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The regeneration gap

Written by: Jonathan Swain is managing director of McLean Public
Published on: 23 May 2024

Many readers of The MJ will be at the UK’s Real Estate Investment and infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) which brings together the public sector – with every core UK city and region involved – alongside Government, investors, funders, developers, housebuilders and more. What better time, then, to spotlight the ongoing challenge for diversity and inclusion in the regeneration sector.


According to the Chartered Institute of Building:


Women make up only 15% of the UK construction industry


Global majority employees make up 6% of the workforce


60% of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced homophobic and derogatory terms at work


Stark figures to be sure, and these facts are also replicated in the broader environment sector. In 2021 just 4.8% of environment professionals had an ethnic minority heritage, compared with 12.6% of the workforce overall according to official figures. This gap is esapecially notable given, firstly, the importance regeneration, property and real estate plays in our day to day lives. Secondly, it is important given the crucial and more fundamental role the sector plays in bringing communities together, driving economic growth, and ensuring sustainable urban environments across the UK. 


How then can the sector bridge that gap?




Ensure a diverse and inclusive working culture


Leaders in the sector should actively promote diversity and inclusivity as core values of the organisation. Open communication, mutual respect, and including and embracing new perspectives and cultures in organisations is essential to improve the way organisations relate to people both inside and outside the organisation. Bringing in diverse perspectives not only provides different dimensions on cultures and lifestyles, but also introduces new ways of working and ideas.




Champion diverse leadership


By promoting and celebrating the diversity you see around you, organisations can send a strong a clear message that diversity is important and taken seriously. Potential employees will notice, as will partners and stakeholders.




Empowering recruitment practices


Everyone knows the ability to inspire and motivate colleagues is key for success in organisations. But, equally important is the ability to include and inspire prospective employees as they ‘step in’ and ‘step up’ into the organisation. It goes without saying that recruitment and hiring processes should be fair and free from bias and all efforts should be made to mitigate unconscious biases and promote inclusive hiring practices. What is also key, however, is that inclusive leadership behaviours are modelled throughout by the whole hiring team.  This will make new employees feel more engaged, onboard, and more likely to take ownership of their own leadership journey once in the organisation.




Let diversity networks lead the way


Diversity networks have long been a feature of organisational life, but in many instances they are ‘catered to’ by the organisation in relation to different communities within the organisation without a real sense of joint purpose. Of course, they can provide support, networking opportunities, and a platform for underrepresented voices, but if given a real opportunity and channel for their insights, diversity networks have been proven to provide a real step change in a organisation’s working culture and reputation.




Maximise the leadership opportunities of ‘the new normal’


Most organisations are expanding their search for talent as location becomes less relevant due to the progress of technology in the workplace. Teams are able to collaborate more frequently via digital platforms and post-pandemic learning has provided us with the confidence to deliver on long-term and short-term strategies while being disparately located across the UK. Agile and hybrid working is ‘the new normal’ and many opportunities from this are yet to be fully capitalised on.




Co-creating vision in an ambiguous world


By all traditional benchmarks, any vision must be compelling to the organisation’s workforce, and it must inspire employees to look forward to contributing at work each day. Also, it’s widely agreed there needs to be a sense of connectedness between the organisational vision and the team members who make it happen. However, we no long longer live in such conventional times. All partners in the sector – both commercial and public - are having to navigate an environment that is unlike anything experienced before – an environment defined by ongoing uncertainty, conflicting priorities and unprecedented events. It’s time for sector leaders to embrace this, accept that the notion of the static vision of the past has gone and involve as many different voices as possible.


Recently, the regeneration sector has made great strides embracing diversity as it continues to expand and invest in the sector’s future, and in doing so enhancing innovation, creativity, and community impact.


By nurturing an inclusive working culture, championing diverse leadership, employing an inclusive recruitment mindset, harnessing the potential of diversity networks, innovating to capitalise on the benefits offered by the ‘new normal’ and co-creating the vision in an increasingly ambiguous world, the sector can not only ensure an environment that draws in and retains diverse talent, but also serves as a shining example for other sectors. n