Communication is Key to Improving Inclusion: Insight from the HR Director at E.ON

Melanie Forbes
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Guidant Group
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© Depositphotos.com/Kikkerdirk
© Depositphotos.com/Kikkerdirk
As a previous winner of two RIDI Awards, E.ON is clearly an organisation which takes its commitment to addressing inclusion in the workplace seriously. 

To find out how the company is making in-roads, I spoke to the company’s HR Director, Dave Newborough:

What, do you believe, are the business benefits of a diverse workforce?

At E.ON we believe that the diversity of our people is one of our biggest strengths.  We face a variety of challenges daily and we know that it’s only by tapping into different ideas and perspectives that we’ll be able to overcome those challenges.  We want the best talent to drive us forward and that means being open to all qualified candidates – not just some.  We’re committed to creating a supportive, inclusive culture in which people from all walks of life can achieve and exceed their potential.

Why is it important to encourage the inclusion of disabled people?

We provide energy to millions of customers across the UK and beyond and we never underestimate how important it is for us to be able to relate to and empathise with those customers.  That’s why we’re so determined to have a workforce that’s truly reflective of our customer base.  Furthermore, we know that the more diverse our employee base is; the more dynamic, innovative and “out of the box” we become as a result. We know that when people are happy, well supported and free to be themselves, they get so much more out of work.  We believe that treating people fairly and respectfully is the right thing to do.  And that it’s the only way to do business. 

How is E.ON’s commitment to inclusion recognised?

In 2011 we first engaged with the Clear Company and underwent our first audit to ensure that all of our recruitment practices were unbiased and inclusive.  We began making changes immediately and in 2012, we were proud to be awarded the ‘positive about disabled people’ Two Ticks symbol. We’ve been making sure that our recruitment processes are fair and accessible ever since. For example, all our jobs are now advertised with Job Centre Plus, and we’ve developed successful partnerships with Evenbreak and Diversity Jobs.  We’ve also redesigned role profiles and job advertisements so that disabled candidates are less likely to deselect themselves unnecessarily and more likely to tell us about their disability when they make their application.  For these efforts, we won awards for ‘Reasonable Adjustments in Recruitment’ and ‘Most Progress Large Employer’ at the 2014 RIDI (Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative) awards.

What changes has E.ON made to encourage the number of applications from disabled jobseekers?

We conducted a full review of our job boards and increased our presence to be on seven as opposed to the original four.  These boards include Evenbreak.co.uk and DisabilityJobsite.co.uk; both of which cater specifically for disabled jobseekers.  We have also updated our application process to include phone support; for those uncomfortable with online applications and also braille and large print applications.  We will always make any reasonable adjustments that an applicant or candidate might require. We form partnerships with other Clear Assured organisations; such as in our employer branding activity. Doing this ensures that all of our communications are reflective of a diverse workforce and diverse audience. We’re not finished yet either.  We hope that in the near future, all of our suppliers will be Clear Assured.

Have these changes made a notable impact?

Since we started to make these changes, we have seen a marked increase in applications from disabled jobseekers – or an increase in those declaring their disability – year upon year.  With our continuing relationship with the Clear Company and our commitment to uphold the values of the Two Ticks status, we expect, and hope for, these numbers to continue increasing.

How has E.ON’s HR function adapted to support disabled jobseekers and employees?

We first underwent a Clear audit in 2011 and have worked continuously since then to improve our processes – not just maintain them. Following this first audit, we conducted training sessions with the Clear Company for the recruitment team, wider HR department and hiring managers.  We have a strategic governance board in place including a number of board members.  They have identified a strategic focus and pulled four key workstreams from this which are; treating everyone with respect, work/life balance, fair selection and wellbeing and mental health. These are the principles upon which we are building an inclusive working culture.

Do you plan to take any additional steps to further improve diversity?

We have a wide programme of work planned in the diversity space.  We have just put together a new video to showcase the diversity of the company with the overriding message “It’s what’s inside that counts” – a true reflection of the philosophy of the organisation as a whole.  We are also working on producing a new careers website, which will be fully accessible to all jobseekers.  We are working with AbilityNet to carry out an audit on this. We also recently increased our presence on more diverse job boards; to target specific groups of people as well as the broader audience we were previously reaching out to.

What advice would you give to other organisations that are considering taking steps to improve the inclusion of disabled people?

Communication is key; we have a Disabled Employees’ Network (DEN) who work across all sites, noting areas of strength and development and feeding this directly into the diversity governance structure.  Furthermore, our first Clear audit in 2011 was very helpful as it signposted all of the areas that we needed to work on and prioritised them so we could make improvements in order of necessity.  Annual audits have followed and continued to highlight new development areas to us, so we never rest, there is always something we can do that could make our experience better for all candidates. All of this helps us onwards to our goal of a diverse and inclusive working environment.          

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