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The winners of Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2020 Diversity Excellence Awards are as diverse as their subject matter. True to form, each does not prescribe a catch-all fix for the industry, but advise that leaders scrutinize individual business strategies and unique team members to find a diversity and inclusion methodology that makes sense. Tying the winners together are a commitment to their work, a passion for their employees and communities and the creativity not only to develop D&I within their workforces, but to see that vision through.

SIMEON TERRY 
VICE PRESIDENT, DIVERSITY AFFAIRS 
AUSTIN COMMERCIAL 
DALLAS, TEXAS

Having run track and played basketball, Simeon Terry is no stranger to competition. While he admits to winning a few trophies, Terry’s main takeaway was the drive. “I’m not the tallest and wasn’t always the fastest one,” he admits. “But if you said I couldn’t do something, I found a way to make it happen.”

Similarly, following a layoff in the early 1990s, Terry made his career happen. His degree in industrial engineering and MBA in finance had not predicted construction but, once in his crosshairs, Terry took off in this industry like a shot. “I pride Austin Commercial on having the best program and approach,” he says, his goal-oriented mindset shooting for unforeseen heights. After becoming the first African American vice president (and officer) of the company, overseeing an entire department dedicated to diversity and inclusion, Terry set his mind to exceeding numerical expectations as well. 



“We have inclusion whether there’s a compliance goal or not,” Terry says, meaning that, even on private jobs, his department self-imposes goals on every project worked by the company. “We look at the goal as a floor and not the ceiling, trying to maximize inclusion all the way through.”

In addition, Terry oversees the award-winning mentor-protégé program, which conducts workshops with diverse businesses. He operates as a member of the recruiting team, identifying diverse students for the internship program. Terry’s own vision for the department has involved a successful expansion into workforce and community engagement, including job fairs, training and education opportunities. “I feel blessed every day to be able to try to make a difference in our communities,” Terry says.

The true value, for Terry, is in the lasting economic impact of these programs. “When somebody says to me, ‘Because of your program, I got a job,’ that means more to me than a hundred million dollars. That’s what diversity and inclusion does. It’s not about colors or ethnicity or gender.” 
And for Terry it is, ultimately, about commitment—another lesson he learned from high school sports. “I don’t think there’s a secret recipe or anything,” he says. “Every team has a playbook. But if you’re committed, that’s the biggest part.”

STEVE HUIZINGA 
PRESIDENT 
ALLIED MECHANICAL 
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

Steve Huizinga doesn’t believe in a diversity “program”—that’s why he was so surprised to win one of ABC’s 2020 Diversity Excellence Awards. “We don’t do anything ‘official,’” he says. “Diversity and inclusion should be done naturally and our culture accepts it.”

His biggest advice? “Inclusion doesn’t work if you force it.” “Force” is another word Huizinga does not employ. Preferring to implement the standards regardless of opinion, then hire employees who believe in and will reinforce those standards, Huizinga’s approach is based half on his tenacious attitude and half on osmosis.

So if not a program, what does diversity and inclusion look like at Allied Mechanical? Beyond a basic practice of treating all of his employees the same, Huizinga has instituted a hiring mechanism based on tolerance. Putting his money where his mouth is, Allied Mechanical has just announced a scholarship for female service technicians. And Huizinga regularly hires people in need. On one particular occasion, his decision to onboard a Syrian refugee paid off in dividends when the man proclaimed that he was now able to purchase a house. “I don’t see diversity as a battle for us. We just help people any way we can,” Huizinga says.

While outreach has always been a staple at his company—Huizinga is a third-generation owner and has inherited his philanthropic bone from both his father and grandfather—hiring returning citizens is a personal project. “I’ve been in recovery for addiction for 13 years,” Huizinga says. “I spent some time in jail. Everybody has their own circumstances in life, and it’s not always one-size-fits-all. We tend to give people second, third and fourth chances. We treat each person individually and I think that’s why people are drawn to us—they hear how we take care of people.”

And although he also isn’t a fan of the word “culture”—Huizinga dislikes overused phrases that don’t serve his dedication to a unique business lens focused on his employees—his company has a culture of admitting failure and weakness in order to provide the best customer service. Taking personal responsibility starts at the top for Huizinga, which means interviewing candidates each month at the county prison, conducting all 400 annual employee reviews himself and a business guarantee that “failing with integrity” means “we always do the right thing to make it right—no matter what the cost,” Huizinga says. In this case, the overarching values of diversity and inclusion embrace the highs and the lows of humanity to give those hired via a D&I outlook a true and proper shot.

For instance, Huizinga hired a female returning citizen who had spent 14 years in prison. One Monday, she neglected to call or show up for her job and, although it was a miscommunication, the employee was required to spend a week in jail due to the parole violation. When his foreman asked what to do with her time, Huizinga’s response was immediate. “You pay her,” he said. Now, in her third year at the company, and with accreditations under her belt, the employee is a valued member of the team. “It was just a matter of educating our people,” Huizinga says. “They get it. It’s just a part of who we are.” 

For more insight into Allied Mechanical's diversity and inclusion efforts, see ABC's Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices Webinar Series recording

KACIE BREWER 
MANAGER, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 
UNITED RENTALS 
STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT

With almost 20,000 employees and approximately 1,200 locations throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, diversity and inclusion practices vary by location for United Rentals. “The culture inside each location differs depending on state, country and province,” Kacie Brewer explains. “Our culture is really made up of a lot of different micro-cultures.” While COVID-19 has brought the United Rentals family closer together—the Workplace by Facebook tool purchased by the company some years ago has seen a usage spike from an average of 40% to 70%—Brewer has been on the front lines, recruiting diversity and advocating for inclusion since she joined the company in 2014.

Brewer manages specialty groups, like Women United, for women in the workplace; Veteran’s United, which includes military veterans in each country United Rentals holds a location; and Together United, which serves as an inclusion council. She also launches advocacy events, likes Women’s History Month, Diversity Month and Mental Health Awareness Month to engage various segments of company employees. “You cannot have diversity without inclusion,” Brewer says. “If we attract a lot of diverse perspective to our organization but they aren’t feeling included, what are we even doing?”

As a woman in construction, Brewer chose to attend a Women United event during her first weeks of hire six years ago. “There were women who felt they did not have the same opportunities because they were female,” she says. “I didn’t realize I was getting passionate about it, but here I am today in a full-time D&I role, all because of that event.”

For Brewer, company training and introspection are equal to public advocacy. Online modules, employee resource groups that facilitate “microlearning moments,” a two-hour culture workshop and rolling leadership activities into follow-up programs are all part of “engaging in the conversation.”

No matter what type or size of organization, Brewer is an advocate for developing a strategy around your own unique team. “It’s not just about working toward an initiative,” she says. “It’s all about creating that family atmosphere and that the team feels they are a part of the big picture.”

For United Rentals, that has meant pulling out all the stops. Brewer’s diversity and inclusion programming runs the gamut of what is possible for an organization. In addition to the employee resource groups, the company launched a new D&I survey last month, offers a company coaching program, and a diversity partnership with other construction companies, plus supports diversity requirements from suppliers, subcontractors and hiring managers. 

“Diversity and inclusion are always changing,” Brewer says. “We’re always going to strive to keep our inclusive learning as fresh as possible.” 

For more insight into United Rentals' diversity and inclusion efforts, see ABC's Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices Webinar Series recording

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