This year, Anglian Water was voted as the best place to work by Glassdoor. To find out more about how they have built such an engaged and happy workforce, HRD Connect spoke to Emma Plowman, Head of People and Culture, Anglian Water.
How have you built a positive and engaged workforce?
We’re lucky at Anglian Waters because everybody that works here fundamentally believes in what we do. If you talk to anyone that works at Anglian Water, they believe that what we do benefits the community, the environment, and themselves. Typically, our employees also use our services for their homes and families. When you look at building a culture on top of that foundation, you’re starting in a great place. So, we capitalize on that and make sure that they know we also believe in what they do.
We don’t shy away from feedback from our employees and we aren’t afraid to have difficult conversations. Through this, we’ve made a very positive step forward and have now made it one of the most important things to address. That’s the journey we’ve been on, to get to a point where everybody realizes that they have a part to play in the culture that we drive.
How important is communication within your business?
A lot of our management board don’t shy away from asking their employees what they think. It’s important to have conversations about things that must be addressed, if we talk about it then there’s nothing hidden.
How do you attract the right talent to Anglian Water?
We attract talent to Anglian Water through our people. A quarter of our hires come from employee referrals. They don’t do that because it’s a requirement, but because they strongly believe in the organization, so they’re happy to put their reputation on the line for it.
When you look at the war on talent, it’s important to have this, because otherwise, we wouldn’t get the talent that we need through our door. Where we’re placed in the region means that there is an overabundance of companies to join, so the fact that people come and choose to join us is something that we’re incredibly proud of.
What are the benefits of working with an engaged workforce?
It’s easier for us to perform well because everyone is engaged. When goals are set, everyone already wants to be a part of it. When I talk to employees from Anglian Water about culture, I don’t have to force them to participate because they are already engaged. The exciting bit is getting those ideas and making it in something that means that people want to stay.
How do you maintain a positive culture with different groups working under one roof?
We talk to and place a lot of value on every group, but we also recognize the challenges and acknowledge there are differences in the ways of experiencing work. We have people placed all over the region so we can’t just assume that one size fits all, we tailor what we do every day to make sure that everybody gets what they need.
Why is workplace culture important?
If you hire a group of people who are experts in what they do, they fundamentally understand their area of expertise, and they can make great decisions, but you need to have a culture that allows them to do that. Employee performance isn’t always driven through a hierarchy or job description, it can be found through culture. If you don’t have a culture that allows your workers to share their ideas and be themselves, then you won’t reach your goals. It also won’t allow people to improve and be the best they can be.
The challenges in the future are scary, and having a good culture allows you to do things far more easily and efficiently because you don’t have to constantly persuade your people that it’s the right thing to do.
In my opinion, if you don’t make culture a priority, then you’re missing a trick. However, it takes time, energy, and effort. Culture is about finding your niche, embedding it, refining it, and thinking about it constantly. When you look at the people joining the workforce today, they’re not necessarily joining a company for the money, or for the reputation. They’re joining because they want to be part of a culture that allows them to be the best they can be. This new way of working is only going to be more prevalent as more generations come into the workplace.
How important is it for Anglian Water to maintain this positive workplace culture?
Hiring people like me and saying it’s important enough that we get somebody to address it and talking to the management board about it shows you that there is a real commitment, and there’s a real business impact to it. Anglian Water won’t shy away from continuing to think about it regardless of how far up that chain we are, we want to maintain our position of being the best place to work, not because we want to be ranked number one, but because it matters to our people. We want to continue to maintain and build.