Dawn Moore is firmly committed to creating a more diverse workforce in Morgan Sindall Infrastructure and the construction industry. As Director of Human Resources at Morgan Sindall she has put that commitment into practice and her efforts have resulted in her winning this year’s Working Mums Champion Award at the workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Awards.
She says: “I believe if we keep recruiting and retaining people from the same pool of talent that we always have we will probably do okay, but we will never be exceptional. If we get the right mix of people with a traditional construction background, who at the moment are often men, and combine them with a more diverse group of people, including more females and working parents, I think we will have something more innovative than our competitors and hence see greater business success. There’s a real opportunity for the industry.”
For Dawn, who has worked at Morgan Sindall since September 2014, the hardest thing to change with regard to working mums and parents in general is not the policies but the thinking. “There were a lot of tangible things to try and influence and change which I knew, based on personal experience in several companies, would make a great difference to both current and future employees. It was a great opportunity.”
Dawn has been working in HR for over 23 years, and has worked in a variety of sectors. These include big blue chip and international manufacturing companies to social housing and construction businesses.
Her desire to make an impact and create a more family friendly culture at Morgan Sindall was driven by her personal experience of becoming a mum while still being career-minded. That experience also informed her view of the kind of support needed to enable working parents to feel properly supported by their company, continue working and still achieve their full potential.
Dawn has two children, aged two and four. She says family life is changing fast and companies need to keep up. “Over the last five to six years how people think about work has changed a great deal, including what is important to them,” she says.
“When I started out in HR it was mostly about a good salary and pension scheme and many people worked for one company for a long time. Salary now comes third to flexible working and personal development, regardless of age or gender. People are also more willing to move to work for a company which recognises that they have a life outside of work. The diversity and our family friendly agenda is a work in progress,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to engage more and more of our employees and managers to drive genuine culture change. There are a lot of innovative ways to attract people from under-represented groups. Lots of people are talking about this agenda, but not really making much progress. I wanted Morgan Sindall to lead the way.”
Attraction is a key part of the diversity agenda and Morgan Sindall also has a strong focus on community and stakeholder engagement. Morgan Sindall is going into local schools, for instance, and taking part in national initiatives for women. The company showcases positive female role models, talks about long term careers in the construction industry and how important diversity and equality are to the company. Most importantly, it can display genuine results from the work that has been done in these areas recently.
Morgan Sindall also takes part in the Institution of Civil Engineers’ QUEST scheme to sponsor engineering students through their degrees and provide paid summer placements and potential full-time roles on graduation. Its work on diversity has led to an increase in female recruits to the scheme – an almost equal percentage of the most recent intake is female. The general focus on innovation in recruitment and career development, along with the company’s family friendly strategy, is also attracting more women generally, says Dawn.
Another element is retention of women and working parents, particularly after maternity and paternity leave, but also for foster carers and those looking into adoption. For Dawn culture change began with looking at the support parents were receiving financially.
When she started at Morgan Sindall the company only enhanced the first week of paternity leave and the first six weeks of maternity leave. Following a discussion with the managing directors in the business this was significantly increased, particularly maternity pay. “People should not have to worry about finances when they are on maternity or paternity leave,” says Dawn “It says a lot about a company when they look after you even when you are not there.”
She went about building a case for change through a benchmarking exercise which was carried out with help from some other employees within the business, looking at what other sectors and the company’s competitors were offering and getting feedback from employees, including several dads who said they could not afford to take the two weeks’ paternity leave off.
That initial work on financial support for new parents opened up a bigger discussion about equality, diversity and inclusion.
Recently Dawn has been working on simplifying the Shared Parental Leave legislation so that people understand it better. She has also created an informal parental buddy scheme for both mums and dads. The buddies are fellow working parents who are matched to new parents returning from leave. When Dawn asked for volunteers over 40 came forward in two days. The company offers very clear guidelines to managers about maternity leave and informal advice about Keeping in Touch Days. It also has a very clear Diversity and Inclusion strategy for the next few years.
With regard to flexible working, Dawn established a system for questioning all new vacancies to see if they needed to be done on traditional hours and based in the office. “We look at every new vacancy, discussing with the line manager whether we could offer more flexibility and whether different jobs could be done in different ways,” says Dawn, adding that the discussions also recognised that some types of jobs can’t be as flexible as others.
She collaborated with HR business partners in all areas of the business to make sure they grasped the case for change. The partners worked closely with line managers to challenge established norms and to encourage them to be proactive about looking at the kind of skills they need for their jobs and to consider new talent pools, for instance, by advertising roles on workingmums.co.uk and working with external partners who are specialists in diversity and inclusion and can bring a fresh perspective. The company has also looked at how they write job adverts in more inclusive language, says Dawn, who has also been a non-executive director for the NHS which she says has given her different perspectives on diversity and equality issues.
There are 10 different business units under the company’s construction and infrastructure banner. Dawn says they have different customers and challenges and that some are therefore able to be more flexible than others. Creating consistency is a challenge, but what is important is the commitment they have all shown to the principles of more family friendly working and diversity and inclusion as a whole.
She believes that sharing case studies across business units can create a momentum for change and has worked with the managing directors of each business unit to run behaviour-based Diversity and Inclusion workshops with their senior teams which encouraged conversations about issues around work culture and changing behaviour.
Senior management is also backing a shift towards a more outputs-based model of evaluating success. Dawn says that the managing directors at Morgan Sindall have all been very supportive of the changes proposed as they can see the benefits they will bring.
Meanwhile, she is hoping that the workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Award will mark a step change for Morgan Sindall and the construction industry. She says the award was “a fantastic achievement for our sector and our company in particular. It puts the issue of diversity higher on the agenda and is an independent verification that all the work we have been doing at Morgan Sindall is taking us in the right direction”. She adds: “It made me think and be very proud of how much we have achieved in the last couple of years.”