How can recruitment & training unlock the benefits of a diverse workforce?
28 February 2017
Develop Training Ltd (DTL) hosted an ensemble of business leaders this week to discuss the importance of training and recruitment when addressing workplace diversity in the latest in the training provider’s Industry Skills Forum event series. Picking up on a renewed push for workforce equality and diversity throughout DTL’s industry sectors, the Forum provided an opportunity to identify common challenges and share best practice in addressing the subject.
Legislation in the UK exists to ensure businesses adhere to clear standards of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). These acts state that workers must be treated equally and given the same opportunities regardless of their race, age, gender, disability, culture, sexuality or any other personal traits. So not only is there a moral imperative, but also a legal requirement for businesses to embrace an inclusive working culture.
Formalising the approach to equality & diversity
Iain Smith, Director of Engineering for Interserve, began proceedings by explaining how Interserve has a "massively diverse workforce" and to support it they have a formal strategy driven by the cultures and business sectors in which the organisation operates.
"Our two key challenges are firstly supporting those in the business for whom English is not a first or even a second language," he commented, "And secondly, communicating with those who have difficulty accessing Interserve’s internal communications, such as our Intranet.
"In engineering there are strict rules regarding safe systems of work, which typically involves a lot of paperwork, for obvious reasons. This creates challenges both linguistically and in dealing in differing levels of literacy."
Iain went on to explain how some of these challenges are met by instruction being given pictorially rather than in written or verbal form.
Dennis Palmer, Head of GB Smart Meter Programme Liaison for Smart Energy GB, noted that Smart Energy GB’s marketing campaigns already run in seven languages to help maximise their success.
All in attendance agreed that businesses putting some structure around their approaches to EDI would give clarity to the topic and enable industry to lead by example on such an important subject.
Workforce diversity shaped by customer base
One of the discussions sought to understand the drivers behind equality and diversity in the workforce.
Hanna Lutkemeier, Business Development Team Leader at Nottingham Trent University, asked the panel to what extent the customer base and their requirements shape the workforce, "A female living alone, for example, may feel more comfortable letting a female meter installer into her home."
Dennis Palmer stressed the importance of recognising these needs and the benefits of a diverse workforce, which goes further than simply gender: "If you’re installing smart meters, language is important. English and a bit of Gaelic will be enough when installing in homes in the Scottish Highlands, but in parts of the country where there is a concentration of non-English speakers, it’s less straightforward. Having a workforce that is representative of its local demographics can go a long way to overcoming this issue."
Ed Shaw, Industry Manager for Construction & Utilities at City & Guilds, agreed but suggested that "while that may drive the demand for the workforce, unless we get the recruitment right, it stops right there."
Notwithstanding the persistent spectre of the UK skills crisis, the panel all agreed that making careers in construction, utilities, energy and facilities management attractive to young people from all backgrounds was something industry had to be better at collectively.
"How do we engage with communities so that they want to apply for roles in industry?" asked Hanna Lutkemeier.
Ed Shaw suggested that methods of assessment could be reviewed and updated to be less of a potential barrier to qualification and recruitment: "At entry level, when you’re simply assessing whether or not somebody can use certain tools safely and properly, is a written exam necessary? Probably not; but as you advance, the need for written communication increases and thus creates new training requirements, such as language, to support future learning."
Dennis Palmer suggested that more could be done to explain the pathways available to individuals following training so that they understand where their qualifications can take them in the future.
In conclusion, Chris Wood – CEO at Develop Training – commented that: "It may seem somewhat obvious that UK businesses need to adapt and make allowances for cultural and personal differences. Our Forum has demonstrated however that more still needs to be done and simple, practical actions can be taken. Not only can these provide the basis for a more tolerant society in general but they also allow firms to more ably meet the specific needs of their customers to the benefit of all."
The Industry Skills Forum event was attended by:
- Hanna Lutkemeier – Business Development Team Leader (Nottingham Trent University)
- Dennis Palmer – Head of GB Smart Meter Programme Liaison (Smart Energy GB)
- Emily Bonsall – Director (Mentor Training)
- Richard Shore – Director (Mentor Training)
- Iain Smith – Director of Engineering (Interserve FM)
- Ed Shaw – Industry Manager for Construction & Utilities (City & Guilds)
and facilitated by DTL management:
- Chris Wood – Chief Executive Officer
- Chris Wall – Sales & Marketing Director
- John Kerr – Operations Director
- Steve Braund – Marketing Manager
- Darren Robson – Apprenticeships Compliance Manager
- Gavin Davies – ACS Gas Lecturer