Before signing on as head of people and culture at construction company Cobild, Adriarna Nunn had a background of 12 years in real estate where she worked in a Great Places To Work-listed company. There, she “developed a fierce passion for driving positive cultural change within organisations, specifically within industries that often come with pre-associated baggage around diversity and inclusion”.
Nunn joined this year’s Smart50 program as a guest judge on the People Power category, sponsored by Employment Hero, where she helped select hipages Group as the winner of the new category award.
Today, her workplace philosophy focuses on “empathy for people’s social and basic human needs, with individual and team development” at the heart of her work.
Cobild proudly bills itself as ‘not your typical construction company’; it appears on Best Places to Work continuously lists, and it is certified by UNICEF and Parents at Work as a family-inclusive workplace. Much of these accolades have come through while Nunn has been at the helm of people and culture.
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So how does she do it?
Values from the get-go
Cobild’s approach boils down to four key values, Nunn explained.
- Relationships for life: “We actively work at creating honest and long-lasting connections with our colleagues, clients and collaborators”;
- Fun is energy: “It’s simple, a happy team is a strong team, and having fun gives us the energy to go the extra mile”;
- Say what you mean and do what you say: “We value truth, integrity, transparency and accountability in every single aspect of the job. If it’s not true – we don’t say it, and if it’s not right, we just don’t do it”;
- ‘Not your typical’: “Our company catch-cry — challenging conventional construction wisdom by pioneering better, safer ways to work with vision, energy and expertise, we welcome initiative, embrace innovation and empower our people to make informed, often high-pressure , decisions we’ll always back, no matter the outcome.”
The values kick in before Cobild even makes a hire. While the hiring process focuses on technical abilities, the decision always comes down to alignment to, and connection with, the company’s values. It’s a point of pride for Nunn and the whole company that it is working to break down gender barriers in the construction industry.
First of all, job advertisements are gender-neutral, job descriptions are reframed to encourage all genders to apply, and positions are advertised through channels such as Women in Construction. And it’s working. Nunn says inclusive and targeted recruitment strategies have resulted in more than 2000 job applications received in 2022.
“It’s no secret construction has traditionally been a testosterone-heavy industry,” Nunn said of the rigid work practices, inadequate facilities and sexism rife in the sector.
“Cobild has instigated diversity and inclusion training across the ELT, refocusing our recruitment practices to try and redress this obvious gender bias.”
Construction career progression
“Training and talent development begin with a meaningful career blueprint,” Nunn explained.
Cobild works with new hires to map out a fulfilling career progression based on their individual traits and strengths, and also allocates each member a $2000 learning and development budget to spend on training, coaching, mentoring, short course or conference programs of their choice.
“We believe businesses that recognize the importance of employee wellbeing, who create safe and inclusive workplaces, respect all opinions and facilitate new opportunities for personal and career growth, enjoy marked levels of employee loyalty and retention, along with high industry regard,” Nunn said .
Cobild’s people-first approach has helped the team survive and thrive during a difficult few years for the construction sector.
“There’s no denying we face challenges, and now more than ever, we’re amplifying our core values, promoting a people-first approach and really listening to our team.
“Getting back to the basics, we’re hiring for attitude, maintaining an ongoing campaign of stringent safety protocols and continuing to develop workplace wellbeing.”