How to Build a Design Team With Everyone Included

How to Build a Design Team With Everyone Included

Is Your Architecture & Design Team Missing Out on Benefits of Diversity?

The aim of Architecture is to ensure that urban development is sustainable and is creating better environments for people to live, work and enjoy. Architects create neighbourhoods and places for people.

As our communities become more diverse in their demographic makeup, it follows that Architecture teams should become more diverse. In this way, the needs and wants of all residents can be more fully considered when placemaking. The question is, how do you build a design team that includes everyone?

Is Your Architecture Team Diverse & Inclusive?

When diversity is mentioned, the first thing you might think about are elements such as gender, age, race, and cultural background. Look around your office now. Can you say that your team of designers representative of the communities they are helping to create, build and evolve?

In the RICS Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Survey, planning professionals in the built environment were asked about diversity in their workplaces. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 representing ‘strongly agree’:

  • A third were neutral (rating of 3)
  • Less than half (46%) rated their employer at either 4 or 5
  • More than one in five respondents feel that their employer is not dedicated to diversity

When it comes to gender, it appears that the industry is getting on top of its traditional gender imbalances. 25% of respondents to the survey were female, up from 22% in the previous year’s survey. A third of RICS new entrants are female – another encouraging sign.

However, the average salary paid to women still lags the average paid to men. While the pay gap has closed – and is, in fact, in favour of women in the 18-22 and 23-26 age ranges – men are, on average, paid 20% more than women. Are you paying your male and female Architects without gender bias?

One area where men have the upper hand at all age ranges is the value of bonus payments. The survey found that bonus payments were as much as two-thirds higher between the ages of 27 and 35. This narrows progressively to the 46-55 age range, where men were awarded a bonus of 42% higher than a woman’s bonus on average. Then, between the ages of 56 and 65, men were awarded a bonus of 250% more than their female peers.

Does your company pay its female employees on a par with its males? Is your Architecture team inclusive, or, perhaps unconsciously and unintentional, does it suffer from diversity imbalance?

Of course, diversity extends far beyond gender and race. Inclusivity in design teams includes considering people with different personalities, different talents and skills, and at different stages of their career. The innovative electricity can release huge energy in the creative process, as different viewpoints and ideas are employed in the design process.

What Diversity and Inclusiveness Brings to Your Architecture Team

There are many benefits to be gained from workplace diversity. In a 2014 diversity study ‘The Business Benefits of Gender Diversity’, Gallup found that gender-diverse businesses have better financial outcomes with:

  • 14% higher revenues
  • 19% higher quarterly profits

As a diverse business, you are likely to benefit from different viewpoints and insights. This enables better problem-solving. You are likely to attract a more diverse workforce. Can you really afford to ignore such a large section of potential employees, especially when it is so difficult to hire skilled staff? Here are a few of the key benefits from ensuring diversity and inclusiveness in your architecture team.

· Multiple Skills and Experience

While hiring people who bring essential skills to your team, diverse employees from a range of backgrounds will bring multiple skillsets and experiences. This empowers greater working and learning experiences, as skills and experiences are shared.

· Greater Innovation and Creativity

Innovation is nurtured in the exchange of ideas. Different ways of working and new ways of looking at the world are fostered when people from different backgrounds work alongside each other. Your team benefits from people who are great at coming up with new ideas, others who are exceptional at analysing viability, and yet others who are good at executing.

· More Designer Applicants

When you embrace diversity as a cultural norm within your team, you will attract talent from a wider pool. You will be seen to be a more welcoming and progressive company, accepting of all backgrounds. The more people that want to work for you, the more likely it is that you will hire the very best Architects available.

Inclusiveness Helps Improve Employee Performance

When people feel like they are part of something and that their contributions are recognised, they are happier in their work. Embedding inclusiveness as a priority in your Architecture jobs will help people from all backgrounds and at all stages of their careers to feel more confident – and confidence boosts learning and productivity.

How To Create a Culture of Inclusion in Your Design Team

Though creating a culture of inclusion isn’t a job for the manager alone, it is he or she who will lead the effort. Here are five inclusivity behaviours that you can use to make your workplace more inclusive, and that will encourage others to act likewise.

1. Call On Someone Different For Brainstorming

Often, team leaders, managers, or C-suite executives become accustomed to brainstorming with the same people in their team. It may be that you had an ideas session with someone, and the ideas came out so well that next time you decide to go through the same process with the same person.

Falling into such a habit can be demoralising for others. It can also stop you from uncovering great ideas. You risk falling into the trap of creating ever-less innovative ideas. Additionally, individual and team development will be stifled.

The RICS Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Survey found that recognition by line managers and the CEO or the board were valued as motivators of productivity by 62% and 60% of respondents respectively. Asking for and valuing opinions and ideas is a great way to recognise your people.

2. Allow Others To Lead

Help all your Architects become engaged by allowing different people to lead team meetings. Encourage others to take a greater part in the meetings, and encourage silent partners to contribute by showing that you value their interactions.

While it is essential for meetings to be kept on track, allow some creative leeway. You may be surprised at the level of participation and useful discussion this engenders.

3. Remember “To Assume Makes an Ass Out of u and me”

We all have biases. Most of these are unconscious biases. They are a result of our childhood and upbringing. Often, these unconscious biases lead us to come to incorrect conclusions. Learn to identify your unconscious biases and ignore them.

This may be something as trivial as naturally thinking that a colleague is too busy to accept a delegated task. Instead of assuming this, ask the colleague. It is thought that at least part of the gender disparity in our industry – and society in general – is caused by unconscious bias. If you find yourself thinking that a female, or an older employee, or a younger employee cannot do a particular task, it is time to open your mind to possibility.

4. Get Out & About On The ‘Shop Floor’

Set aside an hour each day when you will deliberately go out of your office and sit with one of your team members. You will gain a new perspective as to how your people work, and better understand their difficulties. Your daily interactions will help to energise your team, ensure that you work in an open and honest environment, and ignite the exchange of ideas.

You will also get a better feeling for where each team member’s strengths and weaknesses lie. This will help you to take better advantage of their talents while identifying mentorship and coaching needs.

5. Learn About Your Design Team

Your team of designers may be focused and dedicated to their tasks, but they also have a life outside of work. Take time to get to know them. Talk to them about non-work-related activities. These conversations could give you ideas about how to build your team into a more cohesive unit, or how to personalise rewards when you wish to recognise achievements.

How Can You Recruit Diversity Into Your Design Team?

Your culture of inclusiveness should start with your hiring strategy. If you don’t hire for diversity and inclusiveness, then you cannot become an inclusive organisation. Here are three ways in which you can boost your hiring strategy to increase the diversity of your organisation.

1. Post Gender-Neutral Job Adverts for Architects

Remove any gender bias from the wording of your Architecture advertisements. This is not simply about eliminating ‘he’ and ‘she’. Language also suffers from unconscious bias. Words such as ‘decisive’, ‘powerful’ and ‘resolute’ are typically associated with male stereotypes.

Using gender-neutral language could increase the number of female candidates you receive. For example, instead of asking for a ‘resolute employee’, ask for a ‘dependable character’.

The way in which you write job descriptions affects the type of candidate likely to apply. When you craft gender-neutral job descriptions, you widen the net and capture more talent.

2. Use Specialist Recruitment Consultants

Specialist recruitment consultants have regular contact with the Architects you are seeking as well as other planners who know may know the next starter in your team. They participate & engage in Architecture groups on social media, and have large networks to exploit on your behalf.

Specialist Architecture recruiters know their markets. They know what talent is available or considering a new job move. They guide all types of planners through the process of making their next career move, and provide clients and planning job applicants with useful information about market competitive salaries, bonuses, remuneration packages, and other market analysis.

3. Don’t Hire Yourself!

People tend to gyrate toward others like themselves. For example, you may be a people person, an ideas person, or a task person. You will tend to like people most like you. You will get on well with them, and the potential for conflict is less. If you are a task person, you will be impressed by a professional Architecture Practice who displays the same level of attention to detail and management of time as you do.

The problem with this approach is that you will end up with a team that is imbalanced, and all members good at the same thing. Team members won’t benefit from the cross-fertilisation of skills, and your team won’t benefit from the depth of talent it needs to succeed.

Instead of hiring people like you, consider what type of person will be best for the role you need to fill. Ask appropriate behavioural interview questions to determine that the person has the right attitude to complement and enhance your current team.

Harnessing Diversity and Inclusiveness in Your ArchitectureTeam

Architecture thrives on the ability to create a vision of the future that emboldens a community. By hiring for diversity and developing a culture of inclusiveness, you will attract a broader and deeper pool of talent for the vacancies on your team.