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https://companieshouse.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/05/sse-understanding-the-importance-of-diversity-for-business-success/

SSE: Understanding the importance of diversity for business success

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SSE employs over 12,000 people and has revenues of more than £31 billion. It is a FTSE top 30 company and is the largest generator of renewable energy across Great Britain and Ireland. And diversity is at the heart of its business.

According to Rosie MacRae, the firm’s Inclusion and Diversity lead, there’s been a concerted effort over the last 5 or 6 years to create a highly diverse organisation, which focuses on difference rather than isolating gender equality:

We’ve had sponsorship for our work right from the top. When our CEO was appointed, it was one of his key areas of focus. In return, we’ve been keen to show the impact of diversity within the business.

Every year SSE runs a return on inclusion report that puts a monetary value on the work done so far. Currently, for every £1 spent, the business value returned is £8.83.  Not only this, but the report highlights where greater progress can be made. Rosie says:

It’s very specific. We know where we’re doing well and where we need to do better. When we started the process, our work included large scale sponsorships and publicly visible campaigns.

But it turned out there were simpler activities SSE could undertake to allow it to reach up to £15 value returned for every £1 invested. This included a number of basic steps you might overlook.

Reviewing job profile templates

SSE made sure that all job profile templates were reviewed with diversity in mind. Rather than just using the same documents over and over, they considered how they could open up roles to encourage different applicants.

Openly advertising vacancies

This was followed by the simple process of making sure all vacant positions were openly advertised, both internally and externally, to avoid internal movements happening without a fair and transparent process.

Changing working practices

Flexible working practices were implemented at all levels – resulting in significant changes to working patterns. This includes options such as 9-day fortnights, shorter days and working from home 2 days a week. Rosie recalls:

The plan was trialled in our Forbury site. It not only helped families of all sizes and shapes – including women – but had a huge impact on staff engagement and performance. Nearly two thirds of people now work flexibly, and those who do are shown to be 16% more engaged than colleagues who do not.

Leading with the right values

Nikki Flanders is one of the people who can see huge benefits from SSE’s focus on diversity. She’s the Managing Director of their Energy Customer Solutions division, the part of the business that supplies energy products and services to over 1.3 million customers throughout Great Britain and Ireland.

A person smiling at the camera with the background blurred out.
Nikki Flanders, Managing Director of Energy Customer Solutions at SSE.

Having joined the organisation in October 2019, she could see it was a place where her goals could be met:

Throughout the recruitment process I knew SSE would allow me to achieve my career ambitions while aligning to my personal values. They have a strong leadership team with the right values. Not only that, it was clearly a progressive business that welcomed diversity of thought.

Nikki says she does not look at diversity in a narrow gender sense. For her, it’s about welcoming diversity in many ways. But she does point out that her executive team has 4 women and 2 men on it. Nikki has been impressed by the impact diversity and inclusion has made on her division and is embracing many of the group’s initiatives:

We’ve been focused on renewing our job profiles. We make sure they’re as flexible as possible, which can be a challenge in a service centre environment, but we're making progress.

The business has implemented a wide range of mobility technologies such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Team-sites and Yammer. These enable those who are often desk-bound to work from home or other locations.

Nikki adds there will always be desk-based positions but building working schedules around other commitments can help combat this challenge in the drive for increased flexibility.

The result is many women – and other carers, families and anyone with a commitment out of the workplace – can develop their careers at SSE, while also boosting the efficiency of the whole organisation:

For me, work is a thing you do, not a place you go. For many roles you do not have to be permanently bound to an office to deliver results. It’s this attitude that makes SSE a great place to work – for everyone, regardless of gender.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing and promoting organisations across the UK that are championing women in business and leadership.

Companies House is committed to supporting equality and diversity both within the organisation and the wider UK business community. Our diversity and inclusion campaign celebrates diversity in business and ensures people from a range of groups are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work.

Keep up to date with the latest stories from the campaign on our blog and social media channels.

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