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    Recruitment and Retention: How Balfour Beatty is Building a Diverse Pipeline

    February 22, 2022

    Rising leaders across the business share their experiences and best practices to build and retain a diverse workforce

    At Balfour Beatty, we prioritize attracting, hiring and retaining diverse talent to build an inclusive, people-first workplace where everyone is embraced for their authentic selves. 

    As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we interviewed rising African American leaders within our business to discuss our efforts and how we can continue to recruit and retain diverse talent within the African American community.

    "When I first started out, I was one of the very few female African Americans working as an operator engineer," says Carolyn Nelson, senior safety, health and environment manager. "As such a small minority in the field, I have faced a significant amount of adversity to get to the leadership level I am today." 

    And unfortunately, this isn't an uncommon experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, only 10.1% of construction workers 2021 were African American. 

    We're working to change that.

    "It's important for our minority employees to feel that they can bring their true selves to work when they walk in the door every day," says Malinda Bender, human resources manager. "By doing simple things like building upon our inclusive language and implementing training within the workplace, we can help our entire employee base." 

    But the effort must go beyond that.

    While recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce requires a multi-faceted approach, Balfour Beatty has observed significant results by partnering with local Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as minority affairs offices and minority student associations at various universities across the nation. Through these efforts, we have successfully raised critical awareness about the many rewarding career paths within the construction industry and the opportunities available to these students at Balfour Beatty. 

    Maxwell Kesselly, engineer on the Southern Gateway project in Dallas adds, "It's critical to be involved with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers to obtain the diverse talent we strive for. Many college graduates are looking for their first internship or job within the construction industry to launch their career and don't know of the great possibilities for them at Balfour Beatty."

    However, one of the most significant factors in building a diverse talent pipeline is raising awareness at younger ages, specifically when students determine career aspirations and the courses they will need to achieve them. Over recent years, Balfour Beatty has dedicated a considerable focus on inspiring younger students to pursue construction careers. 

    In the Southeast, Balfour Beatty's employee affinity group, Network of Black Leaders and Executives (NOBLE), partners with local K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and magnet schools to engage with students at an earlier age. In the Mid-Atlantic, our teams are partnering with local high schools to engage in engineering fairs. In California, the NOBLE team is spreading awareness about the industry through working with local underserved community organizations and school districts to host activities such as book drives and charity sponsorships for scholarships. In the Northwest, outreach includes participating in high school career days as well as working with athletic departments to speak to students about the many career options within the construction industry. 

    "Many young African Americans do not see people that look like them or people within their communities working in the construction industry, says Keenan Arnold, lead estimator. "It's critical that as we are building a more diverse pipeline, we are encouraging the interest level of more minority students at a younger age, and in return, we will have a larger pool of great candidates to select from at the collegiate level in the future."

    But, building a diverse pipeline doesn't solely rely on recruitment. It also involves the retention and career development of existing diverse employees. By implementing initiatives that focus on dedicated mentorship, training, career-pathing and connection, and creating groups like NOBLE, Balfour Beatty has experienced significant results in retaining our diverse and top talent.

    "We've created a community for reflecting and listening," says Malinda. "We have established mentoring and career path guidance programs across our business to help our diverse teammates learn more about setting career goals and communicating them to their managers and local leadership. Our teammates now have someone to look to as they learn how to overcome challenges and have an advocate in the workplace."

    Creating positive experiences and opportunities for meaningful connection is equally vital to retention . Across our organization, Balfour Beatty engages team members in company-sponsored activities, such as cook-offs, picnics, holiday gatherings, volunteering and community events for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Juneteenth and Black History Month, among various other important commemorations.

    By recruiting and retaining diverse talent, we foster a more inclusive workplace at Balfour Beatty and within the construction industry at large, ensuring the next generation of construction professionals better reflects the rich tapestries of the communities in which we are privileged to live, build and serve.