BuroHappold Engineering is an international, integrated engineering consultancy operating in 24 locations worldwide, with over 50 partners and 1,500 staff including some of the world’s leading consulting engineers. For 40 years we’ve been building our reputation for delivering creative, value led building and city solutions for an ever changing world. At our very core is our essence, a mission statement if you like, the mirror that we hold up to ourselves to ensure that we pursue the simple honest truth in our work, and with one another, allowing us to bridge the gap between science and society and forge meaningful and lasting global relationships that benefit all.
How have the employees responded to the JUST Program and the willingness of the firm to demonstrate transparency on these sensitive issues? Has this process and journey helped elevate employee engagement levels?
Along the same time we were finalizing our JUST Program application, the California offices of BuroHappold were forming a Diversity and Inclusion Forum (DIF). Having the commitment from the firm around transparency of our metrics and policies was extremely helpful in launching our forum. It also gave us great context around where we stand as a firm, including where we are excelling and where we have room for improvement. Our forum has been active for 2 years and continues to have strong engagement. A forum has now launched in New York and other offices across the globe are considering creating a forum. Grassroots efforts, backed by solid metrics have been very powerful and impactful. The forum initiatives are for the employees, by the employees.
What do you think are the most valuable benefits to any organization pursuing the JUST Label?
Metrics, metrics, metrics! As W. Edwards Deming once said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Get the data and analyze it. Having the metrics for ethnic diversity, gender diversity and pay scale equity was enlightening, put facts behind assumptions, and caused us to make some positive changes across the U.S. operations, particularly around pay scale equity. Our partners have now all made personal commitments around improving diversity and inclusion. The partners have received unconscious bias training which was very insightful for them. The firm has also committed to increasing the number of female partners. The firm has created a Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion role and this executive will help us foster this culture and provide tangible support for initiatives.
Leveraging the Label
In what ways are you leveraging the JUST Label? Are you using JUST in your sustainability reporting, blog articles, social media or corporate communications?
We have several posts on our website about our JUST label. When we are interviewing candidates and looking to attract top talent, we often mention our JUST label recognition to give context around our internal culture and organizational values. For a Living Building Challenge project that we currently have, the label is fulfilling one of the imperatives in the Equity Petal. For LEED v4 projects, we are now achieving an innovation and design credit for most of our projects in the category of Social Equity Within the Project Team. For our clients pursuing WELL Building certification, we are able to give advice and guidance for meeting Optimization 98: Organizational Transparency. In 2016, the firm held an event in our Los Angeles office, hosted by the AIA Women in Architecture subcommittee, to inform others in the AEC industry about this valuable and important tool. The JUST Label makes a strong statement to our clients that value progress on issues around social equity. Finally, as the firm makes progress on diversity and inclusion, the more likely we are to create innovative solutions that reflect the needs of our increasingly diverse clientele.
Advice for Prospects
What advice would you give prospective JUST organizations?
The beauty of the JUST label is the transparency. Each of the policy-related features were great benchmarks for us as we reviewed and compared them to our existing policies. Positive changes were made to our existing policies, along with the creation of new policies. Our staff are our most valuable resource. Making each and every person at your firm feel valued and engaged is an excellent step toward increasing retention rates. For BuroHappold, the impacts of the label are tangible and have provided an underpinning of all of our efforts for a more diverse and inclusive work environment. When we set out on this process, we didn’t anticipate all of the positive outcomes that were gained.
We understand that we have some work to do on our gender equity. As an engineering firm, with female graduation rates at around 25% of engineering classes, we are exceeding this with a female technical staff of 30% for the California based offices. Even so, we continue to strive for a more equitable balance. To examine gender pay equity, we looked at the data for the very first time. As a result of having this data, we have made changes to adjust salaries where inequities were found. For ethnic diversity, we matched or are more diverse than the state census for each of our U.S. offices. While this is encouraging, we are striving for even better ethnic and racial diversity.
Changes in Policy
Can you describe some of the most consequential changes to organizational policies and practices as a result of JUST?
Participating in JUST has given BuroHappold the metrics and framework for a firm-wide conversations about becoming a more equitable firm with policies that can be benchmarked. As an example, during our recent health insurance renewal process, our insurance brokers provided an option that would provide 100% coverage to our staff – it was a compelling argument to management that, if we chose this option, we would get higher recognition in JUST. Similarly, having some ready-made metrics to organize around has proven very useful. We’ve been able to highlight areas where we were exceeding standards and didn’t even realize it!
What Worked Well
Are there specific policy changes that have been particularly well received? Please describe.
Offering 100% coverage for health care insurance was well received by our employees. By making this slight change in our benefit offering, we are able to change the employee morale and lessen their financial worries allowing them to maintain a more focused and well connected relationship with BuroHappold and also enjoy a greater work life balance.
Please describe how the firm intends to use JUST as a management tool and framework moving forward.
We plan to continue utilizing the JUST program as a management tool, with verification every two years. We are continuing to drill down into metrics at the office level to better understand our local successes and challenges, to see trends and rectify when we get off course. Rather than only holding exit interviews, we are now implementing ‘stay interviews’ to have a better read on the pulse of the staff and morale levels. This will improve retention with ongoing feedback to continue with what staff is responsive to and to rectify any situation when issues are raised. BuroHappold is grateful that the JUST Program serves as a valuable guide and benchmark for understanding where we should be as a practice. We are tracking our progress and are excited to see the improvements we make on our JUST report card when we renew!