Workplace Leaders
Vistry Group
Group People Director

Danica McLean

Leadership stands as the cornerstone of an inclusive workplace, with trust, empathy, and empowerment as its pillars. Leaders who embrace these traits not only steer their business towards success but also lay the stage for a workplace where diversity flourishes and inclusion becomes second nature. This understanding is central to the work done by Danica McLean, the Group People Director at Vistry Group, one of the UK’s leading construction firms.

Danica sat down with Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, to talk over some of the most pressing questions facing the sector today, from the challenge of increasing diversity and representation to the need to create a high-performing and inclusive workplace culture. 

Danica's Journey

Max: Can we start with a quick introduction to yourself and your organisation? 

I’m the Group People Director for Vistry Group. Vistry is one of the UK’s leading housebuilders and was formed in 2020 through a merger between Bovis Homes, Linden Homes, and Galliford Try’s housing businesses. Then, in November 2022, we acquired Countryside Partnerships for more than a billion pounds. Our business has grown hugely over the last few years: in 2019, we had 1200 employees, and now we have over 4800.

Max: What drew you to people leadership? What has kept you energised and motivated throughout your career? 

I fell into it, really. I’m originally from Slovakia, and I came to the UK to study. I was looking for some work experience, so I talked to a friend who worked for a recruitment agency. So I went to try it out, and I then spent the first few years of my career working in recruitment followed by an internal recruiter role for a steel manufacturer. There, I was working as part of an HR team, which inspired me to take my CIPD qualifications before pivoting into a generalist HR role. I really enjoy working with people, and my goal is to make the workplace the best it can possibly be. Today, the things people want out of their careers are a lot different than when I started; the field is continually evolving, and you need to adapt along with it.

Max: What’s the key to embedding a sense of belonging and inclusion across such a large organisation?

The key is how people feel about the organisation. That’s closely linked to diversity and inclusion: not just a diversity of people, but also a diversity of views, knowledge, and experience. But belonging is fundamentally about how people feel when they come to work. They need to believe in the goals of the business and feel like they are being seen, heard, and valued. 

Max: In your industry, people often work across different schedules and locations. What challenges does this pose for EDI engagement, and what initiatives have you put in place to overcome them? 

We’re in the construction industry, and that poses some unique questions for our EDI strategy. As an industry, we’re lagging behind on some EDI metrics: for example, the sector has traditionally been largely male-oriented. That’s not going to change overnight, but we can make the industry more attractive to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to join. So that involves investing in training, graduate schemes, and apprenticeships — we need to give people the opportunity to grow along with the business. We’ve had some great success with people who’ve joined as trainees and have risen to become managing directors. It’s really important to make construction more accessible to a wider audience, so as an organisation, we need to work harder to understand what people ultimately want out of their careers. 

Max: Your business has collaborated closely with Women into Construction. What measures have you introduced to help raise awareness and help people from underrepresented backgrounds feel included? 

We’re building on our partnerships with external organisations, including Women into Construction, to attract more women into site management. We’ve been working with other businesses as part of the Housebuilder Federation to create a program to allow women to come on-site to see what the job is like before they join the sector. We also have a huge emphasis on education: in the past few years, we have set up a dedicated EDI committee, as well as a number of staff networks. That helps to encourage our people to share their stories and to celebrate their differences.

Max: Employees have many demands on their time. How do you find the time to make sure everyone gets involved in EDI and stays engaged on a long-term basis? 

Our networks are key: they are all run by our employees, and one of their core missions is making our company more diverse and inclusive. Many of them give up their free time because they are so passionate about creating a truly inclusive environment. They come up with some brilliant ideas and initiatives, and we’ve given them a high level of autonomy to put those ideas into practice.

Max: What are the key traits and habits shared by the best people leaders?

Trust is one of the most crucial components. You can’t lead if your team doesn’t have faith in you. It’s also vital to have empathy: you need to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and make sure that they feel supported. Finally, leaders should delegate autonomy to allow their people to thrive to their fullest potential.

Max: How do you articulate the link between culture and higher-level commercial objectives of your organisation?

If people have a challenging but rewarding role, and if they understand how they fit into the organisation, then it leads to better outcomes. You also need to help people balance their work life with their personal life: when people have flexibility, they are willing to give more to the organisation.

Max: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

Be yourself, and be courageous. I think it takes a lot of bravery to stay true to your values. It’s common to feel a sense of anxiety or impostor syndrome, but you should always believe in your own ability.

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Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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