Helping colleagues unlock their potential

Posted on: 05/10/2017

Helping colleagues unlock their potential

Helping all our colleagues meet their potential is something that’s close to my heart. Holding the role I do, it’s a real privilege for me to see colleagues join us and work their way up through our business.

They have some good role models. The majority of our Executive team started their careers either as apprentices or graduates – certainly something that’s unusual.

It’s easy to forget how much our business has changed since 2005. We have recruited more than 160 apprentices while providing development opportunities for hundreds more colleagues: and with significant success. 12 years after we started operations, the average age of our operational workforce is now 43 down from 54 in 2005.

Without getting things right within our business, we can’t deliver outstanding customer service to the communities we serve.

So how can we help people unlock their potential – today’s theme in #NCSW17 – and support them in meeting the needs of our customers now and in the future?

Well – firstly we’ve changed the way we recruit new colleagues. From apprentices to administrative support roles, we’ve lifted barriers by removing the requirement for unnecessary qualifications. Of course, for some roles, there will remain a need for qualifications, but we know school and exams isn’t for everyone. We’re also now recruiting on our values of Energy, Teamwork, Pride and Customer Service. So we’ve not only widened the numbers of people who can apply for our roles but also recruited new colleagues who fit better. Since 2015 we have a 99% retention rate for Apprentices recruited on their values – and we think this is a direct result of changing the way we recruit people.

We can also help existing colleagues grow their careers.

Our development programmes aim to set colleagues on a path to different roles and levels in our business. Our Managing for Performance course, deepening our colleague knowledge of our business and our processes; our Pathways Coaching programme, designed to help our experienced colleagues and managers help others to unlock their potential or to resolve workplace challenges; and more recently our development days which saw more than 70 colleagues from across our business getting together and learning more about some key activities. These all try and support our colleagues unlock their potential and be the best they can be.

We’ve developed more targeted programmes in response to business issues. For example, we struggle to recruit First Line Managers – key players in delivering outstanding service to our customers. Not only is it a challenging job, but it’s also quite a unique one. It is difficult to get the relevant experience suited to the role elsewhere within our business. So we launched our First Line Manager trainee programme. This has given a range of colleagues from across the business the opportunity to experience management out on the network alongside an experienced FLM. A number of colleagues have graduated with 100% of the first two cohorts securing FLM roles after 12 months – and we’ll be continuing this programme over the next few years.

I can’t understate how seriously we take preparing our people for the future – so it was really pleasing when we received our Investors in People Silver award earlier this year. Making sure our colleagues have all the skills, confidence and innovative thinking to build our business into the future is just as important as designing the energy system for the future. Without our people, we’re just 35,000km of pipe!




Sarah Hopkins

Wales & West Utilities People & Engagement Director