Harnessing diversity to create a powerful vision

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JE’s head of organisation development, Dave Crossland, and head of project management office, Lara Haskins, talk to Emily Moore about how the company has changed its recruitment practices to bring in a wide range of mindsets, experience and skills

AT first glance, the composition of Jersey Electricity’s board may not seem particularly noteworthy.

But, as head of organisation development Dave Crossland explains, the three women and five men who make up the firm’s directors are representative of a cultural change which underpins the company’s vision and purpose.

‘People sometimes think that companies like JE can be slow to change but, since 2020, we have doubled our female representation at senior leadership level, increased female representation at board level, seen a 300% increase in female engineers within our energy division, a 50% increase in the number of LGBTQ+ candidates declaring their sexual orientation at application stage and 42% more people of non-white ethnicity applying for roles,’ he said.

And these figures have not, he contends, happened by accident.

‘Critically, to drive change and diversity within an organisation, you first have to attract the right candidates,’ he said. ‘To do this, we have invested significantly in our hiring and recruitment practices, focusing on elements including unconscious bias training and the language used in job adverts to attract as diverse a range of candidates as possible.

‘As well as succeeding in bringing more women into both senior roles and traditionally male-dominated areas of the business, we have also welcomed individuals from as far afield as Sweden, Lebanon and South Africa.

‘This is significant, as the different viewpoints they offer bring a varied mindset to the organisation. Their experience of different networks and scenarios also supports our drive to develop local talent, something which sits at the heart of both our recruitment approach and our commitment to the Island’s community.’

Appointing people with this blend of skills and insights also, Dave says, plays a key role in supporting JE’s vision of enabling life’s essentials and inspiring a zero-carbon future.

‘That dual vision keeps us true north in terms of what we are doing,’ he explained. ‘Firstly, we need to ensure that we are keeping the power on and enabling people to live the lifestyles they want to and, secondly, we need to drive a future powered by sustainable energy, engaging in projects which promote the government’s Carbon Neutral Roadmap.’

With JE focused on delivering a sustainable and zerocarbon future, it is natural to assume that many of the people within the firm share that vision.

‘If you’re concerned by bigger factors such as climate change and achieving carbon neutrality, then we share a purpose and a concern,’ said Dave. ‘But do you have to be that zealous about climate change to work here? Not necessarily – as long as you are motivated and focused on supporting the organisation’s vision and helping us to achieve those goals.’

It is perhaps because of this purpose that JE, while requiring candidates to have some core technical abilities or qualifications for certain jobs, places a strong focus on those ‘softer’ skills as well.

‘Given the direction in which the company is heading, we know we will need people with strong project management skills, while, on the technical side, we will be looking for people with knowledge of renewable energy sources,’ Dave added. ‘We will also require the support services, such as HR, IT and finance. But, as the business continues to change, employability will be just as important to us – if not more so – as the qualifications listed on someone’s CV.’

Picture: Andy Le Gresley (35683261)

But what exactly does the organisation mean by employability?

‘We are really looking at those softer skills – such as adaptability, resilience and analysis – which people can bring to a role,’ explained Lara Haskins, head of project management office. ‘As a business, JE is changing and therefore adaptability is really important, as the skills required naturally change as the firm evolves.’

‘Employability is really about what you, as an individual, bring to the company in addition to your technical expertise,’ Dave elaborated. ‘Do you have strong leadership skills? Are you motivated? What is your value system? Are you looking to work for a purpose-driven organisation whose purpose you share? It’s almost a case of saying: “Who are you as a person?” What makes you tick?’

While people switching careers may find these questions relatively easy to answer, Dave and Lara admit that they can be daunting for those applying for their first job.

‘It is true that a lot of these skills come from experience but, often, you will have experience from non-workplace environments,’ said Dave. ‘It is important to recognise those transitional skills which you have gained from hobbies or activities and understand how they can be transferred into the workplace.

While many of these skills may be inherent within a person, Lara says that the firm is also committed to developing its people.

Picture: Andy Le Gresley (35683265)

‘We are particularly focused at the moment on expanding the “green” skills within the company,’ she said. ‘As we strive for long-term sustainability, roles are changing. If you think about our vehicles, for example, and the way we have developed an electric fleet, that has changed some of the operational functions. New roles, and adding sustainably focused skills to current roles, will continue to shape the organisation.’

Indeed, as Dave reflects on the roles within the company, he highlights a number of positions which, even five years ago, would not have existed.

‘We now employ, and are looking for more, solar development managers,’ he said. ‘Only a few years ago, people qualified in this area might not have considered JE as an employer because there wouldn’t have been a demand for their skills sets here. We are also looking for a sustainability leader to join our health and safety and environment team. Again, five years ago, that was a role that we might have spoken about but the position itself wouldn’t have existed.

‘Even in some of the more traditional administration tasks, the sustainability element is important. You could be a really good finance administrator, for example, but we want that person to share our vision and contribute ideas about how we can change our practices to be more sustainable. It comes back to the point about values and the fact that we are not just looking for skill sets but also mindsets.’

While mindsets may traditionally be associated with individuals, Dave also considers the ‘mindset’ of the business.

Picture: Andy Le Gresley (35683263)

‘If you were to personify an organisation, what kind of person would it be?’ he asked. ‘Would it be someone who was curious to learn and adapt the way it works or would it be someone quite staid who tends to ignore what’s going on around them?

‘As an organisation, I think JE is quite flexible and good at pivoting fairly quickly, as borne out during Covid. But that flexibility and adaptability can only come from the individuals working in the organisation. It can only happen if those people are open to feedback, analyse what is happening and think about the way we can work in the future.

‘That is why we are looking for people who are curious about the way things work, not only in their job but also in other parts of the business. JE is an incredibly diverse organisation and therefore having people who build collaborative skills and understand the demands of different departments is tremendously valuable. And, again, that comes back to mindset. Are you interested in what we’re doing? And do you have the initiative to drive our projects forward?’

While many of those projects will be necessarily focused on ‘delivering life’s essentials’, Lara points out that JE also plays a strong role in the community.

‘As Jersey Electricity, it is important that we are part of the Jersey community, and each of the initiatives we support – from our partnership with Primary Engineer to our treeplanting projects with each parish – says something about us as an organisation and as an employer,’ she said.

‘It is all part of our value proposition and demonstrates why JE is a great place to work,’ Dave added. ‘Not only do we offer a really good benefit package and great training but we also have a strong and supportive culture, which underpins our values. Our community activities demonstrate those values and also help us to stay front of mind so that, whether it’s time to think about taking that first step onto the career ladder or time for a change, JE is somewhere that people consider.’

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