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4 Expert Tips for Public Procurement Officials Building a DE&I Culture

Across the U.S., public procurement offices are working to develop and achieve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) goals. But the pursuit of equity is about more than changing a few business practices: It requires a shift to a DE&I culture. While many state and local government procurement officials are eager to embrace the opportunity to create more equitable communities, they may not be sure how to start advocating for such a culture shift.

Gordian partnered with GovLoop to present a webinar on building better communities through social responsibility efforts in public construction contracting. Our speakers recommended taking these actions to build a DE&I culture within the procurement office.

DE&I Culture Builder 1: Listen to the Community

All of our webinar presenters recommended going directly to the minority contractors in your area and learning their needs. “You have to first listen to the people you’re serving. When you listen to the business owners, when you listen to the contractors…you have to listen without judgment and determine how to best serve others,” said Ky Willson, Senior Staff Analyst, Title IV at the Houston, Texas Office of Business Opportunity. “Put their needs first, and tasks will follow.”

Dwayne Pierre-Antoine, Gordian Vice President of Operations, Central/South discussed how listening to the contracting community is often a learning experience. “The overarching message we’ve heard from the contracting community is they have many issues economically that they need help with. For some agencies, it takes a while to pay contractors and small contractors can’t wait that long – they need help getting paid expeditiously. They need assistance with bonding and securing lines of credit. Contractors want to know how agencies and their partners can help them succeed and grow.”

Hearing these needs directly builds empathy within the procurement office and helps keep the DE&I culture you’re building focused on what the community needs and not what you assume they need.

Watch the on demand webinar to get more advice for meeting social responsibility goals and creating more equitable public construction procurement practices.

DE&I Culture Builder 2: Gather and Share Data

Those looking to change the DE&I culture at their public procurement office may need to prove to their colleagues that they have a problem to solve. The best way to make a strong case is to gather objective data from reliable sources.  According to Ky Willson, “People are going to join your journey [to create a strong DE&I culture] at different points, and one of the most impactful things you can do to get them on your side is gather data.”

Tammy Rimes, Executive Director of the National Cooperative Purchasing Partners (NCPP), advised overlaying the population data of your area atop your supplier/vendor database. If you can show your colleagues that a disparity exists between the local minority population and the presence of minority contractors in your database, they may be compelled to participate in your DE&I culture shift. Pierre-Antoine shared that he, in his capacity at Gordian, has worked with agencies that have conducted independent disparity studies to find deficiencies in their construction contracting practices.

A disparity study analyzes a trove of data related to the contracting environment for minority businesses. A disparity study may pertain to a geographic region or specific entity at any level of government and evaluates the usage of minority firms that are “ready, willing, and able to bid on and perform the contract,” according to the Minority Business Development Agency, or MBDA. Recent MBDA analysis of 100 disparity summaries found minority businesses cite access to capital and timely bid notifications as two of several barriers to participating in public contracting.

Procurement officials may cite existing disparity studies, like the one published by the MBDA, or conduct their own to produce objective data on the realities of minority contracting for your entity.


DE&I Culture Builder 3: Work With Partners Who Can Help

Procurement and contracting officers can turn to their vendors and suppliers to help them establish a DE&I culture. Dwayne Pierre-Antoine explained how he has done so by assisting state and local government agencies in the implementation of Gordian Job Order Contracting (JOC) programs. “Agencies have reached out to us as part of their procurement processes to customize potential set aside programs where contractors have an opportunity to bid and potentially be awarded Job Order Contracts. JOC assists in creating opportunities for small and diverse [construction] contracting organizations.”

Tammy Rimes encouraged public procurement officers to access cooperative contracts to help establish a DE&I culture. “When you talk about these types of contracts, the solicitation process has already been done, whether it’s by a cooperative organization or a government agency. Now you can piggyback on that contract and let suppliers know that diversity and inclusion are important to you.”

Download this free report to see how state and local government procurement offices are changing their business practices to create more social good in their communities.

DE&I Culture Builder 4: Be Patient

Building a DE&I culture within a public procurement office will not happen overnight. The process is likely to be slow as your colleagues join you on your journey to build more equitable communities. Ky Willson offers this encouragement, “If your energy is sparking the action and you’re getting the data, you’re creating a plan, you’re making the partnerships, eventually you’ll get where you want to go. Set your foundation, go to the influencers and decision-makers within your organization, and then give people grace to join the journey once they fully understand.”


About Gordian

Gordian is the leading provider of Building Intelligence™ Solutions, delivering unrivaled insights, robust technology and expert services to fuel customers’ success through all phases of the building lifecycle. Gordian created Job Order Contracting (JOC) and the industry-standard RSMeans Data. We empower organizations to optimize capital investments, improve project performance and minimize long-term operating expenses.