Flexibility and diversity at National Grid

n gridAs HR Director and UK Executive Committee member for National Grid in the UK, I am acutely aware of how important it is to encourage the best talent into the organisation, and to create an environment where good people stay and thrive.

As with so much of the engineering industry, our workforce is not yet as diverse as we would like it to be. We risk losing out on the innovation that diverse teams can bring, and on the ability to properly reflect the communities we serve. We are actively seeking to improve our workforce mix through regular tracking of numbers; detailed analysis of our employee engagement survey data; company-supported employee resource groups; and selected interventions directed both at senior management and the general employee population.

Alongside this, our workforce profile is changing. Many employees are choosing to work for longer, and find themselves confronted with new sets of challenges, such as elder care responsibilities. Employees with children of all ages are looking for the best way to manage childcare. Other professionals are also looking for flexibility in order to achieve better work-life balance. Having the ability to work in a flexible way will help many employees to achieve this balance by providing the time needed to focus on themselves, care for dependants or fulfil other aspirations.

National Grid is committed to promoting a culture where requests for flexible working are received positively and agreed mutually, such that service provision is unaffected or improved, whilst ensuring:

  • we are able to recruit and retain the right people, in the right numbers with the right skills and experience; and
  • we are able to assist people in maintaining a healthy balance between their work and their personal life.

We offer a range of options, to include: part time working; term time working; annualised hours; flexitime; compressed hours; short-term voluntary reduction of hours; home working; job share.

The fact that a number of our senior leaders are working part time and talking about their working patterns is helping to ‘normalise’ flexible working. We also recently published a yearbook of female role models from all parts and levels of our business, many of whom have achieved success in their careers while working flexibly.

I can’t pretend there aren’t still challenges in implementing a culture that truly embraces flexible working. Some of our managers need help to see the benefits of the model for both parties. Nonetheless the messaging is very clear. National Grid wants to hear from the best candidates, whether they are seeking to work flexibly or not. We can’t promise to give you exactly what you want, but we do promise not to judge you for asking. A number of our new hires are brought in on a flexible basis, with many more seeking more flexible options as existing employees.

This topic is also important to me on a personal level. I work an 80% contract, allowing me to manage my time between work and family. I joined National Grid on a part time basis in 2005 and I have progressed my career undertaking a number of roles, showing that National Grid embraces flexible working patterns.

By Louise Farnworth, National Grid, UK HR Director

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