Putting energy into inclusion at EDF

Written by
Mary Appleton

06 Mar 2017

06 Mar 2017 • by Mary Appleton

Why are your people important to you?

EDF Energy is a people-orientated company, and recognises that people are responsible for its success. Whether that’s imagining engineering solutions to tackle complex issues at our power stations or helping customers to be more energy efficient, people are at the heart of everything we do. Our turnover rates are low – when people join, they tend to like it and stay. 

How do you create trust, loyalty and integrity between your people and leaders?

We have a behavioural model based on four guiding principles (the ‘4is’) and our HR policies and processes are consistent with these: inspiration, inclusion, integrity and impact. 
By putting integrity and inclusion in a prominent place in our business, we seek to embed it in the behaviours and values of employees and new hires. We take these principles into account when designing policies, programmes and business changes. Our diversity and inclusion team is involved at an early stage of reviewing new policies and provides feedback and recommendations. 

We survey our employees every year and get incredibly high response rates – we listen to what they have to say and we respond. We also put real effort into internal communications and equipping our senior leaders, and the people who report to them, with the skills to communicate effectively. 

What engagement strategies are in place to encourage consistent high performance?

For more than four years, EDF Energy has been organising a company-wide event to promote our employee networks, celebrating company values, and raising awareness of diversity and inclusion issues. The rationale behind Diversity and Inclusion Week is that we all have a role to play in building a positive, collaborative and inclusive working environment. 

We regularly run company-wide communications and briefing/engagement sessions with multiple leaders and employees across all our sites.

We aim to have a highly visible leadership presence and to make sure we give all employees an opportunity to hear about our vision and plans for the future and to ask questions and engage with us. 

We also run an Olympic games maker-inspired ‘Company Makers’ programme, where employees volunteer to help the company, often learning something new about the business and feeding it back to their team. We currently have more than 300 company makers 

How do you measure engagement?

Our annual employee engagement survey provides valuable insight on topics ranging from career development and managerial practices, to wellbeing. It includes themes around diversity and inclusion, which help us identify positive and negative trends dating as far back as 2009. We run focus groups on specific themes or issues raised. 

A priority is to modernise and upgrade the way HR interacts with its employees by going more digital. This will allow us access to a whole range of metrics. 

What defines your culture?

We want to empower our people to be a force for good. This means creating a truly inclusive environment where everyone can be themselves and achieve their best, providing the skills and opportunities for our people to achieve great things at work and in the community, and inspiring and preparing the next generation to join in. 

Our people make our business great. Their passion, commitment and enthusiasm underpin everything we do – at work and in the communities we are part of. We often describe our culture using the 3ts: trust, transparency and teamwork. 

How do you ensure the culture is inclusive?

Last year, we became the first energy company to achieve the National Equality Standard (NES), the UK’s most comprehensive assessment of diversity and inclusion in business. We believe a more diverse workforce will out-think, out-innovate and out-perform less diverse organisations. 

As part of the assessment, we were recognised for having outstanding practices in 21 areas, such as our mentoring programme to support gender diversity at all levels of the company, employee networks, the business’s support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and the work we have done to support unemployed young people gain employment skills via its black and minority ethnic (BAME) network and recruitment team. 
Since achieving the NES, we have gone on to be named on the Stonewall list of the top 100 organisations for LGBT employees and we were the only energy company to be included in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women this year. 

We focus on innovative ways to appeal to more diverse talent in order to expand our recruitment pool. 

How do you encourage your leaders to role model behaviours?

Inclusion is a high priority on the corporate agenda given the value it brings to performance, innovation and decision making. Our inclusion strategy is agreed at an executive team level and members are volunteer sponsors of our diversity networks where they role model the behaviours we want to see.

What is EDF doing to attract and engage the younger generation from a diverse talent pool and range of backgrounds?

It’s estimated that the country requires an extra 1.82 million engineers to meet demand over the next seven years. The science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sector as a whole must be proactive in tackling the challenges we are facing. 

Inspiring the next generation to pursue STEM career paths is a huge part of the solution. We take on around 75 apprentices a year into science and engineering, business and commercial and also smart metering roles. In addition, around 50 people join our graduate schemes in engineering, commercial and finance and around 35 industrial placements are made each year. 

More than 60% of UK schools are signed up to The Pod, our free online sustainability and STEM education programme, established over seven years ago. 

We know our business will be stronger if we have a more diverse workforce, yet there continues to be a lack of women choosing careers in STEM-related areas. It is estimated that only one in five people working in core STEM jobs in the UK today are women. This is why, in 2015, we turned our efforts towards encouraging teenage girls to take up careers in STEM and launched our Pretty Curious programme. 

As part of this, we give girls the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences at events across the country and recently launched a virtual reality 360 film showcasing three female role models working in STEM. More than 7,500 girls have engaged with the campaign online, we’ve had 1.8 million views of our film on YouTube and 10 million people have watched it in cinemas. It’s a good example of what we are trying to do for ourselves, our industry and for STEM talent attraction more generally. 

How are you building capability?

To retain a diverse and talented workforce, we have established strategies covering the full HR lifecycle from recruitment, through succession planning, talent management into learning and development. 

Our recruitment pipeline of young people introduces us to innovative ways of working and problem solving. As our business diversifies over the coming years, our organisation will need to remain inclusive, and continue to respond to a range of needs and skills, so we put significant time and resources into our training and development agenda, enabling employees to keep up to date and respond to business circumstances. 

Most importantly, we’ll need to continue working with younger generations and schools to encourage STEM-based careers. 

What advice would you offer HR directors who aspire to be on the board?

Focus on doing your current job well and the next career step will follow. Gain business experience in HR, even outside HR early in your career, so you can cover all areas: recruitment, employee relations, rewards, organisation development and learning and development, viewing HR from different perspectives. Good project management and business skills are also very relevant.