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Understanding and managing cultural diversity on UK construction sites


Project Description

Despite stringent health and safety regulations, the construction industry continues to suffer the highest proportions of fatalities and injuries of all major UK industries. Within this context, various construction accident reports show that a large number of injuries and fatalities arise due to cross-culturally-derived factors such as language and cultural problems, lack of effective and timely communications, differences in work attitudes and perceptions amongst site workers themselves and between site workers and management. Because some 25% of UK construction site workers are immigrants, consequent cross-cultural problems expose both immigrant and non-immigrant workers to unacceptably high injury rates, and also significantly hinder industry productivity. That many of these injuries and fatalities are linked fundamentally to cross-cultural issues suggests that there is a lack of concerted management effort to effectively integrate an increasingly culturally diverse workforce on construction sites. Evidence exists to suggest that the industry’s overall ‘assimilationist’ mentality means that employers often do not see the need to proactively integrate cross-cultural site workers. This is compounded by the casual employment approach that emphasizes solely on technical competencies and practical skills of site workers. To the extent that poor health and safety is a problem there remains little understanding by employers on how best to improve the situation beyond compliance with, and in most cases reliance on health and safety legislations. The paucity of research in the area further exacerbates the problem as neither the causal nature of the cross-cultural factors and their consequences nor the management means to address them have been systematically examined.

The objective of this research therefore, is to address these gaps. Indeed, the traditional construction management discipline by itself has proven inadequate to the task. Gaining practical traction on these cross-culturally-derived problems in construction requires an interdisciplinary research approach combining both cross-cultural psychology and construction management practice. This interdisciplinary research will identify the extent to which cross-cultural site workers are stratified based on their social identities and how these affect their attitudes and perceptions towards each other and consequently the effects these have on broader cross-cultural relations on sites. Understanding the types and nature of cross-cultural relations and the social-psychological processes that underpin them will enable practicing managers to identify management and employment practices that both exacerbate and ameliorate cross-culturally-derived problems and proactively manage cross-cultural relationships and work performance of site workers. In conjunction with health and safety regulation adherence, this research will provide practical knowledge from which industry employers can draw to improve worker safety, well-being and productivity.

Funding Notes

Candidates require a first class or 2.1 degree and/or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject. Good command of English and good academic writing skills.

How good is research at University of Reading in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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