Canadian Builders Group Targets Hazing to Improve Workforce Retention

After the British Columbia Construction Association discovered that hazing and bullying was driving employees out, it launched the Builders Code program earlier this year to change worksite culture.

The British Columbia Construction Association realized that workers were leaving the industry at an alarming rate due to hazing, harassment, and bullying that was taking place on construction worksites.

“It is a tough industry,” said Lisa Stevens, chief strategy officer for BCCA. “Culture is the number-one reason people leave the industry.”

Although the industry has seen some success bringing more women into the trade, they are not staying. “Attrition for women in the trade in the first year is 60 percent or higher,” Stevens said.

And the same culture driving women away is affecting men, too. “The attrition rate for men: we think it’s 40 to 50 percent. We have a tough attrition rate,” Stevens said.

In order to combat the high attrition rate, BCCA launched Builders Code in March. The goal of the program is to attract and retain new workers by changing the industry’s culture and tamping down on bad behavior that makes worksites unpleasant.

“We build our buildings to code; let’s build our workforce to code, too,” Stevens said. “Harassment and bullying are not tolerated on a Builders Code worksite.”

One part of the Builders Code program is codes of conduct and policies that can be used at worksites.

“One of the important things we did as part of the Builders Code is put some policies up on our website that were drafted for the construction industry,” Stevens said. “They were written in plain language by HR staff. Most don’t have policies in place. Employers didn’t have baseline policies to turn to.”

In addition to the policies, which have seen almost 1,000 downloads since the program’s launch, there’s a training component being rolled out in three phases.

First, BCCA trained owners, executives, and HR staff on the codes and policies to get buy-in from those at the top. Next, the training was introduced to site foremen, managers, and supervisors. The goal was to catch that second level of management who oversee worksite activity.

The third phase, which will happen later this month, is the rollout to construction workers. That delivery will be done via an app that uses humorous videos, information segments, and quizzes to demonstrate a worksite free of bullying, hazing, and harassment.

“It’s really about unlearning behavior, not learning,” Stevens said. “[The app] is called Cool or Tool. It depicts behaviors we know are common on the job site, and it asks participants if those are positive or negative. It’s meant to be very conducive to the way that a crew will work. It will be served out in small bites, two questions at a time.”

The key point BCCA wants to get across is not just that the behaviors are ostensibly “bad,” but that they are also unsafe. “Those behaviors create stress and distractions,” Stevens said. “Behaviors that cause accidents and undermine productivity shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Has your association implemented any programs to improve workplace culture within your industry? Share your stories in the comments.

(Zephyr18/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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