Examining the scope for improving performance through diversity and inclusion in National Highways’ supply chain


This study focuses on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and the potential to improve performance and productivity through EDI initiatives, within National Highways’ supply chain, and more broadly the construction sector.

Underlying the commissioning of the research is the desire of National Highways to drive change and progress a more active EDI agenda, particularly throughout their supply chain. Recognising that the academic literature has mixed findings regarding the link between EDI and improved performance, this study will analyse administrative (workforce and performance) data to examine the EDI and performance/productivity link and in doing so potentially strengthen the business case for EDI.

Through this analysis the study hopes to provide data on how EDI interventions might produce performance and productivity improvements within National Highways’ supply chain and more widely the construction sector. The study will consider conventional economic performance and productivity measures but also broaden this to include HR and EDI-related indicators that potentially affect workforce capacity long-term, such as recruitment, skills gaps, and retention.

The findings from this research will provide useful knowledge for other government departments as to how to cascade EDI best practice throughout supply chains but also for the construction industry as a whole which has been identified as needing to improve EDI (Farmer Review 2016) to achieve a sustainable future.

Research Overview

National Highways has commissioned researchers at Leeds University Business School to undertake an Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) project from July 2021 to June 2025. The research is to focus on the supply chains serving National Highways with a particular aim of trialling various EDI initiatives in two Regional Investment Programme areas. The intention is to explore whether and how action on EDI leads to productivity gains, defined in the broad sense.   

The project design involves three phases. The initial phase will be scoping and exploratory involving desk research, qualitative interviews and focus groups with National Highways and its supply chain across the two schemes involved. The second stage will be focused on field experiments –  and the implementation of EDI initiatives – with two schemes or Regional Investment Programmes (RIPs), involving quantitative analysis of EDI, workforce and other administrative data pre- and post- intervention. The final stage will assess the impact of these initiatives both in terms of core HR performance indicators (recruitment, skill mix, retention) and productivity indicators.

Publications and outputs

Planned outputs include:

  • A practitioner-focused report from each phase of the research 
  • Technical report of the analysis and findings
  • A practitioner-focused toolkit
  • External events bringing in broader audiences from the construction industry or policy makers 
  • Production of academic journal articles.