Creating a net-zero ready workforce

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​We are increasingly hearing about organisations that are purpose-led. With vision, mission and brand statements, companies are wearing their hearts on their sleeves and talking about more than profits.

It’s partly as a result of the demands of modern society, but also because purpose-driven companies attract the best minds and have passionate employees who want to achieve and change the world in some way.

When you combine purpose and passion, the impact can be incredibly powerful. National Grid is one of those companies.

For us, our purpose is, in its simplest form, to ‘bring energy to life’. That means getting the heat, light and power that our customers rely on into their homes and businesses. But we’re also committed to making a positive contribution to society, whether that’s by helping the young people of today to become the energy problem-solvers of tomorrow, supporting customers to use energy more efficiently or tackling climate change.

As purposes go, tackling climate change is a pretty big statement, but then it has to be. Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our generation. We know that every decision we make affects the future of the planet.

The good news is that people are increasingly motivated by a job with purpose – our research shows that over three quarters of UK adults want to play a part in reaching the UK’s net zero goal and more than half want to work for an organisation that helps us get there.

Young people and adults in the UK are increasingly searching for ways to play their part in tackling climate change, spurred on by powerful cultural moments, from climate strikes to David Attenborough’s nature documentary series. That’s great news for us and suggests that if we can be crystal clear about our purpose and the critical role we have in reaching net zero we can tap into that talent.

But this can’t just be something for HR professionals to sort out by themselves. It’s not a snazzy slogan in a recruitment video or greenwashing a website. The top of the organisation needs to set the tone and signal a credible pledge to purpose.

At National Grid, we have just launched our Responsible Business Charter with our CEO setting out clear targets and commitments.

For example, we want to achieve 50% diversity in our group executive committee, senior leadership group and all new talent programmes by 2025, so that we can build diverse and inclusive teams that reflect the communities we serve. This sends a signal to current and potential recruits: if they want to work in a diverse and inclusive company, this is the place for them.

Targets are just one example, there is so much more we can do. In the energy sector the next 30 years will see new jobs emerge while some traditional roles will change or decline, so retraining existing employees in line with an organisation’s purpose is key.

Existing colleagues need to see the investment that is being made to give them the skills they need to perform for tomorrow’s challenges. We need to future-proof them and show them the role they play in the organisation’s mission.

Having a strong purpose and mission works for our current workforce, but we also need a generation of schoolchildren who are passionate and inspired to take STEM subjects, otherwise we won’t have a skills pipeline to tap into 10 or 20 years down the line. We have to bring this generation with us.

So, yes, purpose does matter for future talent. But there is no silver bullet for getting it right and no single organisation will have all the answers.

We need to foster collaboration between industry partners, government, regulators, trade unions, NGOs, education institutions and campaigning groups. If we can do that successfully, then we can truly deliver the change the world needs.

Catherine Schlieben is HR director – talent, inclusion and diversity at National Grid.


The full article of the above is published in the November/December 2020 issue of HR magazine. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.

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