Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not into political correctness. My focus is always firmly on the bottom line.
Fletcher Building aspires to be in the top quartile of Australasian companies for shareholder value creation. If we are to achieve this goal we need a diverse pool of talented, hardworking, high-quality employees.
In the past, 80 per cent of a company's value was determined by physical assets such as manufacturing plants and buildings. Now it's generally accepted that 80 per cent of a company's value is determined by the quality and commitment of its people.
We all have unconscious biases about different groups of people. If you want to run a successful business you need to learn how to overcome these biases. If you let stereotypes influence your hiring practices and are reluctant to hire women, for example, then instantly the talent pool is reduced by 50 per cent. If you favour white men then the talent pool is further reduced to the point where it becomes impossible to argue that you are getting the best person for the job and impossible for a chief executive to argue he or she is doing a good job.
Research shows diverse companies outpace homogeneous companies in terms of performance and productivity. My experience at Fletcher Building over the past two years reflects this trend. In the businesses where we have increased the number of women employees we have seen real productivity gains.
In just one example, our male concrete truck drivers in Canterbury became more productive to keep pace with a newly-appointed female driver who made more deliveries each day than they did. Contrary to a popular perception that women spend more time chatting, it was the men who did when they made their deliveries.
We've also seen increased employee engagement at one of our steel production plants after they hired their first female employee. Notably, she completed her six-month training certification in just one month which had never been achieved before.
We have been involved in a number of initiatives to improve diversity at Fletcher Building.
We've increased the number of women in senior leadership roles by 80 per cent since 2012, and 75 per cent of our Australian operational general managers are now women. We've become a principal partner with the Global Women organisation to assist with their aspirations to develop women leaders and bring the economic, productivity and market responsiveness benefits to the New Zealand economy that gender balance brings. Our innovative leadership development programmes are internationally recognised and we have launched a range of development opportunities for female leaders across all levels of the business.
Fletcher Building is a global organisation with operations in 40 countries. With employees in New Zealand, Australia, North America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific we have a certain built-in diversity.
But we believe there is more to do. When I first arrived at Fletcher Building's head office, I noticed there was limited ethnic diversity in senior management, especially in terms of Maori and Pacific Island representation. The Maori and Pacific Island leaders we do have are excellent and I'm pleased we are developing initiatives to encourage more cultural diversity in our business.
We are also partnering with Government agencies to provide opportunities to New Zealand youth to gain work skills and employment, especially Maori and Pacific Islanders.
Fear and shame have no place in a modern workplace. An employee should feel safe at work and be comfortable enough to be true to themselves.
We are being audited by The Rainbow Tick, an organisation that offers the only programme for certifying organisations as safe and welcoming places for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex employees. We hope to be New Zealand's next leading corporate to achieve certification.
By creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, Fletcher Building will ensure it keeps attracting high-quality employees whatever their gender, ethnicity or sexuality.
It is the combined power of our 19,000 employees that will help us achieve our business goals and deliver shareholder value. Diversity delivers for the bottom line.
Mark Adamson is the CEO of Fletcher Building.