Building a diverse team in Property
When you’re given the opportunity to build a new business unit from scratch it’s like being part of a start-up, says Project and Workplace Solutions (PWS) Operations Director Adam Murone.
The appetite and drive for growth is huge, and it enables the leaders to create a diverse team that can deliver on our goals.
Adam and the Head of Project and Workplace Solutions Nathan Munro had the opportunity to do this a few years ago as they created the PWS team (which is part of the Property business unit) sitting within the Defence and Social Infrastructure sector of Ventia.
“We were able to build a team that fit the culture we wanted to create,” Adam said. “That meant flexibility, diversity, passion and performance.”
Adam says he and Nathan both believed in hiring for cultural fit first and skills second.
“We figured we can teach skills, but we can’t teach a lot of those intangibles that go into making up a high-performing team.”
The Project and Workplace Solutions team
The 35-strong team are based throughout the east coast of Australia with offices in Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and a new office opening in Sydney in 2021.
When asked how he ensured they built a diverse and inclusive team, Adam insists that what he and Nathan did to ensure diversity was nothing ground-breaking.
“The property sector generally is male dominated,” Adam says. “But there’s no silver bullet here. It’s about making conscious choices at every decision point.”
Some of the activities Adam and Nathan undertook included ensuring any list of potential candidates for a role included a good mix of male and female applicants. If a list didn’t include many, or in one case any, females, Adam would push back to the recruiters and tell them it wasn’t good enough.
“When we recruit, it’s a big thing,” Adam says. “We’ve grown quickly, so it was important to do the recruitment piece right.”
“There can be unconscious bias at play. Sometimes the language we use in our advertising or our interview process is overly masculine and that puts female applicants off. A major contributing factor to our business growth and success has been encouraging critical thinking through open and diverse communication.”
Building inclusion and support
Once they have recruited someone into the team, Adam notes that keeping them means building a sense of inclusion and support.
“I recently had a team member ask if she could participate in one of the senior leadership programs that Ventia runs,” Adam says. “It’s not cheap, but we’re committed to developing our leaders to make sure that we’re giving everyone in our team the tools they need to grow and develop.”
“I love that she felt empowered enough to put her hand up and ask for this and even more so that our business is able to support her in this development program.”
Adam says that key to his role as a manager is to help his team build on their skills and step up into more senior roles eventually. Whilst the annual review process is important to provide feedback and check progress against goals, big jumps in their career are only going to happen through role progression.
Other tactics Adam and Nathan employ include nominating team members for awards, internal and external, and providing training opportunities, particularly in skills outside their day to day role.
If there’s one piece of advice Adam can give on leading a diverse and inclusive team, it’s something he heard Sir Richard Branson say and he took it to heart.
Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.
It’s a small industry in property, Adam says.
“Little things can make a big difference in differentiating yourself. Spending time developing people beyond their technical skills is important for their individual brand.”