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The more diverse a company is, the better talent they can attract — and in this competitive market, attracting and retaining workers is important to growth.

According to a recent McKinsey & Co. report, companies are increasingly regarding inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage and, specifically, as a key enabler of growth. In particular, the mining and construction industries face significant challenges in securing a future workforce, including a lack of skilled workers, aging employees and often negative industry perceptions and stereotypes.

How do employers in these sectors remain profitable and attract the next generation of workers? One way is to foster a more inclusive workplace, placing an emphasis on the physical and psychological health and safety of employees. The result is risk reduction for organizations and a more productive work environment, where differences become strengths and a culture where people like coming to work. However, a lot of that rests on employees’ day-to-day experiences.

Read: Expert panel: DEI shaping employers’ innovation, profitability, but more work to be done

Construction and mining jobs are risky by nature. But what about the less obvious risks that workers fear? What happens when employees don’t feel psychologically safe, even before they start their day? Humiliation, fear of making mistakes or even job loss can have a huge impact on the safety of workers.

A transparent and inclusive work environment helps employees remain focused on operating safely. Teams with psychologically safe environments — where everyone is free to share and be themselves — have employees who are less likely to leave and more likely to use their diverse perspectives as an advantage.

But diversity doesn’t necessarily mean inclusiveness. Hiring a diverse team of employees can help to combat labour shortages, but fostering a culture that validates and facilitates everyone’s growth and development can lead to higher retention rates, better innovation and overall company performance improvements. A 2019 survey by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion found 100 per cent of senior leaders believe diverse viewpoints add value to their organizations and 95 per cent believe diversity is a business strategy that positively contributes to innovation, creativity and problem solving.

Traditionally, construction hasn’t been one of the most diverse industries. And while the winds are starting to change, shifting to an inclusive work environment takes time, commitment and an acknowledgement of any conscious or unconscious biases that may exist within an organization.

Read: Head to head: Are employers making progress in improving DEI efforts?

Safety is at its best when it’s embedded as a core value of company culture and buy-in starts from the top. When leadership works directly with the frontline, it can help articulate the best solutions for each employee. Participation from workers who represent a wide range of opinions and perspectives can ensure the right practices and solutions are put into place for everyone at the organization, not just a select few.

Imagine being one of the few women on a construction site, showing up to work every day but not feeling represented — not to mention being expected to work and meet company standards with safety gear that doesn’t fit or equipment that hasn’t been properly set up. Open dialogue, better transparency and a real commitment to change can not only improve individual performance, but can help overall company morale and play a role in reshaping industry reputation.

The coronavirus pandemic forced many construction and mining companies to catapult themselves into new, more efficient ways of working and to keep workers safe and healthy. Technology has become an indispensable part of these industries and is now one of the key drivers of profitability.

Read: Canadian employers prioritizing DEI, but barriers remain for neurodiverse hires: survey

But technology is only as good as the people using it. Best practices around documenting safety processes and procedures ensures everyone has the right information, when they need it. In the future, organizations should focus on investing in new technologies as a way to attract workers to the industry by simplifying processes, finding more efficient ways to do things and ultimately appealing to the younger, tech-savvy workforce. By offering challenging, safe and fulfilling opportunities, organizations can tap into a wider talent pool and drive improvements in DEI programs within the company.

When leadership prioritizes DEI, they’re twice as likely to exceed financial goals, six-times better at anticipating and responding to change and generate 30 per cent more revenue per employee, according to a 2021 report by Deloitte.

With this in mind, many companies are also starting to implement mandatory training for employees and leadership to help foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. Mentoring and networking programs can help build connections and drive higher employee satisfaction. In an environment where employees can be their whole selves at work, diversity turns into a tool to drive productivity and innovation. Unique perspectives and new ways of solving old problems can strengthen the emotional dynamics of any organization.

Safe work environments are crucial to fostering inclusion. Each organization is on its own unique journey and, with this mentality, employers can develop healthier, motivated and productive teams.

Read: Zillennial employees prioritizing environmental, ethical and DEI issues, finds survey

It’s not just a moral imperative to do the right thing — it’s actually good for business. There may be no direct path, but employers can start by looking at their current values, successes and failures and then use this information to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Frankie Fuchs is the general manager of environment, health and safety at Finning Canada. Jennifer Leaman is the director of talent, learning and development at Finning Canada.