Diversity means enrichment, Simone tells Cannington conference

A one-day conference at Cannington Court demonstrated how managers can achieve better business performance through inclusive leadership. The event on 21 November set out to build an understanding of the benefits of Diversity and Inclusion – and equip delegates to take action back in the business.

Chief Executive Simone Rossi welcomed everyone through a live Skype link, saying he was happy to be back in Britain, a “country that’s more open than most”. He said he was pleased with the progress made on the Diversity and Inclusion agenda since he was last in the UK – citing the increased numbers of female apprentices and senior women as evidence. But despite some improvements, more needs to be done, he said, and it was down to leaders to act positively and proactively.

Simone asked delegates to be sensitive to less visible disabilities and to mental health issues so that all employees feel listened to and appreciated. In addition, as people from China and other parts of the world join the workforce, it is more important than ever to listen to colleagues and understand how they think. “We have to be as diverse as we can possibly be because diversity means enrichment,” said Simone.

He invited delegates to reflect on the question: How can we make Diversity and Inclusion a competitive advantage for ourselves? The conference that followed provided much food-for-thought. A panel of experts – Chief People Officer Janet Hogben, Chief Legal Officer Guido Santi and Chief Nuclear Officer Region 2 Mark Gorry – took a range of questions.

Generation Development Director Gwen Parry-Jones said she had wrestled with the issue of diversity throughout her long career in the industry. “I'm still waiting for the breakthrough but we have taken some great steps forward.”

Rob Jones, Construction Director HPC, gave an insight into the immense scale of works at Hinkley Point C. “We can’t build it with UK resources alone,” he said. “Diversity and Inclusion is a prerequisite to the success of HPC.”

A series of thought-provoking sessions were run by senior leaders together with diversity advocates. Delegates were split into business units so they could delve more deeply into the particular issues and challenges where they work. Break-out sessions examined the importance of using appropriate language and of tackling unkind banter in the workplace. A role play on Unconscious Bias examined the different types of bias that can influence recruitment and can also impact decisions on promotion or a person’s suitability for a task. Members of the employee networks hosted stands, giving information on all the positive ways they are supporting the company’s Inclusion Strategy. There was a chance, too, for delegates to experience for themselves a temporary disability by using a wheelchair or wearing ear defenders or vision goggles.

Thanking everyone for their active participation, Janet said it had been an energising and fascinating day. “There is so much more we can do in this space,” she said. “In EDF Energy, we are full of people who want to do the right thing. Please try to articulate this agenda and explain to the people you work with why this agenda matters.”