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Good practice case studies

Implementation and embedding of our Colleague Communities – Northern Gas Networks

What was the challenge you wanted to address?

NGN created our Colleague Communities in 2021 to tackle the challenge head on by breaking down internal barriers and empowering all colleagues to have a strong and authentic voice.  Today, the Communities guide business decision making which is delivering proven business and social benefits for the long term.

Describe your approach

While NGN has built a culture focused on empowering people and has been recognised externally for its award-winning approach to cultural transformation – putting colleagues at the heart of its decision making – it faces challenges around the diversity of its workforce (only 18% are women) and it is not currently representative of the communities that it serves.

NGN wanted to give underrepresented colleagues a stronger voice and foster an environment where everyone can thrive and maximise their potential to deliver better outputs for its current and future workforce and customers. 

Driven by colleagues themselves and based around five priority areas defined by them, groups include: Women, Parents and Carers, LGBTQIA+, disABILITY and Ethnic Minorities.  In total women represent approximately 72% of the membership of these groups.

Since inception in 2021, some of NGN’s Communities have grown more than five-fold and helped to educate senior management on the importance of inclusion and belonging through partnering with external organisations such as The Equal Group, guided the company’s People and Planet Strategy, reviewed existing policies and co-designed new ones to ensure they align with its Inclusion and Belonging principles.

As well as meeting on a regular basis to identify issues, discuss solutions, and agree actions to solve challenges, colleagues from across its five communities, together with senior leaders, lead NGN’s Inclusion and Belonging Steering Group and the implementation of NGN’s inclusion commitments. Through this group NGN has engaged with stakeholders, colleagues and leading businesses to understand and adopt best practice and influenced the direction and strategy behind inclusion and belonging.

CEO, Mark, is passionate about the work of these groups, and has hosted a number of sessions with Communities to demonstrate his ongoing support.  Since 2023 each of the Communities has had executive level sponsorship, providing a direct feed through to the internal leadership group, the Executive Management Team.

What was the outcome?

The community groups have been working individually to address and tackle everyday challenges that affect under-represented groups, in the workplace.  Examples include:

Women’s Community

NGN’s Women’s Community introduced a mentoring scheme with the Women’s Utility Network allowing women of any level to access experienced business mentors and help grow their confidence and skills. This group also held the company’s first ever Women’s Safety Bounce event, where colleagues openly shared and discussed issues surrounding awareness of personal safety inside and outside the workplace, which led to direct changes to help women feel safer on its sites for example making PPE suitable for women and appropriate sanitary ware at all its facilities. 

Ethnic Minority Community

Support tools have been developed for managers to help colleagues who may be observing certain religious practices and colleagues who do not celebrate festivals in the Christian calendar can swap their bank holidays and use for other festivals.

DisABILITY Community

This group has taken an active part in reviewing NGN’s people policies predominantly the absence management, volunteering and travel policies, alongside increasing awareness on invisible disabilities.

Parents & Carers Community

This group is taking an active role in increasing awareness of the parental related policies. The community worked with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development to establish a parent returner programme including refreshing our flexible working and job-sharing policies to remove barriers and support people to get back into work.

LGBTQIA+ Community:

This group continues to increase awareness and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ definitions through the use of social media and blogs, and input into NGN’s Dress Code Policy.

It’s vital that the work that the Communities do is shared and understood by the wider business. Communities are empowered and encouraged to promote the outcomes using company-wide communications channels including Blogs, Yammer and email.  This has helped to enhance the groups profile, credibility, amplify their voice and ensure that they retain authenticity while educating NGN’s workforce. Communities are in the process of developing a regular company-wide e-newsletter to provide the business with visibility of the outputs and outcomes and this is due to be launched shortly. 

To help gain traction with operational staff whose operational responsibilities can make it difficult for them to engage fully, involvement in the Colleague Communities forms part of performance objectives.  The introduction of the ‘NGN Way’ objective (which is weighted up to 20%) has seen membership grow. This year NGN will be undertaking a roadshow around its depots to increase the awareness of its Communities and those involved in the groups and strengthen understanding and engagement even further.

The key achievements delivered by our Colleague Communities to date are:

  • Guiding the development of NGN’s Inclusion & Belonging Strategy, Vision and Principles
  • Influencing people policies as part of our Policy Review Group – 16 changes including amendments to travel and lone working policies with increased focus on women’s safety and disability needs, changes to paternity/maternity policy recognising non-biological parents, improvements to flexible working policy to be mindful of those with caring responsibilities and disability needs
  • Helped to make equality, diversity and inclusion the responsibility of all leaders and managers
  • Created Micoragressions film:
  • Established a collation of Community Charters outlining clear purposes and aims of five Colleague Communities and aligning senior leadership sponsors to each group
  • Creation and roll out of a bespoke Inclusion and Belonging training programme to all NGN leaders and rolling out all colleagues.
  • Instrumental in NGN’s first Inclusion & Belonging Colleague Bounce event.

What were the key lessons learnt?

It’s vital that the work that the Communities do is shared and understood by the wider business. That the Communities continue to be empowered and encouraged.  To continue to enhance the groups profile, credibility, amplify their voice and ensure that they retain authenticity while educating NGN’s workforce.