During the past few years of heightening political and racial unrest, the country saw many corporations take various steps to be part of the solution instead of silent bystanders. For some companies, that meant unconscious bias trainings or reading assignments. For others, it meant taking a hard look at its company makeup and investing in resources to make it more representative of the country’s population.
Minnesota-based Blattner (No. 2 on the 2022 Top Solar Contractors List) was one such company that has been consciously celebrating and promoting diversity.
The company brought in Shannon Lueck as inclusion and diversity program manager. This job title is often under the “JEDI” heading, as it supports justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
“We are taking active steps to champion inclusion at Blattner,” Lueck said. “It’s about the culture we create, and one way we create an inclusive culture is by attracting and developing great, diverse talent.”
For Lueck, inclusion starts with an assessment of the company’s current employee makeup. Although Blattner didn’t share exact numbers, Lueck said the company is exceeding national labor statistics for women in construction. According to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 11% of all people working in construction. Blattner says its field teams are over 50% diverse.
“We’ve been sharing with leaders where we are with demographics and women in leadership and women in the field. Who are those folks, how do we identify them, how do we develop them?” she said.
Once there’s a baseline, Lueck will help Blattner develop goals for recruiting and developing diverse talent at all levels.
“Women in solar energy leadership, field and corporate roles often offer a unique perspective on their approach to solving business challenges. The more we can broaden our understanding of different viewpoints and embrace various lenses of diversity, the better our business outcomes are,” Lueck said. “At Blattner, we are dedicated to advancing women in all roles within our company.”
One way to hire and retain diverse workers is by forming dedicated resource groups to foster community. Blattner recently created a Women’s Resource Group after seeing success from its veteran’s resource group called HEROES. The HEROES group helped Blattner create a special connection with its veteran workforce of over 170 people.
Lueck said she sees potential for additional resource groups for marginalized populations at the company. She believes these tactile and enduring efforts are much more transformative to the culture than a one-off, reactionary gender or racial difference training.
“My personal advice is it doesn’t start with unconscious bias training. It starts with really systematic change. Where are we recruiting, how are we engaging, how are we connecting through employee resource groups?” she said.
Including healthcare and other benefits that attract women and other underrepresented communities are also important for diversifying new talent. Blattner was acquired by Quanta Services in 2021, so the company is re-examining its benefits with inclusion and diversity top of mind. Both the veterans’ and women’s employee resource groups have input on the process.
“We’ve started discussions around where those benefits could go. It’s a priority for the organization,” Lueck said.
Often, “inclusion and diversity” become buzzwords that companies use when they check a training off the list or release a statement after a tragic event. Committing to change from the top down takes time, effort and investment. New job positions dedicated to these issues could help solar construction companies like Blattner stick to the plan for the long-term.
This story was featured exclusively in our 2022 Top Solar Contractors issue. See the issue and full list of top U.S. solar installers here.