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HR, Diversity and Inclusion

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One of the longer titles for a category in this year’s RailStaff Awards – the HR, Diversity & Inclusion Person or Team Award – is also actually one of the most topical.

Diversity is always in the spotlight. Whether it is Network Rail’s attempts to get its proportion of female employees up above 20 per cent, the activities of the Archway network for the railway’s LGBT+ community, or initiatives to include more disabled, ethnic minority and disadvantaged people into the rail community, it is all of great public interest.

The specialists who look after diversity and inclusion tend to work for HR – human resources. So, the three areas are rightly combined in this award.

Of course, winners don’t necessarily win for their work in these fields, so the actual nomination could be for something completely different.

HR support

The winner last year, though, did win for his efforts in HR support.

Dave Rees joined WSP’s UK rail business in 2008. Since then, it has engendered a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion while growing its headcount from around 250 to 760. His practical approach has helped deliver exceptional results for WSP and put it in a strong position to achieve its ultimate objective of being Britain’s first gender-balanced engineering consultancy.

As a result of Dave’s insight, drive and industry knowledge, particularly in identifying and targeting post-chartership staff as the group most at-risk of leaving, WSP’s attrition rate has fallen from 17 to seven per cent. It is becoming an ‘employer of choice’, attracting and retaining the most talented rail people in the industry.

As well as training the senior leadership team to see things from a people perspective, he has overseen the roll-out of ‘unconscious bias’ training to almost all senior rail staff, to ensure they make the right decisions when recruiting or recognising progress. The proportion of female graduates in the rail division has risen from 12 per cent in 2015 to 43 per cent in 2019.

Picking up the award last year, Dave said: “I’m fairly modest about what I do. I feel I’m just doing my day job, but other people see something I don’t – thinking outside the box, trying to bring a different view into what the business tries to achieve – and hopefully it works and we improve our inclusion, our diversity, the way we do things.”


The sponsor of the HR, Diversity and Inclusion category for 2020 is G&W UK/Europe Region, which includes the UK’s largest intermodal rail freight provider, Freightliner, and leading UK container logistics services provider Pentalver.

Like any responsible organisation, G&W UK places great emphasis on improving diversity and inclusion across its three business platforms of Rail, Road and Terminals.

This is reflected in its company value of Respect – it endeavours to treat all people with dignity and fairness, fostering diversity and inclusion, hence the reason it is sponsoring the HR Diversity and Inclusion category at this year’s RailStaff Awards, moving over from Customer Service last year.

Attracting highly skilled and diverse talent has been an ongoing priority for the group. With a stronger focus on diversity and inclusion in the last few years, it is slowly and surely starting to reap the benefits, especially with the recruitment of females into frontline operational roles, including train and truck drivers.

Following a complete relaunch of the company website last year, the ‘careers’ pages now feature testimonials and videos of female colleagues in engineering and frontline roles.

All external recruitment advertising promotes and celebrates a diverse workforce through the use of imagery and by highlighting the development and career opportunities available to all. Ensuring equal opportunities are available regardless of background, race or gender is of the upmost importance – particularly in historically non-diverse industries such as rail and logistics.

Freightliner has also been approved to join WORK180 as an Endorsed Employer for Women – the UK’s only jobs board which pre-screens employers before they can advertise jobs against a set of criteria, including pay equity, flexible working, women in leadership and paid parental leave.

Actively participating in events such as the Women in Rail sponsored Big Rail Diversity Challenge has provided an opportunity to showcase that teamwork and diversity is not only beneficial, but also essential to the productivity and success of a business. Freightliner supports the Women in Rail Awards and is proud that one of its female train drivers is shortlisted in the ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ category at this year’s awards.

The importance of getting first-hand feedback from a female frontline workforce is greatly valued, which is why G&W UK celebrated this year’s International Women’s Day by inviting 30+ female colleagues to an internal event at its Shared Service Centre in Birmingham. The working group session provided a valuable opportunity to gain insight from a range of frontline operational colleagues on how G&W UK can improve diversity and encourage more females into frontline roles, as well as how it can ensure every single person in the company is valued, heard, respected, empowered, and feels a true sense of belonging.

In the words of CEO Gary Long: “When we hire and promote talent that is diverse, we become a smarter, better functioning and forward-thinking organisation. To not support inclusion, of whatever kind, would significantly limit our talent pool, thereby inhibiting opportunities for future growth and innovation in our industry”

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