Can procurement be used to overhaul culture in construction industry for good?


In 2018, the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) was formed with the aim of developing a new Culture Standard to improve the productivity and performance of the construction industry and offer a great workplace experience for employees in the sector. the CICT comprises the Australian Constructors Association, the Government of NSW and Victoria and Australia's leading universities.

The proposed Culture Standards attempt to address deeply embedded cultural issues that have been the enemy of the industry in improving the wellbeing of its workers and attracting diversity in its workforce. Research by CICT found that a construction worker is six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident.

The Culture Standard for the Construction Industry provides a framework for government agencies and contracting organisations to work together to address three key inter-related cultural issues - excessive working hours, wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion. The CICT are looking for ways to achieve a systemic step change by leveraging the government infrastructure procurement process as a powerful agent to make a lasting difference. They argue that requiring a focus on project culture will level the playing field for bidding proponents and arrest the typical, and so often counterproductive, race to the bottom on time and costs, without accounting for the costs incurred in productivity and harm caused by the prevailing way that 'things have always been done' in this industry. You can find out more about CICT at www.cultureinconstruction.com.au

In supporting government agencies and asset owners to procure major infrastructure projects for past 20 years, PCI have long espoused the philosophy that 'Owner sets the rules'. That is, how a project or service is procured and the explicit and implicit messages that are embedded in this process forms the DNA for the eventual project culture. Hence, it is not simply a matter of focusing on 'project culture' as an evaluation criteria. It takes a conscious effort on the part of the agency (in the first instance) to take the lead in role modelling the cultural behaviours that it wishes to to see in the project. As agency representatives, ask yourself the following questions when next planning your procurement:

  • What are the timeframes for this procurement? Are they driving excessive work hours for our proponents to respond within the timelines we've established?

  • What are our actions and behaviours messaging with regards to what we really value from our contracting partners? Is it all about time and cost or is it also about behaviours and attitudes?

  • Do we genuinely value and reward diversity and inclusion or is it another 'tick in the box' exercise? How are we communicating these values?

PCI applauds this initiative towards creating an industry culture that is more sustainable, diverse, and caring of its people and look forward to seeing both agencies and contracting organisations embrace these new Culture Standards.


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