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.
The winner at the last awards evening, 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 RailStaff Awards Sponsor of the HR, Diversity and Inclusion Award, G&W UK/Europe Region companies, which includes Freightliner and Pentalver, place great emphasis on improving diversity and inclusion across its respective business areas.
Attracting highly skilled and diverse talent to G&W UK/Europe Region companies has been an ongoing priority for the Group. With a stronger focus on diversity and inclusion in the last few years, they are slowly 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, the Careers pages now feature testimonials and videos of female colleagues in engineering and frontline roles and recruitment advertising promotes, and celebrates, a diverse workforce 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.
The group is also an established member of WORK180 as an Endorsed Employer for Women. WORK180 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 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.
G&W UK/Europe also support the Women in Rail Awards and are proud that one of their female train drivers was Highly Commended in the ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ category in 2020 – all raising the profile of a career in Rail/Transport for women.
G&W UK/Europe value the importance of getting first-hand feedback from female frontline workforce and for the third year running, they celebrated International Women’s Day (‘IWD’) at their Headquarters in Birmingham where 40+ ladies, mainly frontline, came together in celebration of women in the rail and logistics industry. As a spin off to IWD, a female driver forum has been established, chaired by a female train driver, aimed at identifying, voicing and addressing challenges that impact women in the workplace and particularly for those frontline.
Events and forums such as these provide a valuable insight on how G&W UK can improve diversity and encourage more females into frontline roles. It also ensures every single person in the company is valued, heard, respected, empowered, and feels a true sense of belonging.
In the words of G&W UK HR Director, Glynis Appelbe “If we do not embrace and welcome change and diversity, irrespective of what sphere of life or work we are operating in, then we run the risk of being left behind and ill equipped to face the diverse and changing challenges work, or life, present us with. We also inevitably fail to seize and capitalise on emerging and exciting opportunities either personally or work wise. As an industry, and as a business, if we are not willing to change and to diversify, then we run the risk of continuing to think and operate in the same way we have always done and hence we will end up with the same results which is absolutely not what we want.”