was really pleased that in our last survey over 78 percent of our employees agreed with the statement that they felt they could bring their whole self to work. We have more to do but we are making real progress.

Our employee ‘voice’ makes sure we look at everything on our agenda from the widest viewpoint which in turn stress tests our ‘fair and consistent’ mantra. Our employee engagement survey has given us greater insight and also helps us to understand how people want to access information and communicate. With representation from multiple generations now in the workplace, we know that one size is not going to fit all.

Employees Educate from their Experiences

We also have different communities including our D&I Committee, our newly launched RLB Pride and our Future Professionals which are great forums for us to understand the challenges employees face on a day-to-day basis. Their stories have helped us educate the business and create the culture they want to work within. We have held lunch and learn sessions, where colleagues have shared personal stories on issues from women’s health to hidden disabilities to religious beliefs.

We want to set up every employee to succeed and provide everyone in the business with professional training and development and soft skills, which is fundamental in helping colleagues improve self-awareness about their beliefs and behaviours. This has helped increase understanding of unconscious bias across our business and allows us and those who work within RLB to be aware and appreciative of others’ opinions, values, ethics, and traditions.

But my mantra is that consistency is key. If you have a business across a number of locations, the culture should be the same in every workplace. Lack of consistency in opportunities given to employees can mean the playing field is not level.

This applies equally across the built environment. In our bid to build a more inclusive culture where everyone can thrive, our greatest challenge may lie in providing consistent opportunities and positive experiences. It’s clear we are making progress – but it is up to all of us to play our part.