Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: Skanska's Journey Towards an Equitable Workplace

In this interview, we speak with Bartłomiej Budnicki, Strategy & Insights Advisor and D&I Lead at Skanska, a Charter’s signatory company in the real estate and construction sector. Bartłomiej shares insights into Skanska's commitment to diversity and inclusion, shedding light on their motivations, initiatives, challenges, and approaches within the organization. Bartłomiej provides valuable advice for other companies embarking on their own D&I journeys, emphasizing the importance of consultation and grassroots initiatives in creating a more diverse and equitable workplace.

 What motivated Skanska to focus on Diversity & Inclusion, and what is the company's overall goal in this area?

 We use our full potential by embracing people from all walks of life, creating safe, inclusive environments for everyone to perform and be their best, regardless of social background, ethnicity, disability, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic.  The workplace is, after all, a home away from home. After all we are to spend 1/3 our lives in it. Thus, we understand how great a responsibility is for us to create such a home – psychologically safe, where we all can we ourselves, authentic and to the fullest. We are committed to being an equal opportunity employer, attracting, recruiting and advancing diverse talent to enlarge our talent pool in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

What initiatives has Skanska implemented to promote Diversity & Inclusion within the organization?

The history of working to recognize diversity at Skanska and strengthen an inclusive culture is not new to us. The path toward understanding and recognizing the needs of the growing spectrum of diversity was paved by our work for women's equality and visibility. We are the first real estate and construction company to have a female leader of our CEE business unit. The past years have brought evolution, not revolution. We have done the work to see other spectra of life situations we are in or simply who we are. In 2021, we conducted the largest diversity training in the history of our company in the area. It lasted for a total of 7 months, covering as many as 7 thematic modules building empathy, understanding and equipping our employees with concrete knowledge and tools.

We encourage our employees to self-advocate by popularizing and increasing the visibility of so-called ERGs - employee networks that, in addition to mutual support, aim to make a real difference in what kind of employer Skanska is. It is in these grassroots initiatives that we see educational activities and ongoing advice on Skanska's policies and procedures to be equal and sensitive to our diversity. We have marked our offices with "You can be yourself here" stickers - sign bearing the symbols of the LGBTQ+ community, and we also invest in discovering needs and sharing these experiences by co-publishing studies such as "Safe Havens. Why to talk about LGBTQ+ people in the workplace?" or "Neurodiversity in the office. How to design neuro-inclusive workplaces?”.

How does Skanska ensure that its policies and practices are inclusive and equitable for all employees, regardless of their background or identity?

Any policy or procedure, whether local or global, must meet the principles of equality and inclusive language. Throughout the framework of procedures, we recognize what we must - whether as an employer or a responsible private sector entity - and what we can and pledge to do. The content of policies and procedures is consulted with employees both through the so-called Employee Representation Forum or employee networks.

What challenges has Skanska faced in its Diversity & Inclusion journey, and how has the company addressed these challenges?

In establishing and investing in a regional D&I plan, we had to consider the local context and geographic scope the D&I agenda covers. Skanska Commercial Development Europe covers 4 countries i.e. Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland governed by different local laws such as labor codes and different social sentiments, unfortunately increasingly radical and polarizing. These differences were one of the main areas we had to address at the very beginning of creating the plan. Nevertheless, understanding our importance as an empathy-driven employer and joining forces with other corporations similar to us, we are working for diversity - visibly, internally and externally.

What role do leaders and managers play in promoting Diversity & Inclusion at Skanska, and how are they trained and supported in this area?

Care for Life and Better Together are Skanska's core values, embedded in the leadership profile of our organization. Mutual concern for our fate and the situations in which we find ourselves is an immanent attitude we expect on the career and development path at Skanska. As an employer, we provide training opportunities - such as the aforementioned Diversity Training and exposure to minority groups and the so-called lived experience, when leaders have the opportunity to confront a completely different view of working in our company, through the lens of such diverse people as members of the LGBTQ+ community or neuroatypical individuals – as an example. We are fortunate that our leaders are allies who speak up, using their platforms to raise awareness of issues, but most importantly good practices.

How does Skanska approach Diversity & Inclusion in the context of its sector of activity, and what unique challenges does the company face in this regard?

At Skanska, we understand that we have a significant impact on the private employment sector as an attentive employer. We also understand our role for change in the historically masculinized real estate and construction sector. That's why we look at our operations through these two prisms.

Leader in an industry where traditionally most professions are filled by men, Skanska recorded the following figures at the end of 2022. In the Skanska Commercial Development Europe division, covering Romania, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic: 63% of total positions are occupied by women; out of the total management positions (levels 3-4), 60% are under the coordination of women, and in the case of top management positions, 44% are held by women. In the case of the commercial development team in Romania (excluding the Construction sector), 61% are women.

What advice would Skanska give to other companies that are just starting to focus on Diversity & Inclusion?

 “Better to ask the way than to go astray”. To be an attentive employer, means responsibilities – if we were to share advice with other organizations embarking on D&I efforts, we recommend working consultatively on the plan, basing efforts on needs diagnosed in employee surveys, and betting on grassroots employee initiatives in self-advocacy.

Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright The Romanian Diversity Charter.