Construction Culture: Why it Matters & How to Build it (2023)

What separates a “good” from “great” company? When you look at leading companies – regardless of industry – there’s one characteristic that they share: a strong company culture. According to BambooHR, company culture is defined by, “the summation of how people within an organization interact with each other and work together.” While there is no single recipe for success, there are common themes that emerge in companies with a positive culture.

Culture can manifest itself in several ways, but it’s bidirectional, driven both from the top-down and bottom-up. Research has not only correlated the strength of an organization’s culture to business performance, but today, 46% of job seekers cite culture as “very important” before applying to a company, according to Built In. Considering 80% of contractors have a hard time hiring skilled craft workers, culture could be a key driver to attract and retain talent and overcome the labor shortage.

March 1-7, 2020 marks Women in Construction Week, an annual event sponsored by The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) that highlights women in the construction industry. The week puts a spotlight on new culture initiatives designed to attract and advance women in the industry. It’s also a time to raise awareness for the growing opportunities available for women in construction, while emphasizing their incredible contributions. Women represent only 10% of the total industry workforce and a minuscule 1.2% of the trade force. Yet, they are one of the largest demographics with the potential to fill an only widening labor gap. Tapping into this massive potential workforce, as well as other diverse talent pools, requires a complete culture shift committed to improving diversity and inclusion.

As the construction industry looks to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces, here are four areas to help cultivate a strong culture.

4 Ways to Cultivate a Strong Construction Culture

1. Develop a Culture Committed to All Facets of Safety

Safety is controllable and starts at your company’s core. Toolbox safety talks and wearing hardhats are critical, but that only goes so far. Proper fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) – for all bodies (harnesses, gloves, etc.) – is a must to create a safe and inclusive environment. One size doesn’t fit all and by taking steps to show your employees that their safety is your top concern, it instills confidence and trust. Skanska, Plaza Construction, and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. are three leading examples of firms already taking strides to provide proper fitting PPE for women.

In November, Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) announced a partnership to drive this movement forward by funding a grant program to supply select, in-need member contractors with fall protection harnesses sized for women who work at height. On March 2, 2020 AGC and Autodesk announced the 21 recipients of the grants for custom safety harnesses and mandatory training. The applicant pool represented general contractors, specialty contractors, and specialty providers representing approximately 22,000 employees.

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But physical safety is only one half of the equation. Psychological safety, when employees feel comfortable to show their authentic selves without fear of repercussion, is equally important. Mental well-being is critical for growth and development. By fostering an environment where your employees feel safe and secure, it empowers them to be courageous – taking risks, speaking openly, and even making mistakes. In addition to creating a supportive culture for your employees, research confirms that teams that facilitate psychological safety perform higher.

Building a comprehensive safety program is at the core of a successful construction culture. But where to start? The first step is to make safety – both physical and psychological – a priority. Focus on training your workers, get them invested in safety programs, and reward good behavior. Make sure you also encourage radical candor, promote respect, and welcome curiosity.

Construction Culture: Why it Matters & How to Build it (1)

2. Create a Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment

To enhance the construction industry and bring in new talent, we need to welcome change. Talent differs, but it is these differences that drive us forward. There are issues that marginalize inclusivity – from the gender wage gap to racism – but vigilance and voice are key to rise above and create a diverse and inclusive environment.

We’ve all heard the terms diversity and inclusion. But what’s the difference and why do they need to be used together? Let’s break it down:

  • Diversity: Diversity represents what we look like – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
  • Inclusion: Inclusion represents that authentic self – where an individual can show up and be themselves, sharing a different perspective and having mechanisms to do so effectively.

By bringing diversity and inclusion (D&I) together, this widens our access to the best talent, leading to enhanced innovation, creativity, productivity, reputation, engagement, and results. It’s a win-win for construction as we continue to compete for talent with other industries. To validate further, 86% of women (as well as 74% of men) seek employers with diversity and inclusion strategies.

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“As an industry, we need to work together to move the needle forward,” says Silvia Siqueira, Diversity and Inclusion Office at Hilti North America on a panel at a recent Autodesk University.

“Construction is not the fastest changing industry, but when like-minded people sit together and ask questions, that’s what drives change. Together we have a voice.”

Organizations such as Diversity and Inclusion in Construction and Engineering, or DICE, are examples of groups that are breaking down barriers between construction firms. DICE, co-founded by Siqueira, is a group made up of construction and engineering firms to identify and bridge the D&I knowledge gap across the industry. The group demonstrates ways to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, giving firms tactics to drive discussions on why D&I matters. “It’s going beyond being competitors in the industry to talk about what type of workers we will have in the future,” says Siqueira.

3. Cultivate an Environment of Learning

The future of how we work is changing. The construction labor shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today. With the advent of new innovation and many firms racing to adopt cloud-based technologies, it’s essential to adopt more formalized methods of continued education to advance a firm’s most valuable asset: people.

BAM Construction, part of the Royal BAM Group invests in reverse mentoring to achieve its strategy for “building the present, creating the future.” To them, reverse mentoring is a way to easily upskill workers by taking advantage of skills already present within the team. With team members working side-by-side, it transfers new skills, and enhances team dynamics through deeper collaboration.

Construction Culture: Why it Matters & How to Build it (2)

Continuous learning propels you and opens the door to new opportunities. If you don’t learn, you don’t become better. It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. From taking a webinar to attending a conference to networking – learning takes many forms. It’s important to find the method that works best for you and your team.


From an organizational standpoint, it’s important for firms to identify and provide employees with opportunities to branch outside of their day-to-day to develop their skills. There is a huge gap that needs to be filled and by investing in your people, they will invest in you. According to research from Built In, 94% of employees would stay in their current role longer if they felt the organization invested in their professional development. It may sound cliché, but employee training ROI impacts employee retention and engagement, even the recruitment of top talent.

4. Launch a Formalized Sponsorship and Mentorship Program

A major part of the culture shift driving greater inclusion and safety comes down to fostering people-to-people interactions. And a way to do this is by creating a sponsorship and mentorship program to identify internal champions.

According to Catalyst – a global nonprofit working to build workplaces that work for women – “Sponsors are advocates in a position of authority who uses their influence intentionally to help others advance, while mentors provide advice, feedback, and coaching. Both are important to advancement as employees navigate the workplace and earn opportunities for growth.”

By identifying a champion, it will open the door to opportunities and position you for success. It’s all about getting a seat at the table and acquiring skills that will support your future success.

“When I came to Hilti from the retail industry, I did not have a background in construction,” says Gina Brown, Senior Marketing Manager at Hilti North America. “I was assigned a mentor, which helped me grow as an individual and business professional.” Through mentorship, Gina was able to identify and develop certain skillsets to move forward in her career.

“Having a program and recognizing the value of mentorship and sponsorship is crucial,” says Lisa Mingoia, Corporate Counsel for Skanska USA Building.

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“Mentorship can come in many forms – informal or formal – but it’s all about helping you grow individually and as a professional.”

Women tend to believe that if you work hard you get results, but you also need influence to get that exposure. And that is where sponsorship comes in. Having someone who will advocate on your behalf if you’re not in the room.

“We need mechanisms to make sure organizations make executive teams responsible for that. Give people opportunity,” says Mingoia.

A Stronger Construction Culture for a Better Industry

American activist Marian Wright Edelman was the first to say, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

When women are 10% of the industry, it’s hard for individuals to self-advocate. But by starting a conversation, and having a collective voice, that’s the key to change and a way to get more women into the industry.

As firms continue to build a stronger culture, one that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, it’s important to remember to align that strategy and include it as part of your company’s mission. The hardest part may be starting the discussion, but as the industry continues to standardize these practices, investing in strong pillars of excellence to create a safe, inclusive, and healthy workplace will advance the industry for all.

(Video) How to create a high performance culture | Andrew Sillitoe | TEDxRoyalTunbridgeWells


Why is building culture important? ›

Culture increases loyalty among employees

Culture gives employees a driving goal and purpose for what they do. It connects your leadership team with the rest of the employees and binds them with a set of shared beliefs. Your employees want to feel like they are contributing to something larger than themselves.

Why building culture is essential to the success of the organization? ›

Culture reflects not only those in positions of power but also drives employee engagement and satisfaction. Businesses retain and attract professionals when the company culture values their employees. A businesses' culture also defines who it hires.

What are 3 elements that help create a strong company culture? ›

5 Key Elements of a Strong Corporate Culture
  • Leadership. However, it's important to remember that ownership of your culture does not lie exclusively with leaders. ...
  • Communication. Clear, transparent communication is vital to building a culture that people can trust. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Commitment. ...
  • Hire for Culture Fit and Core Values.
Apr 25, 2016

What is culture building? ›

A culture-building activity is an exercise that members of an organization take part in, like a game, event or other shared experience.

What is culture and why it matters? ›

Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. It matters because is the heritage of individual.

Why is culture most important? ›

A culture's characteristics are not overt or concrete, but they're powerful because they shape employee behavior - telling people what to pay attention to, what things mean, how to react emotionally and how to behave.

What's important in company culture? ›

We know that good company culture involves trust, respect, and the opportunity for employees to participate in shared values and love what they do. It's something that develops organically from the top down.

What is the most important part of company culture? ›

Employees feel respected.

The single best predictor of a company's culture score is whether employees feel respected at work. Respect is not only the most important factor, it stands head and shoulders above other cultural elements in terms of its importance.

Why does culture matter in the workplace? ›

It impacts everything — including your happiness and career. Whether you're entering the job market for the first time or switching roles to find a more suitable work environment, take the time to learn about the culture of every company you apply to. You'll be spending the majority of your waking hours at your job.

What are 5 examples of culture? ›

Customs, laws, dress, architectural style, social standards, religious beliefs, and traditions are all examples of cultural elements.

What is culture matter? ›

Culture Matters examines the question of why some countries and ethnic groups are better off than others, and the role that cultural values play in driving political, economic, and social development.

How are stories important to building and sustaining a strong culture? ›

Stories paint a picture; they evoke emotion. Stories help people relate; they make an idea come to life. Next time you are working on updating your careers section of your website, your employee orientation, or even a simple newsletter, try including real life stories that provide insight into your culture.

What is corporate culture and why is it important? ›

The corporate culture guides how the employees of the company act, feel, and think. The corporate culture is also the social and psychological environment of an organization. It symbolizes the unique personality of a company and expresses the core values, ethics, behaviors, and beliefs of an organization.

How does culture support to business? ›

Corporate culture is important because it can support important business objectives. Employees, for example, might be attracted to companies whose cultures they identify with, which in turn can drive employee retention and new talent acquisition.


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