For the next instalment of our People Matters series, Sabrina Stubbs sat down with Rebekah Randall, head of talent at EMCOR UK. Rebekah spoke about the value in communications which adopt D&I into everyday structures, the importance of mentoring and reverse-mentoring, and methods to get the right people into the right roles.
How is health and well-being linked to engagement and performance? Do you have any real-life examples of how focusing on the former boosts the latter?
For talent acquisition, everything we do is focused on engagement, and building an environment of inclusion. Through that, people can bring their whole selves to work. I find that that really breeds a sense of belonging, enhancing people’s performance, and their productivity.
Bringing your full self to work, that really helps with confidence and contribution, and it helps us create this culture of support. Since beginning work with EMCOR UK this year, I’ve really felt that it is a space where people really want to work to do a good job and help the organisation succeed.
What do you think employees need to thrive?
For me, that is inclusion. If someone is going to thrive, they need to feel like they are fully accepted in the company they work for. Your employer should not only see, but should value, your differences.
That’s so much broader than what underrepresented group you’re a part of, or any group you identify with. They need to acknowledge and try to understand the way that you perceive the world, and how this drives your behaviour.
To thrive, an inclusive environment is required. And true inclusivity means recognising and valuing people’s difference. Again, it’s about seeing and supporting that whole person.
How do you develop an inclusive environment?
When it comes to ED&I, no singular group has the exact same priorities and needs, and many groups do not intersect with each other. At EMCOR UK, we have a several groups for staff so that we can cater to these groups’ individual needs.
With these groups identified, we can have real-time, real-life feedback from our people. This way, we can assess how people feel about working for EMCOR UK, how they are interacting with the culture and how the culture is addressing their needs. We use it to both create and drive an agenda of change.
What role does communication play in making sure employees get the most out of the services you offer?
Communication is absolutely a key element. At EMCOR UK, we have a unique challenge where most of our approximate 3,500 strong workforce are onsite with our customers. For our staff with IT access, we have internal communication application Connect. It acts as an internal live news vehicle for the business and allows people to interact with each other across locations and functions.
However, for onsite workers like engineers, electricians, cleaners, and security personnel, are usually without IT access. Our methods therefore need to be a lot more personal to be effective, or workers run the risk of being isolated from their employer.
We do this by giving the management team information that they are then tasked with filtering down to workers on the ground. This can involve regular town halls for the leadership teams, which HR plays a strong role in. We also arrange ad hoc visits, so that if leadership teams detect any themes of discomfort or challenges, then they can approach them in person.
Another method, for example, is by old fashioned print outs. For internal job vacancies, we have them printed on a weekly basis and placed on notice boards in staff areas. That’s often the only way we can ensure smaller pieces of news are circulated.
These methods really promote internal mobility. We have so many success stories of people that started out as apprentices or cleaners, who moved all the way up to executive leadership levels because of these methods.
Ensuring that everyone has someone to turn to makes them ultimately feel valued and recognised as part our overall team, EMCOR UK. This is so important to developing a sense of community and belonging. That’s why we have teams putting in additional effort to visit onsite staff, and in our people-led activities.
You’ve already spoken about this, but do you have other methods that encourage inclusivity?
Our director of ED&I, Emma McLaughlin-Edwards is a pioneer and driving force for our activity in this space. For me, it’s so refreshing for someone in a ED&I position to help lead and guide the company.
In previous organisations, a ED&I lead was within a larger HR leadership team, and the HR director was only the only representative of a people agenda on an enterprise level. Having someone take our ED&I at this level shows our organisation’s commitment. It’s so powerful to see, and really helps us ensure inclusivity is weaved into every process and touch point of our organisation, especially for candidates and new starters.
For our current teams there are challenges of older patterns remaining. Our workforce is still approximately two thirds male, and we have an ageing workforce, like so many organisations today.
These groups are not monolith though. Within these areas, we also have a high proportion of veterans, who require their own additional support and onboarding commitments.
These groups can lead to traditional mindsets, but the ED&I group really take charge of developing and delivering development strategies throughout the organisation. For us in the talent team, we are tasked with promoting a culture of change. Sometimes that means calling out people for damaging behaviour, and having difficult conversations where we say, “I don’t agree with you”.
Ideally though, we work to embody values of change and progress, and that really develops from a place of support that still makes our messaging clear.
How can employers facilitate dialogue and build understanding when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion?
It all starts with learning and listening, really. I’ve done a lot of work with our internal communications team to rebrand the talent team and work out how we can share our good news stories. We want to prioritise explaining to staff what the impact of their work is on the world. We want authenticity to come through.
For our rebrand, we’re working on demonstrating the value of our team by presenting statistics. Ultimately, people will feel impacted by the facts, like the volume of hires, the agency saving figures, things that are meaningful. It’s making sure that these are communicated effectively to remote workers that is the challenge in sharing this information.
We need the onboarding process, from ourselves to our managers, to be as inclusive as possible, but to then carry that through to people’s everyday involvement in the organisation – no one should ever think “I don’t belong here”.
What role does mentoring play, and how are people paired?
We have a mentoring and reverse mentoring programme in place. Mentoring, of course, gives people coming up the ranks exposure to higher ranks and how they can get on that ladder. Reverse mentoring, however, is a semi-regular scheme for the benefit of our senior managers and executive leadership.
This isn’t a direct element of talent acquisition, but there is a formal application process, and the pairings are discussed at an executive level and then filtered to operational staff.
These higher ups can get real-time, authentic feedback, by truly following the work of operational staff. This way, our senior people can connect to more junior employees just starting out in their careers, positions they are now far from. These experiences can then inform companywide decisions and initiatives.
This is an incredible engagement tool, as the reverse-mentor is part of a collective and can communicate the needs of not just themselves, but their teams too. That’s what ED&I is all about, putting the needs of staff, first.
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