Culture Factor 2.0

Building a Culture where Diversity Meets Inclusion

Episode Summary

As the President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Institute of Building Sciences, Lakisha Ann Woods brings a demonstrated history of leading strong, successful and talented teams into this association management profession. The Institute brings together labor and consumer interests, government representatives, regulatory agencies, and members of the building industry to identify and resolve problems that hamper the construction of safe, affordable housing and commercial structures throughout the country. And Lakisha joins us today to discuss how this old industry needed to be restructured to serve the needs that could not be addressed without diversity at the table.

Episode Notes

https://www.nibs.org

http://www.companytribes.com

Episode Transcription

Holly Shannon

Welcome to The Culture Factor Lakisha. How are you?

Lakisha Woods

I'm doing well. How are you?

Holly Shannon

Good, thank you. Good.

Paul Jones

Well, Lakisha, it's great to have you on we appreciate your taking time to come and talk about the culture of your company. Why don't we just dive right in? Tell us a little bit about your journey in the last couple of years and some of the things that you focus on with your company in your business?

Lakisha Woods

Absolutely. Well, I have really had a fantastic year and a half at the National Institute of building sciences. When I came on board after my predecessor retired, the first thing I did I find it so important in any job that you take on to talk to the team. And so I asked a lot of questions, ask them about what they like about the job that they're doing and what they like about the industry in the company. What they would change if they were in my role and what they think we should make sure is untouchable and we keep in place. I found it really important to talk to not only the people that are on your team but your members, your customers. As soon as you get into a role before you make any kind of changes. I've always found some great ideas just right there within the team that's been working at the company. And so I spent probably the first 90 days setting up a very clear description of what I expect from the organization, from the team, the culture that we're going to create, and basically charting our course down what is expected within our team environment. And I'm very much a proponent of the team, we rise, we fall together. And I make that clear in most of our staff meetings and anything that we're doing. I want people to feel like they are a part of the process, the decisions that we make, and the direction that we go. If you have team buy-in, you can really accomplish anything. And I'm really proud of the team that we have in place. We had a restructure, and just the group that we have, we represent the built environment. So we have a combination of people on our team, from architects and engineers to also just your regular office team, members of accountants and marketing and sales. So it's great to see how people interact, getting people involved in various topics and categories. And then also just making sure that people can work in the environment that they choose to. And so one of the things that weren't in place previously, but I thought was important, is having flexible hours and also implementing a telework policy, which wasn't in place previously. And so we got people the tools that they needed to be successful, gave everyone laptops and also created a new phone system so that when a member or customers looking for us and they make that phone call, it's still seamless to them, that they reach our employee wherever their home office or work office may be, and putting all those pieces tools in place, giving people the flexibility that they need. It really helps set the stage and the mindset and the culture for our team.

Paul Jones

That's fantastic. I love what you're talking about with your 90 days of just listening, right? There's a lean principle, go to Gemba. And going to Gemba is going and looking and seeing and experiencing what your customers experience and what your employees experience. So it sounds like you've had to make a significant culture shift with your people? I mean, it sounds like you went through a restructure. Was it something that you kind of had to change the direction of a boat of or was it just small changes here and there?

Lakisha Woods

Well, if you ask my team, they will definitely say we have had a lot of change. I let them know upfront. Our board was also very ready for change. That's why they brought me on board. We started a strategic plan. We started at the beginning of the year and completed and launched that new strategic plan by the end. And that was a part of what they saw was needed for the organization in the industry as we move forward or how we're going to, to lead the industry. And the changes that were there, or the changes that were implemented were all changes that the staff was asking for. They were things that I saw needed. But the great thing is because I also asked for their opinion, it seemed like the changes that were implemented were just what they asked for, but they were just changes I thought were needed anyway. So it was convenient that we all sort of saw things the same way. And it was also important, the restructure that we had was really based on some very specific tasks that had to be accomplished and getting people who had a core competency in those areas onboard. Those people that we recruited, also were a great fit for that culture that we were developing, and it's nice to see you know, also not just the work that we're doing. But also, we had to incorporate some team building activities, it's so important to get your team to connect on a personal level, not just on a work level, I mean, we all have to work, we all have to get those tasks done. But when you take some time out to just, you know, share a beverage or break bread and talk to each other, that really changes that work style, and the way people work with each other. But what was great is the new people that came on board were immediately embraced by the team that had been there for years. And I could see them standing in their offices for hours asking questions. So they were happy to work with the team, they saw that the knowledge and the skillset that they brought to the table, and there's mutual respect across our small team. And so that's really important.

Paul Jones

I was just going to follow up and ask, you know, what, what are if you could overview some of those values that you have that you had to really develop with the team over the last year and a half.

Lakisha Woods

Sure we've really tried to encourage a collaborative work environment, we expect high performance from everyone. That is definitely a requirement to have that respect for each other respect the work that they're doing. These are your co-workers they don't have to be your best friends. But you do need to respect each other and operating in that element of the team and making sure that we're not looking at the things and the items that need to be accomplished on a very self-focused directive. How is the work that I'm doing? How can someone else contribute? How are we all in this together? And so the team is very important.

Holly Shannon

Well, Lakisha, I just want to switch a little bit but come back to the people. So the built environment has really been instrumental in constructing the nation. You’re putting things in place because you're looking at the people. So how do you go about building an inclusive culture at work?

Lakisha Woods

I think that not just diversity of thought, but diversity of just a broad diverse group, helps your company be more successful. It's not just a personal opinion or the right thing to do. The data shows it. The data shows that the more diversity, the more racial diversity, the more gender diversity that you have within your team, the better the results and the more profitable company can be. Now, we're a nonprofit. So we're not trying to make a profit. But we do want to make sure that we have a nice balance and perspective and various perspectives within our team and we have that in our staff team. It is across the board. Everything You could hope for in a skill set in a talent environment, but also in a very diverse group. And they work together well. And again, another reason why I'm so proud of my team. Now we are representing the building industry, which is historically not so diverse. All this data, of course, shows that that is an area that has to be improved to the workforce of our construction industry and is lacking in both gender and racial diversity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that women only make up 10% of construction managers, 5.7% of construction and building inspectors and 3.5% of construction laborers. I actually spoke at the women in residential construction conference a couple years ago and shared the data of these non traditional work positions and of all the varying industries from firefighters engineers, to construction.They've changed in the past 30 years. And those other various industries that are non traditional went from 3% to 20%, or 4% to 30%. And then the construction industry went from 3.2% to 3.6%. So we have a lot of work to do as it relates to diversifying our industry. But we also have a big shortage, we are going to be short millions of workers and so it is a priority. We've surveyed our industry, we've surveyed the leaders from various construction related associations about the top three things that keep them up at night, what's keeping their members up at night, and the number one issue is workforce. So now is the time for us to make the change that is needed to help the industry as a whole and also help all the people that are in need of employment and can make a positive impact on our industry.

Holly Shannon

You know, Lakisha I'm wondering, is there a story or something that you could share with the listeners that shows how diversity has complemented what you're doing for your company?

Lakisha Woods

Not just numbers,

Holly Shannon

Not just numbers. 

Lakisha Woods

It is interesting. I've spent my entire career in the construction space working for associations that represent various industries from the National ready mixed concrete association to the Associated General contractors of America, the National Association of Homebuilders and now here at NIBS, and what's great about being in this company is our job is a nonprofit. We don't represent a specific category. We represent the industry as a whole and our job is to bring people together to be collaborators and conveners to talk about How we can make the change that is needed. And, you know, personally, as an African American female, I am hopeful and excited about the possibility of not being the only person that looks like me in the room, when we have meetings in the future. I've sat in sessions where people very passionately share concern with the fact that they see people in the room that only look like them, and they are sick of it. So it's great to see that they noticed this is a problem, we have to fix it. It's not me saying it, it's them and it and it's exciting about the possibility. But again, I've been in this industry my whole life. It's wonderful to look around and see what our industry impacts all the places where we live, work, learn and play. And it's personal. It's personal to me, because that's where I've spent my whole career. But I also know that considering our current environment, and 409 million people who are out of work. There's a home here where essential workers in this industry can really, truly just support and change lives. And that's why I'm here. That's why we're working so hard. And we're trying to make the changes that are necessary to create this inclusive environment. It's needed within the workforce.

Paul Jones

I love the passion, the Lakisha, and you are definitely a pathfinder. And I'm sure there are moments when it's lonely, feeling like you're kind of leading the charge. This is a great conversation about diversity. And I love the stats that you shared as it relates to other industries. It sounds like you are creating this upward mobility inside of the construction industry. It's just starting right. What are some suggestions you would have? I mean, I've talked to a lot of diversity inclusion experts and it seems that it's one thing to get diversity, It's a whole other thing to create inclusivity inside of an organization, you almost need to re establish the culture, to be able to create a melting pot of a brand new culture of everyone that's involved to be able to maximize that diversity of thought and experience and background. What are some suggestions you'd have for executives out there to create inclusive environments?

Lakisha Woods 

Well, for the construction industry, which is, you know, very specific, there are companies that are really trying to lead the way and make a difference. It's not everyone. It's just if you take the full numbers and you look at them, statistically, we're still just in such a broad issue and it is absolutely about culture. Culture will lead the way. It's not a problem getting people to start a job. The challenge is keeping them there. There's actually a film that is coming out called hard headed women. And it is a story of five women in the construction trades, and it follows them and their path. This documentary tells their story. And it wasn't that they didn't want to have a job that got this job because they thought it was great work. It's great pay. But the challenge was staying in this space and feeling welcome. It's as simple as having the right type of bathrooms on a jobsite to having a vest that fits them on the top. It's some simple things, but the people who are making the buying decisions aren't necessarily thinking about how to buy a product that will fit a diverse culture because, again, it's easy for all humans to think about doing things the way they've always done them. So it will take a whole industry to make change. 

We send a report to the President of the United States every year. That's a part of what we do because we were chartered by the Congress, and we have listed how workforce is one of these critical issues that need to be addressed. We talk about changing perceptions, perceptions among young people, these are the things that we have to do within our industry. But I think all companies need to think about not just how they're doing work today, but what are the needs of the future employees that they're trying to recruit? How do you make people feel like they have a seat at the table? How do you not just put them at the table, but listen, when they speak and take action on their words? It's always fascinating to me when I think about the number of new businesses that have been created, and the young people that are creating them. And those young people probably had the opportunity to work at a company with an older demographic that's leading the way but they won't listen to what the young people have to say. And they're losing out on billions of dollars because of it. You have to create an environment where people feel not only that they have a seat But they're listened to, they're heard, and they can lead and take action. And they have to see minorities and women in the leadership. And that is the biggest issue across all industries, there is made for all the notices and letters that people are putting out in support of equality. If you don't have equality in the boardroom, then you are saying nothing. That's just words.

Holly Shannon

That's very profound and so true. How have you engaged your team to keep your company healthy during this pandemic, so what have you been doing for that?

Lakisha Woods

Well, yes, our team, we meet just like most companies, we have a weekly Microsoft Teams meeting so we can see each other's faces, give the team updates on anything that everyone needs to be aware of. And also just to check in on the health of everyone, right, we have various people that either have their families, and maybe their families are driving them crazy, or they live alone. And you just need to check and make sure they're okay. Or, you know, just it's a variety of different perspectives and people within our team, and we just want to make sure that they are doing well because the mental health of your team is so important, especially as one as people know if you truly care about how they're doing personally. And if they don't think that you care about them, they don't care about getting the work done for you. We decided to have a little fun with our Friday meetings. And I was looking at just different ways to activate and connect with the team and had this note about for those people who remember the TV show MTV Cribs, and we decided to create NIBS cribs, so person who you chose to or would volunteer or was probably Behind the scenes to volunteer, they started out and each week we'd have a different person who gave us a look into their homes. And this the person who kicked it off was a person on my team Sarah, who's just, she loves these kinds of activities, and we love her for it because she makes sure she sets the tone. And it was so great because she's had her husband who was filming her, and her kids are all a part of the event. And she starts out front and says, Well, you know, I've turned off the fountains today, and the Maserati is in the shop, and just walked you through their home, and the kids are just running all around. And it was was a lot of fun. It made people laugh. You got to see a personal side of people. Plus, you know, when you work in the office, I'd probably never see the inside of most of the homes of the people I work with. And you get to see, you know, one of our other employees gave us a little history lesson. They live in Massachusetts, actually and they told us about This is the 400 year anniversary of Plymouth Rock. And because of covid, they're not having the 400 year celebration that they were going to and all that's been shut down. And it's just down the road from where they live. And it was just really nice to get this beat a bit of history and to learn something personal. And people were laughing, and just and also to see their children and their children get to see or connect and look at the faces of the people that they work with. It makes work a little more personal. And it also helps you know, when the kids see mommy and daddy that are always at work or you know, in the office in their home office, and when they see that personal side or they get to have a glimpse into it. It also just makes it feel a little more personal and makes them feel more connected to who we are. So it was just one thing that we've done recently. That's been a bit of fun. And we'll do a variety of other things to keep the team connected. We've got some trivia that we're going to do and the ops team versus the admin team will be facing off and you have to keep it light and make sure that people feel connected, and the work will get done. That's awesome.

Paul Jones

I love the site and we were hearing this all over the place in terms of employee connection. And as you were talking about employee cribs, I was just thinking about how a lot of times you know, in a professional career, you go into your job and you literally you put on your armor you put on that professional armor, and and you're you're trying to to be a professional, you're trying to get things done. what COVID has done is well, I guess when you go home, when you go inside of your home, that's where you take your armor off. That's where you can relax. That's where you can be you and so you create a home that makes you comfortable. So being able to share your home with your employees is kind of opening up a little bit and, and you know, we're giving people a glimpse to To the real person to the real you. And I think that's so important for employees to feel that with each other to be able to feel vulnerability and to see the human side of what they're doing. I think that creates a lot of connections and you've done it in a really creative way, which is super funny and super fun. So I'll be looking for that on the, on the next, you know, cable show or on the Hulu or something coming out of MIPS, MIPS cribs, all the

Lakisha Woods 

HR consultants out there and professionals that keep sending material around to help CEOs be more effective with their team because I definitely found that idea from somebody else, but it was a lot of fun to activate with our team.

Holly Shannon

You know, it's nice, where we actually are seeing a lot of people in the HR space that are diving full force into mental health because, you know, we never expected a pandemic, to, you know, sheds such light on things and and i think that Add, you know, to what Paul was saying and what you were saying that the connection feels so authentic. And it's so important to finally, you know, connect with people on a, you know, in a different way. It's also nice that when you really get to know them more personally, you can actually check in on their mental health, you start to see them differently. You see them in their own homes, their body language, you know, things that they're saying it's, I think it's helpful actually, in a strange way because it's allowed that whole conversation to come, come to the table, right?

Latisha Woods

Absolutely. Authenticity is so important today. And actually all of this is also brought up an opportunity for organizations you can book people remote 100%. If you've got a position you need to fill, it becomes a new perspective and it broadens your opportunity to reach in a different location to find the talent that you're looking for. So there's just so much that has come of this this 2020 year. For me, I know people talk about how how terrible it is. And yes, this is definitely not the best year. But you have to find the good in everything. And so I've definitely tried to find ways to turn, turn the negative into a positive so that we can just keep moving forward with our heads up. And so, you know, having fun connecting with our team in new and fun ways. All these elements are what are going to get us through 2020 and help us move forward.

Holly Shannon

I love what you're doing. I love that you are you and your organization are the epicenter of the built environment for this nation. And I love that you're leading it and I appreciate the message you've shared on our podcast today. Hopefully to continue that conversation if anyone has questions if they could reach out and And you might be able to provide some guidance in terms of creating inclusive environments. I just appreciate everything you've shared today and for coming on the show.

Latisha Woods

Thanks for having me, Holly and Paul. I really appreciate it. This is great.