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Diversity and inclusion driving award-winning innovation

Giam Swiegers

Aurecon CEO Giam Swiegers

12 December 2016 - As the pace of change accelerates, disrupting ‘business as usual’ across the engineering, property and construction sectors, the successful firms will be those able to harness the creativity of a cross disciplinary and cross culturally diverse workforce in order to deliver a competitive advantage, says Giam Swiegers, the CEO of global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon. The firm picked up the 2016 Australian Human Resources Institute Inclusive Workplace Award less than a week after also winning Engineers Australia’s highest honour possible: The Sir William Hudson Award for its revolutionary Brisbane's Flood Recovery Ferry Terminals, clearly linking the two achievements.

The Sir William Hudson Award recognises the most outstanding engineering project and is the highest accolade for a project-based award that Engineers Australia confers. The award follows further recognition for Aurecon’s creativity at the Consult Australia Awards for Excellence, where it won Gold in Design Innovation for 5 Martin Place, Sydney.

“Both projects include groundbreaking innovations and can be linked to an enhanced focus on cross disciplinary collaboration, diversity of ideas and inclusive work practices,” says Swiegers.

“Smart businesses in the energy, property and infrastructure sectors understand our world is changing and with it the need to change work practices,” said Swiegers. “For Aurecon, this has meant using diversity and inclusion to drive a future ready strategy. This involves focusing our workforce on quickly adapting and using smart technology or infratech, exploring new ways of delivering mega projects, better managing the life cycle of existing major assets and of course upskilling our leadership and our talent across the globe as we prepare for a very different future.”

“Harnessing the ideas of a cross cultural, cross gender, cross disciplinary workforce will see smart businesses thrive in the months and years ahead,” believes Swiegers.

This focus on embracing diversity across cultures as well as borders, and promoting collaboration across disciplines, is delivering award winning innovation and design.

In Australia and New Zealand, Aurecon’s focus is on a number of diversity pillars, particularly gender, LGBTI, mental health and indigenous engagement, and the company has implemented a broad suite of initiatives aimed at ‘turning the dial’ on diversity and inclusion.

Swiegers explains that “Aurecon is committed to becoming a more innovative organisation that provides unique solutions to its clients’ challenges. This can only be achieved in a work environment where everyone feels respected, has a sense of value and is willing to contribute. The diversity of thought which results from inclusive leadership is a direct driver of award winning innovation.”

Liam Hayes, Chief People Officer at Aurecon, adds that “For Aurecon, being future ready means being innovative. It requires having a deep understanding of clients through working and thinking like designers; and focusing on needs our clients may themselves not yet have identified. Innovation and designing to innovate thrive in inclusive cultures where leaders support diverse teams.”

Both the Brisbane Flood Recovery Ferry Terminals and 5 Martin Place project leadership teams were diverse by design.

The Ferry Terminals team included engineers ranging in age. A significant number of leadership roles were filled by young professionals, with the support and mentorship of senior leaders. What’s more, the project leadership team was diverse both from a gender and engineering discipline perspective.

“The objectives of the project – improving flood resilience, achieving disabled access compliance and delivering a modern and elegant design that eliminates the traditional array of guide piles – did not always drive the design in the same direction. Integrating these competing design objectives required deep collaboration and the depth of this collaboration between stakeholders was at the core of the project’s many innovations,” says Rachel Fowler, Project Leader for Aurecon.

Similarly, 5 Martin Place was delivered by a multinational team from across Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia. The team also boasted females in the roles of Materials Scientist, Mechanical Drafter, Hydraulics Drafter, Structural Engineers and Senior Fire Designer.

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