Inclusive employers

The next generation

1 March 2016

Jan Ambrose discovers how the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark can boost business

In 2014, RICS launched the Surveying the future campaign in a bid to tackle the lack of representation across the profession by a number of groups. Work started against a backdrop of endemic stereotypes and low levels of female members (13%), black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) people (1.2%) and people with disabilities (0.6%) working in the UK construction and built environment sector.

RICS recognised that its reputation would suffer if these issues were not addressed. To have only one section of society contributing ideas encourages corporate tunnel vision and can affect an organisation’s profits and client pool.

Surveying the future aims to demonstrate the breadth and range of careers within property, land and talent to the industry (see Positive Response, below).

There are many misunderstandings, according to Justine Wallis, RICS PR and Communications Officer for the East Midlands and East of England who works with Kim Worts, RICS Director of External Affairs.

'When I spoke to Year 8 pupils at a careers event, only one had heard of surveyors, saying they were the men on building sites telling the builders what to do,' she says. 'Despite tremendous efforts by Matrics members, who reached more than 100,000 students in 2013–14 through careers fairs and other initiatives, very few young people are joining the profession.'

She adds: 'In many respects, RICS is envied by many other professional organisations, but it lags behind them in the area of diversity and inclusion; in fact, many RICS member firms have gone far beyond their professional body. According to the Financial Reporting Authority’s June 2014 report, across the nine accountancy professional bodies, female membership stood at 33%, while the Law Society’s 2013 annual statistics show that 46 of the Top 100 list of UK lawyers are female, with a sharp increase in the proportion of BAME lawyers.'

The 2015 McKinsey & Company report Diversity matters shows that gender and ethnically diverse companies outperformed less-diverse organisations.

Global changes

If current statistics about the property and construction workforce do not improve, the UK will stop building in 2019. Each year, the profession welcomes and loses more than 400,000 employees, a significant skills gap that could threaten its future. It is evident that the industry needs to become more inclusive.

Inclusive Employer Quality Mark

Inclusive Employer Quality Mark

Figure 1: the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark

Recognising that change was essential, an initiative was launched at the RICS Diversity and Inclusion Conference in June 2015. Part of the RICS growth, eminence and leadership programme that sets out its strategy until 2020, the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark encourages all firms to consider their employment practices carefully and embrace inclusivity.

Organisations that have signed up to this voluntary scheme are committed to improving inclusivity and monitoring performance. They are also required to complete a bi-annual self-assessment, the first of which is scheduled for February 2016. These returns will give organisations a benchmark about their performance in each area, showcase success and establish where more work needs to be done.

The scheme comprises 6 principles:

  1. Leadership and vision: true change needs to be driven from the top. The leaders of this industry need to share this vision to make it happen.
  2. Recruitment: this means recruiting from a wider pool; outreach work in schools, being creative in drawing in the career-changers.
  3. Staff development: making the most of the skills of new recruits, giving them the opportunity to thrive.
  4. Staff retention: all ages and both sexes want work/life balance. If your organisation does not provide it, they are moving to sectors that can.
  5. Staff engagement: ensuring that all staff are involved in finding solutions.
  6. Continuous improvement: commitment to monitoring what is important, sharing best practice, gathering evidence to show that your organisation is where it wants to be.

The Mark has been designed to be relevant to both large practices and SMEs. Organisations signing up to the scheme will be able to use the logo or tag line “signatory to the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark”.

Other benefits include increased visibility of their brand, gaining clients who want to employ firms with inclusivity standards and clear signalling to job applicants on the quality of their staff practices and promotion opportunities.

The future

The Quality Mark aims to identify firms that engage with their local communities, have appropriate recruitment and flexible working practices and encourage a diverse workforce. It is not a massive bureaucratic burden, but an endorsement that will demonstrate to clients and potential employees that a company is inclusive, diverse and progressive.

Digby Flower, Chairman UK & Ireland at Cushman & Wakefield, is very enthusiastic about the scheme: “Developing the RICS Quality Mark is important to our organisation, because it is committed to improving diversity and having a benchmark will help us know how we are doing against its goals,” he says.

An online resource is being created that will enable those in the scheme to click though and listen to what other companies are doing: for instance, how are DTZ or the Sweett Group, both early adopters, tackling issues such as staff retention?

Besides gaining ideas, the inclusion of case studies from large and small firms means that organisations can work together to learn, improve and succeed.

Positive response

The Surveying the Future campaign was launched with 54 features in national and regional titles. Feedback was excellent: for example, there were 22,000 online job enquiries in one day as opposed to the usual 100 a month after the article appeared in the Femail section of the Daily Mail.

The campaign has also been publicised extensively via online platforms. Since May 2014, 2,807 tweets have mentioned #surveyingthefuture, a potentially staggering 12,612,776 impressions. People joining the conversation could help make a career as a surveyor as recognised as that of a lawyer, architect or accountant.

There have also been favourable comments on the RICS website, with one member saying that during their career, they had met mainly senior male property professionals and it was inspiring to find examples of female role models.

The team has already publicised the scheme through regional workshops, the first of which, How diversity can boost your business, held as a breakfast event in Birmingham in July 2015, was attended by 30 local business representatives.

War for talent

RICS recognises that there is a war for talent within the professions, and is anxious to attract the next generation of surveyors.

Besides contributing to the government’s apprenticeship scheme, other initiatives include Reading Pathways and the Changing the Face of Property group, which will be combined into a schools-facing programme Property and Construction Needs You.

The aim is that from the age of 12, young people should recognise the career opportunities in the built environment, adding chartered surveyor to their career wishlist alongside doctor, dentist and lawyer.

Other industries have shown that creating a diverse workforce is achievable. Surely it is the time for RICS to join the battle for the best candidates, recruited from the widest possible pool.

Jan Ambrose is Editor of the Residential section of the RICS Property Journal

Further information