An inclusive workplace is one where every person feels as though they can voice their ideas and contribute their expertise. In today’s intergenerational, diverse offices – where millennials work side by side with baby boomers – it’s especially important to make sure that all team members feel valued, respected and engaged – regardless of their age or work experience.
As part of Diversity & Inclusion Week, we brought together a group of men and women of various generations from our Boston team to discuss their careers and how inclusion impacts their performance and possibilities. Here are some highlights from the conversation on how inclusion has made an impact on their work:
- “Inclusion means tapping into ideas from different backgrounds,” said Ali Brathwaite, a CAD engineer who joined Skanska’s BIM team right after graduation in 2014. “You’re a part of it and bring something to the table to help everyone succeed.” For him, working with (and sitting at a desk nearby) VP of Operations Paul Pedini, has been a formative experience in his young career. Ali spoke of how meaningful it was to have Paul ask for Ali’s (a self-described transit nerd) take on a new transportation project and how Paul’s emphasis on Injury-Free Environment training had impacted his own perspective on safety. Inclusion means sharing ideas and expertise, regardless of age or position.
- For Steve Lappin, a director of mechanical preconstruction in his first year with the company inclusion, means tapping into the unique skill sets of both older and younger workers. On the preconstruction side, Steve still likes to get hands-on with plans, breaking out the highlighters and Post-its where needed. As a baby boomer, working alongside technologically-fluent Xers and millennials is both a learning and teaching opportunity for him. Steve looks to his younger colleagues to help him utilize the most efficient technology for his projects, yet at the same time he tries to teach his colleagues the importance of face-to-face communications. “You have to talk directly to people. Take that 30 minutes to build a personal relationship.” Doug Hill, senior graphic design director with 13 years of experience at Skanska, echoed Steve’s comments: “Technology can take away the personal aspect. Someone says ‘I sent him three emails.’ Did you pick up the phone? It’s the personal touch, stepping away from the technology. “
– On the other side of the tech equation – millennials Emily Pfaffenbach, a project engineer, on the Watermark Seaport project, who has worked for Skanska for a year and Connor Hennessy, a former Skanska intern-turned-field engineer also on our Watermark project, shared how their innate ability with technology has helped make them invaluable to their teams. “I try to help with any computer problem and not judge,” Emily said. “They give me the construction knowledge so it’s a fair trade.”
The group also shared a few key ways to foster inclusion amongst intergenerational teams:
- “It’s about the relationships that you have. When you go around, you listen to what they [team members] say. Listen to their problems, help them along – successes and failures. That’s the secret.” – Sandy MacLeod, director of technical services who has been with Skanska since the 1980s (Traditionalist)
- “It shocks me when subject matter experts scoff at a new idea. Have an open dialogue.” – Doug Hill (Generation X)
- “I appreciated when I started and got thrust right into a project, my team did take time to sit down and chat about exactly what we’re doing. Our more senior members would teach us certain things to do and the best way to do it. When I had a question they dropped what they were doing. Now I am helping a new Latvian team member the same way and I understand why it is so important.” – Ali Braithwaite (Millennial)
- “You have to look at the big picture. Make everyone more efficient. If you don’t pay attention, you’re going to do it all. It’s important so everyone is capable of doing the work.” – Steve Lappin (Baby Boomer)
- “Learn from people. In construction, so much is based on past experiences. Soak in as much as you can.” – Connor Hennessy (Millennial)
- “When you’re working in a group, focusing on your own problems, everyone gets in “the pit.” You have to flip, put things in a different light… I’ve been in the industry for 30 years, and try to focus on the positive. Inclusion gets you out of the pit.” – Cindy O’Brien, a marketing director who has been with the company for a decade (Baby Boomer)
- “When I started my career, just out of college, there were not that many women. Going from jobsite to jobsite as the admin pushed me to have a voice. That experience molded me and helped me grow.” – Laurie Clifford, Boston office manager who has been with Skanska for three decades (Baby Boomer)
- “At a team building event, we were brainstorming about our expertise. It’s funny how little we know about what skills people have. One of the things we discovered was the need to learn more about our personal skills and industry skills. Things about backgrounds: What did you do? What kinds of projects? The nitty-gritty. It’s really important for team work. “ –Bijou Vilaranda, an executive assistant who’s worked for Skanska for three years (Generation X)