CAMBRIDGE, MA – For the fourth consecutive year, Siena was selected to partner with MIT’s Sloan School Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab). Part of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the S-Lab explores the connection between business, the environment, and society. S-Lab partners students with local and global companies, delivering professional and effective analysis, advice, and recommendations that are immediately useful to host organizations. Siena partnered with MIT’s S-Lab to broaden its DEI approach.

This year, Siena collaborated with an S-Lab graduate student to examine our diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives, particularly the hiring of Underrepresented Business Enterprises (UBE). A UBE is identified as a business certified to be majority-owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged group (such as Minority, Women, Veterans, Service-Disabled, and LGBTBE).

In 2023, approximately 11% of Siena’s Purchase Orders and awarded subcontractor jobs were allocated to UBEs. We looked to MIT’s S-Lab for a more structured approach to eliminate existing barriers to UBE participation, aiming to create a comprehensive ecosystem that supports and encourages engagement.

Siena’s Values = Meaningful Industry Partnerships

Siena recognizes the critical need to continue to diversify our subcontractor base. By addressing identified challenges and leveraging strategic initiatives, Siena aims to cultivate a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse subcontracting environment. We strive to improve upon our efforts to help foster diversity, equality, and inclusion that is long overdue in our industry.

Including UBEs in the construction process goes beyond reflecting a commitment to strengthening the community through social equity. UBEs can also bring unique perspective and innovative solutions to problems, open doors to new customer bases, as well as mitigate risks through a more diverse supply chain and talent attraction.

Enter MIT’s S-Lab | Team + Methodologies

Siena was teamed with MIT’s S-Lab student Sergali Amirbekov, who brought a unique educational and professional background to the project. A native of Kazakhstan, Sergali is a highly motivated entrepreneur, who has worked in managerial positions for a national airline. He also cofounded several small businesses representing the travel, hospitality, and manufacturing sectors.

Under the direction of Siena’s team led by Senior Project Manager Brandt Wild, Sergali’s research combined data analysis, and interviews with Siena Construction Project Managers, Women-Owned Business Subcontractors, Diversity and Inclusion Program Managers at other construction firms, a strategic sourcing manager at MIT’s Department of Facilities, and ongoing conversations with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office.

Industry Challenges, Industry Resources

Some of the challenges toward achieving UBE engagement include: long-standing subcontractor preferences amongst project managers, and specific client requirements as it relates to project conditions, namely time and cost constraints. Fortunately, there are several community resources – both online and in person – that can be used to address these challenges:

  • Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) – A comprehensive directory listing certified UBEs
  • Procore – Siena already utilizes Procore as our main software for bidding and project management. Leveraging Procore’s networking capabilities can help our team connect with and invite UBEs to bid on relevant projects
  • Networking Events – Participating in events organized by associations to build relationships with UBE companies, such as AGCMA’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Online Platforms – Utilizing portals like Tough Leaf to discover potential UBE partners

Strategic Recommendations

Sergali identified a variety of action-based initiatives Siena and any interested construction manager may take to improve their UBE engagement:

  • Formalize a Clear Company Policy on UBE Involvement
  • Implement Education and Awareness Workshops
  • Streamline the Prequalification Process
  • Develop a Dedicated UBE Onboarding Page
  • Designate a UBE Liaison Manager within the Firm
  • Foster Engagement through Office Visits and Personal Interactions
  • Offer Constructive Feedback to Unsuccessful UBE Bidders

Siena will look to utilize these lessons learned from S-Lab’s project analysis to continue our positive relationships and contributions, and evaluate future potential partnerships with diverse and underrepresented businesses. We sincerely thank Sergali and MIT’s S-Lab for this this valuable assessment plan and recommendations. Onward!

Source – This article includes research content documents and assessment plan created by Sergali Amirbekov, 2024 graduate of MIT’s Sloan School, and the article “How the Construction Industry is Putting Supplier Diversity at the Forefront” by Jamie Ousterout (The Diversity Movement Inc., 2022).