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Good Company Culture Attracts Women Employees

Thursday, April 19, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Hilary Korabik
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Good Company Culture Attracts Women Employees

by Michaelann Agoranos of Constructing Opportunity


Company culture may seem like a fluffy Human Resources initiative. However, the most successful companies cultivate and nurture their culture.  Company culture is the personality of a company, its uniqueness.  It informs “how things get done,” the company’s operating norms, and is the living embodiment of the company values. Building strong company culture that embraces gender diversity, at all levels, is a business imperative for the construction industry.


The construction industry has long had a patriarchal culture; a male-dominated industry with mostly male leadership. The industry is dominated by family owned businesses, many operating for multiple generations, which can strongly influence company culture.  According to the FMI Corporation, the fact that most construction companies are family owned can be a distinct advantage. These companies have often built their cultures on the values that guide their families, values that are likely passed down through generations, ingrained in their behaviors, and guide the company operating principles. In the patriarchal culture of construction, it may be these same family values that make truly embracing gender diversity a difficult shift.  With more women than ever in the workplace, the culture must evolve to actively support both genders in all roles.



Strong company culture can drive better productivity and overall company performance, and it can just as easily paralyze decision making, block change, and demotivate employees. This is true because a strong culture can be restrictive, overbearing, and mired in “the way we have always done things,” rather than being open to new ways of doing things and evolving the business over time. It is important for companies to continuously cultivate and nurture the culture they desire. This nurturing must be intentional. If company culture is an afterthought, it does not mean a company won’t have a culture. The attitudes, values and behaviors of employees will create a culture, but it may not be one the company desires.


How important is company culture to employees in the construction industry?  A 2017 article titled, “What People Want, Job Satisfaction Takes More Than Just a Paycheck,” published by Hays Recruiting reports “company culture is the main reason given by construction professionals for leaving a current role, with 47% of active job seekers in the industry saying it is the reason they are leaving their current role.” Hays also found employees in the construction industry rate company values 20% more important for company culture than other professions. Construction professionals also rated working with the right team and strong leadership higher than the average of other functions studied.


Across all people polled by Hays Recruiting--in 16 different industries--open communication, work-life balance, strong leadership, and company values were given as the top 4 elements of good company culture. Great company culture is driven by a clear purpose or mission, one that inspires and motivates employees. Core values guide behavior and inform the decisions and practices of the company. For the company culture to thrive, people in the company must embrace these core values. All employees must feel they are valued and respected, have a voice, can make a difference, and have opportunity to grow. People stick with cultures they like and leave those they don’t like.


What does good company culture in the industry look like? In Chicago there are several construction companies that made the Chicago Tribune’s 2017 Best Places to Work list. Company culture weighs heavily in determining this annual list. McHugh Construction, Power Construction, Mortenson Construction, Arco/Murray National Construction, and Ozinga all made the Tribune’s list by employing strong company values and qualities such as trust, respect, service, valuing relationships, and continuous improvement. These companies understand the importance of creating and nurturing a company culture where people feel valued, and there are opportunities to learn and grow. 


Can we leverage company culture to attract and retain females to the opportunities that the industry offers? According to Hays Recruiting’s Diversity Report 2018, “women are 18% more likely than men to say they left their last role because of company culture.” The same report states 57 % of women in the construction industry are less likely to be satisfied with their current career level. This illustrates the importance of companies promoting cultural elements such as opportunities for learning and career progression, to both attract and retain employees especially women. Building company culture that truly embraces diversity can help mitigate the looming labor shortage by embracing women as ideal potential employees.


In assessing your company culture, you may ask: Are there women above middle management in our company? Do we offer benefits for families such as maternity and paternity leave?  Are we actively developing the women and men in our company, through mentoring and sponsoring?  Are women actively recruited and developed for all positions, field and office?  Does our company encourage all employees to speak up about the kinds of projects they would like to work on?  These are the cultural aspects that attract and retain employees, helping to stave off costly turnover thus increasing employee productivity.


More can be done to make the construction industry inclusive; a place where women, and all employees, thrive.  Let’s be sure we are cultivating culture that leverages the strength of diversity to create an environment where all employees feel inspired and motivated; where employees are happy and feel they are an integral part of the company’s success. Construction is an industry that appeals to many, the tangibility of the final product is attractive, but it is company culture that will ultimately persuade employees to stay.  


About the author: Michaelann Agoranos is a co-founder of Constructing Opportunity, LLC, which is the industry's premier provider of leadership development and mentoring programs, diversity awareness and people skills training. The organization emphasizes increasing the number of women in management positions at all levels across the industry. Agoranos brings 25 years of experience in the industry, holds a BA in Architectural Studies and an MBA. In her previous career she led Leadership Development and skill based training for the Restaurant Development function of the McDonald’s Corporation. Currently chapter Secretary and board member for the Chicago Metro chapter of National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Midwest Regional Block Kids Chairperson for NAWIC, and a member of the Federation of Women Contractors (FWC).


Interested in learning more? Constructing Opportunity founders Michaelann Agoranos and Peggy Newquist will be presenting on the importance of company culture at our May 16 Spring Summit. Register here. 

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