Developing a sustainable workforce: Our people are key to enabling the low carbon future

clock • 4 min read

Ulf Bengtsson, Centrica's group head of talent, resourcing, learning & employee experience, outlines how an empowered workforce can help drive a shift in sustainability

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges the world faces today - and we believe that the energy sector is at the forefront of the need to respond in creating a cleaner, greener world.

As part of this, we have set our own ambition to be a net zero organisation by 2050. However, the greatest contribution we can make to tackling climate change is to help our customers reduce their carbon emissions.

However, we recognise that to help our customers, we first needed to change ourselves. We have made customer obsession our number one priority and made significant investments in developing new capabilities and solutions to help customers run their world in ever more sustainable ways. Likewise, we have reduced our carbon emissions by a significant 80 per cent compared to a decade ago.

Our transformation has not always been easy. We have focused our energies on supporting colleagues to develop vital skills, improving our employee experience and developing a more inclusive workplace. We've also placed sustainability at the heart of our people strategy. We believe this action is critical to ensure our people are able to satisfy our customer's changing needs and enable the transition to a lower carbon future.

Let me tell you about some of the things we've been doing to develop our future workforce.

 

Empowering people with future skills

In order to face the huge sustainability challenges ahead, we're committed to supporting our colleagues to develop critical future skills. That's why one of our responsible business ambitions is to inspire and develop a 100,000 people with essential STEM skills.

To this end, we have developed a Learning Academy, a Workday Learning App and The Career Development Hub. These enable our colleagues to take full control of their development in new and emerging areas such as digital, project management, business intelligence, coding and cloud-based technologies.

 

Developing internal talent

Our focus on helping colleagues to develop their skills is mirrored in our hiring strategy, which is now primarily focused on internal mobility and progression. We're proud that our internal vs external hiring ratio for professional roles leapt from 40 per cent in 2017 to 67 per cent in 2018 and is now the new norm.

The establishment of the Career Development Hub, and the drive to develop our people has had a hugely positive impact toward meeting our carbon goals. For example, as we ramp up our capacity to install electric vehicle charging points at both customer's homes and businesses, we have been working with our in-house learning and development team to cross-skill our smart meter engineers to install EV charging points across the UK. 

 

Placing sustainability at the heart of our talent strategy

Where we do need to bring in specialist talent to our workforce, we have found that the drive towards a low carbon future has had a big influence on the skills and experience we're looking for.  

For example, our energy trading team is at the forefront of developing new trading technologies and artificial intelligence algorithms to help the transition to a lower carbon energy market. They're playing a critical role in buying and selling renewable energy, as well as predicting the output of renewable assets, like windfarms and solar parks. 

To attract the talent of the future, we have had to change the way we interact with prospective colleagues. This has resulted in a monumental shift of followers on social media from heritage gas industry professionals to those currently working in technology. We were proud to be awarded the coveted Linkedin Top25 employers to work for in 2019.

 

Engaging our people in the drive towards net zero

We know that our people will be key drivers of our progress towards net zero and will inspire customers along the way. So, we've turned our workplaces green by installing electric vehicle charging points, removed all single use plastic from the cafes across our offices, and we're incentivising colleagues to car share, cycle or walk to work. Our green team also run events throughout the year to encourage our people to lead more sustainable lives.

Our people are our greatest ambassadors and they have a vital role to play in helping our customers to lead more sustainable lives.

I feel proud of the action we're taking and the key role our people are playing in the drive towards a lower carbon future. We have long journey ahead and it won't always be easy, but I'm confident we're on the right path and helping to create a more sustainable world.

 

Ulf Bengtsson is group head of talent, resourcing, learning & employee experience at Centrica

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