Getting to Know: Gradlin Franks, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Jul 5, 2019
Gradlin Franks formally stepped into his role as Director of Diversity and Inclusion at The Beck Group towards the end of 2018. In this role, he leads the inclusion and diversity initiatives for the firm. He works closely with human resources to identify opportunities for inclusiveness throughout the talent life-cycle and ensure Beck is compliant with Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunities.
Gradlin works with our operations team to develop and operationalize business and group-specific diversity and inclusion strategies.
In our communities, he builds and maintains relationships with external MWBE organizations that increase representation in the architecture, engineering and construction fields, provide opportunities to economically disadvantaged students, and raise cultural awareness within the industry.
Keep reading to learn more about Gradlin and his vision for strengthening our diversity and inclusion efforts at Beck.
Can you tell us about your history at Beck, how you came to lead our diversity and inclusion efforts? What your vision is for the role?
Gradlin Franks (GF): I started my career at Beck in Atlanta; my first project was a Federal Office Building and parking deck expansion for the CDC. I eventually transferred home to Texas and worked as the Dallas Regional Safety Manager for five years.
My passion is for people, so transitioning into Director of Diversity in 2018 felt natural. My goal is to help build an authentic program at Beck. We call it Beck Better Together. Diversity builds strength, and inclusion builds sustainability not only in our organization but within our industry and communities. It’s essential that we focus on and have a strategy for both. Beck Better Together is a two-part vision, with internal and external reach.
What strategies are being implemented internally to make Beck a more diverse and inclusive organization?
GF: Everyone wants to feel connected to the organizations that they work for. I want Beck to create an environment where individuals can be themselves and bring their authenticities to work. If a person feels accepted for who they are, they will be more productive and are willing to give more to the organization.
Strategies we have implemented to help change our environment include unconscious bias workshops. These focus on turning unconscious thoughts into something conscious, allowing us to question our internal thoughts, which ultimately corrects our actions. These types of training are well received, and we are looking at opportunities to expand them to reach more employees.
We have also reevaluated and modified our recruiting practices. We have expanded to include more historically black universities, including Prairie View A&M, Florida A&M, and Tuskegee. This expansion provides us great resources for diverse candidates.
What are our external strategies to encourage more diversity in the industry as a whole?
GF: It’s one thing to commit to diversity within our organization; it’s another to help change the industry as a whole. We are looking into strategies to create a pool of future contractors to work with. We are doing these several ways, including our partnerships with organizations such as EJ Smith and Envision, quarterly outreach events, and through programs like the Beck School of Construction.
The goal is to build relationships with diverse contractors to mentor small and disadvantaged contractors. These partnerships are twofold. We learn from them, and they learn from us. It’s making the entire industry better.