Downer is a people business. Our people make Downer what it is today and what it will be in the future. It’s our people who deliver services and build trusted relationships with our customers, strengthening Downer’s brand in the process. We strive to create an inclusive and flexible workplace that is both challenging and fulfilling to a diverse range of people with varying skills.

The increased spend by all levels of government in sectors Downer operates in is stretching an already limited skilled labour talent pool. This fact, combined with Downer’s large workforce, increases the importance of attracting and retaining skilled and engaged people by establishing Downer as a sought-after employer. We aim to do this by providing rich career development opportunities and attractive employee benefits, and developing leadership capability among our people. In FY19, Downer committed to achieving the following People targets and objectives:

  • Strengthen our talent retention and attraction strategies, including increasing employee benefits and broadening Downer’s flexible working arrangements
  • Increase the engagement and progress scores in our annual Employee Engagement Survey
  • Improve our gender diversity balance by increasing female participation in the workforce and providing opportunities for women in leadership roles, including reviewing and setting new 2020 gender targets
  • Continue to enhance our cultural development program, including the launch of Downer’s new two-year Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)
  • Increase our pipeline of talent through generational diversity initiatives, like the expansion of our Graduate and Apprentice programs.

The performance information in this section includes Downer, its contractors and joint ventures in the following business lines: Transport and lnfrastructure; Mining, Energy and Industrial; Spotless; and New Zealand including Hawkins.

Our performance

During FY19 Downer continued to build its people capability by developing leaders and a workplace that values diversity and recognises it is a key enabler for continued success.

Downer’s workforce consists of more than 52,000 people across Australia and New Zealand, with fewer than 1,000 people across other international markets. Of our workforce, 77 per cent are covered by collective agreements across the Australian and New Zealand markets. By employment contract, 62 per cent are permanent and 38 per cent are contingent workers. Refer to People performance data for a full breakdown of Downer’s workforce.

Throughout the year, Downer delivered on numerous initiatives to achieve the objectives and targets across our diversity focus areas of gender, culture and generations, as set out in last year’s Sustainability Report. Events of significance were celebrated across Downer for International Women’s Day, National Reconciliation Week, Harmony Week and NAIDOC Week. As part of Downer’s commitment to the advancement of women, we partnered with Habitat for Humanity by sending teams across NSW, Victoria and Queensland to participate in its ‘Homes for Hope’ project to renovate women’s crisis accommodation and build homes for vulnerable women and children in Australia. The activity was an excellent representation of Downer’s commitment to equality, diversity and Zero Harm.

A key platform to enhance our employee engagement level and value proposition was the dissemination of stories through a range of communication channels that reinforce Downer’s commitment to an inclusive culture. In September 2018 we launched DownerConnect, our native mobile app that keeps our people connected and informed about company news, announcements and job vacancies. The app has been downloaded by more than 12,000 people and has proven an effective communication platform, which we will continue to evolve and update in coming years.

Additional channels including Downer and Spotless intranet sites, public facing websites, CEO emails to employees and social media were also used to effectively deliver communication campaigns, including:

  • Celebrating events of significance to promote diversity and inclusion
  • A series of stories featuring talent and the success of our graduates, with a particular focus on female graduates
  • ‘60 seconds with…’ video series featuring diverse and varied employees from across the business
  • Feature stories on Sky News’ Mundine Means Business television program about some of Downer’s Indigenous engagement initiatives including the Waanyi Downer Joint Venture, North Queensland Cowboys House and PCYC Blackwater.

Talent retention and attraction of skilled employees

Downer understands we need to retain, develop and attract the best talent in order to successfully deliver on our Purpose, Promise and Pillars. Downer’s strategic approach to maintaining and developing the best talent starts with supporting and retaining our existing leadership and workforce talent.

We do this by constantly monitoring the labour and business markets to:

  • Understand national and state-based skills shortages
  • Benchmark and adjust employment packages
  • Align our talent development and succession programs to business needs
  • Direct our workforce development strategy and plans.

Case study

Gender parity in construction

Cultural diversity

Case study

From Downer graduate to Mining Engineer

Generational diversity

Downer’s Graduate program is a cornerstone of our generational diversity focus and we continued to grow the program in FY19. The aim of our Graduate program is to attract high calibre talent and build a rich and diverse pipeline of future leaders. It is a two-year program in which graduates undertake rotations and gain experience across Downer Divisions. Downer Group’s coordinated attraction, recruitment, selection and development leverages the scale of the organisation to promote a compelling graduate value proposition.

Gender diversity

Downer’s total workforce profile is 35 per cent female and 65 per cent male. In 2019, Downer has increased female participation in the workforce by one per cent. With a stable workforce size, this is a significant achievement within a 12-month period.

Overall, women in management positions remained stable and the recruitment and promotion of talented women will continue to be a focus for the next period to enable progress towards targets. This is reflected in the proposed initiatives to support diversity and inclusion for FY20.

Case study

Breaking down barriers to employment

People performance data

Case study

Bendigo Hospital’s refugee employment program

Our future focus

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Downer has revised its measurable objectives for FY20, which have been endorsed by the Board and reinforce the company’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

The revised targets consider Downer’s FY19 performance and recognise the Group-wide commitment to increasing the representation of women in the workforce and management positions and increasing representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.


women in the
workforce by 2020


female representation on Downer Board by 2020


women in
positions by 2020, a
three per cent increase
on the disclosed
measurable objective
outlined in Downer’s
FY18 Annual Report


women in Senior Executive positions by 2020


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees by 2020

To achieve these targets, we aim to implement a wide range of initiatives to support our commitment to gender, cultural and generational diversity. These include:

  • Continue the governance structure through Divisional Diversity steering committees, with progress and initiatives reported quarterly to the Executive committee
  • Leverage our status as an Endorsed Employer with Work180 to utilise their job board for Downer targeted positions
  • Review and modify the Downer Mandatory Induction program to ensure our commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce and working environment is highlighted
  • Deliver on Downer’s WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador commitments
  • Undertake a pilot program to incorporate Downer’s flexible working arrangements into an operational team and site and share the learnings with the rest of the business
  • Develop capability in our leaders to effectively manage a diverse workforce via a series of manager guides, including inclusive language, strategies for managing a culturally diverse workforce, and everyday sexism in the workplace
  • Implement a second intake for Downer’s mentoring program, where high-performing women are paired with high-performing leaders to support their development goals. Additionally, we aim to develop and launch a Downer Network to highlight opportunities and promote networking for females, which will be open to all employees
  • Develop and launch a Manager Toolkit for supporting primary carers on Parental Leave before, during and as part of their return to work
  • Build unconscious bias capability of hiring managers and recruitment specialists via an online learning module
  • Make progress on the commitments outlined in Downer’s Innovate RAP and launch Spotless’ Stretch RAP and start delivering on the commitments
  • Develop five new partnerships with Indigenous businesses and/or communities
  • Open up Downer’s Te Ara Whanake (Māori Leadership Program) to non-Māori leaders. The Te Ara Māramatanga program will increase cultural and leadership competency
  • Continue to provide employment opportunities to migrant workers and further build manager capability by providing cultural awareness training
  • Continue to unify Downer’s Graduate program across the company, while also implementing a governance structure and framework for the Downer Apprentice and Trainee program that supports strategic attraction, selection and retention
  • Explore partnership opportunities with organisations that manage the transition of ex-defence personnel into Downer employment opportunities.

Case study

Veteran employment initiative

Emerging issues and market trends

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