How are Cadent delivering the skills for the future?
Martin Rimmer, Chief People Officer at Cadent, explains how the organisation is putting its people at the heart of the green recovery.
Although Cadent can trace its roots back 200 years across the gas network, the organisation is relatively young, having been separated out from the National Grid in 2017.
“Today we can start looking towards what Cadent wants to be as a standalone organisation,” explains Martin Rimmer, Chief People Officer at Cadent.
“We need to continue to maintain the network, keep people safe and deliver heat to homes and businesses as we do now. We're continually looking at how we can do that in innovative ways,” he enthused.
As Cadent look ahead, approaching the next regulatory period from April next year, Martin and the team are developing a new strategy that will work in a “positive way for people and the business,” he explained.
After moving into the utilities sector twenty years ago, building skills in both people management and commercial operations, Martin joined Cadent last November as Chief People Officer, a role he describes as his “dream job”.
One of the things we want to do, is make sure that Cadent is seen as contributing to all the challenges that will become more prevalent from the pandemic
He described the attraction of joining an organisation that was in the early stages of “finding its own character, developing its own culture, and understanding where the business was going: at the beginning of its own journey.”
With the coronavirus pandemic, the path of that journey, and his first twelve months in the role, have not been what anyone would have expected.
As the organisation continues to forge that separate path, and also plan for the green recovery, central to the strategy is ensuring the continued wellbeing of their employees.
“Certainly, one of the things we want to do is make sure that Cadent is seen as contributing to all the challenges that will become more prevalent from the pandemic,” he said.
Indeed, Cadent have been praised across industry for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alongside ensuring that service was running as normal, Cadent put their staff at the heart of their response.
“Our overall strategy throughout was to be supportive to our people”, he explains.
Cadent did not furlough a single employee during the pandemic, guaranteeing basic pay and contractual entitlements throughout: “That was one of the decisions we took very early on in the timeline of this pandemic, to try and remove any financial concerns from our employees so that we could continue to deliver the fantastic service that that we do,” he said.
During the pandemic, Cadent also provided staff with a two days per month entitlement so that they could fulfil voluntary roles in their communities.
Martin is keen to address how certain policies that were enacted during the pandemic can continue after: “Certainly one of the things that is forefront of our thinking is future ways of working.”
“I think what the pandemic has allowed us to understand in more detail is how home working and flexible working can be a really positive attribute for the career and life that most of us want,” he said.
“We've not seen any critical failures in any of our support functions or operations, our people carried on throughout and they were very committed to what was going on,” he continued.
Martin is clearly proud of the team at Cadent, and as part of the forward strategy, they have begun a two-year project creating what they call a “whole career training” programme for staff.
Central to a whole career training scheme is Cadent’s apprenticeship programme. The organisation recruited 40 new apprentices last year, joining the 55 already on scheme and will recruit over 90 additional apprentices this year.
“The apprenticeship programme gives you an entryway into Cadent, supported by our career life training programme,” he explains.
We need to make sure that we've got the skills sets we need today and prepare training for skills required for tomorrow
“What we're trying to do is join those training programmes together over the entirety of a person’s career,” he continued.
This, he explains, will benefit both Cadent and the individual, developing careers whilst nurturing the future skills needs for the business.
“It is very diagrammatic in the way we're pulling them together, but the idea is that we can signpost some routes for anyone joining the organisation,” he explained.
With social mobility challenges likely to be exacerbated by the pandemic, Martin sees Cadent’s apprenticeship programme and its whole career training programme as a key component in how the organisation contributes to the green recovery.
Organisations that have a more diverse workforce, benefit from greater performance. Diversity inclusion is absolutely a significant part of all our programmes going forward.
“We want to ensure that our apprenticeship schemes are available to more people within the areas that we work in, so that we are embedded in communities as opposed to just being present in a community,” he stated.
This, he explained, will have an emphasis on creating more diversity in the sector: “Organisations that have a more diverse workforce, benefit from greater performance. Diversity inclusion is absolutely a significant part of all our programmes going forward.”
Nurturing the future skills needs of the business will also help the organisation contribute to the green recovery and set the path towards achieving the UK’s climate goals.
He described the “huge challenge” in making sure that the organisation has the appropriate resources and skilled people to achieve net-zero.
An example he was keen to emphasise was Cadent’s hydrogen programme.
Hydrogen technology, industry evidence suggests, will be one of the best ways to tackle the environmental impact of heating homes and other buildings. With this strategy, Cadent have been running a project at Keele University, successfully blending 20% hydrogen into the network.
“We must not take our eye off the ball when it comes to being prepared, for both employees and resources, for the skills that are going to be required,” he said.
This is across every area of the business, including managers, helping them to be “more successful in their role in managing people and working with colleagues and getting the best from them.”
“We need to make sure that we've got the skills sets we need today and prepare training for skills required for tomorrow,” he concluded.