Strategy & LeadershipBusiness TransformationVP of talent at Shell: Five key themes essential to HR strategy

VP of talent at Shell: Five key themes essential to HR strategy

David Doe, VP of talent strategy and excellence at Shell, outlines how the firm is prioritising its teams as it embarks on widescale reform

David Doe, VP of Talent Strategy and Excellence at Shell, outlines how people play a key role in the delivery of its net zero transformation.

The energy transition is a complex problem. It is one of the biggest challenges facing society today: how to provide more and cleaner energy solutions for a growing population with rising living standards. Shellsupports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and that’s why we have a target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society.

We believe Shell can and must play a role as the world accelerates towards a future of cleaner energy. Access to energy is essential for factors like economic growth, enabling access to education and enabling access to healthcare. Our Powering Progress strategy is to accelerate Shell’s transition to net-zero emissions: moving to a customer demand-led business, whilst changing our portfolio and what we sell. And that’s a radical transformation.

This strategy is now accelerating at pace. To support Powering Progress we need a coherent response with regards to our people. As a result, we’ve developed an approach which looks at five themes.

Five themes at the heart of the people strategy

The first theme in our people strategy; identity. What I mean by identity is not culture, because culture is the outcome of the internal ecosystem. It is not image, which is how you are viewed externally. Identity is about the actions you take to drive change within the organisation. The concept of a learner mindset is rightat the centre. It is not possible to predict the future: we need to learn and adapt as we go.

The second theme is leadership: we recognise that world-class leadership is essential, and we will need to drive change we want to see in the organisation through our leaders.

The third theme is talent. Our aim is to support talent through the energy transition. We also need to adapt our approach to the future of work and realise our ambitions to make Shell one of the most diverse and inclusive companies in the world.

The fourth theme is performance. One of the things we need to do is continue to deliver the returns our stakeholders expect, to enable us to fund the transition to a cleaner energy system that we know society needs.

The final theme is capabilities. Capabilities are how we align people, processes, systems and organisation as we move through the transition, becoming more focused, more resilient and more competitive. Not just for the energy system of today, but for the energy system of the future. For an industry that has hitherto been primarily supply and asset led, this is a big change. We know that the value of our people strategy isn’t in an intellectual model, but in the consistent execution, hardwiring the themes into our policies and processes – driving the mindset shifts we want to see.

Launching initiatives to create positive change

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a key part of Shell’s culture and our Powering Progress strategy. This includes a goal for Shell to become one of the most diverse and inclusive organisations in the world. This means building an environment where everyone – from our employees, to our customers, partners and suppliers – feels valued and respected.

Shell’s DE&I agenda focuses on four key areas: Gender, Race and Ethnicity, LGBT+, and Enablement & Disability Inclusion. Shell believes these are the areas where removing barriers can make the biggest impact. Let me pull out two examples of how we are making changes for our customers and employees in the area of Disability Inclusion.

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By 2030, we have a commitment to make all of our 46,000 stations inclusive and accessible to customers with disabilities, starting with a commitment of 20,000 service stations by 2025. For example, our partnership with the fuelService app allows drivers with a disability to request assistance at our retail sites before they start their journeys.

For our staff, we have a global workplace accessibility programme, which provides office-based workplace adjustments, that can help our employees who havemedical conditions or disabilities (physical and/or cognitive). This is offered in more than 80 Shell locations globally via an integrated and cross-functional platform through the Accessibility Centre in collaboration with Real Estate, IT, Shell Health, and HR.

Shell’s 122 employee resource groups provide a safe space for colleagues around the world to connect with each other and give advice to Shell leaders about how we can keep building an inclusive and equitable workplace.

A recent addition to our inclusion plan is the launch of two mandatory training programmes for all Shell staff. They introduce the concept and importance of building a psychologically safe culture (so everyone feels free to be themselves), help our staff understand and apply good behaviours and gives advice on how to effectively intervene if inclusive behaviour doesn’t meet this standard.  

Embracing the benefits of digital change

From a skills and capability perspective, we are in a strong place, with high quality, highly skilled, transferable talent required for the transition. Not just mathematicians but statisticians, theoretical physicists, engineers, commercial and functional staff.
These are
people who can really push the boundaries of what technology and data can do for our business, and who can make use of the rich data sources that we have across the group to deliver products and services that meet the needs of our customers.

We are conscious that digitalisation is transforming the world. We choose how work gets done: whether it’sdone by a human or a machine, or both. We choose who does the work: is it done in-house, is it done via a contractor or a freelance worker? We choose where is work located: is it in the same location as a customer or asset, is it done in one of our business operations centres, or is it done remotely?  

Just because something can be automated doesn’t mean that it should be. We aim to make clear choices around what is augmented or automated, designing meaningful jobs and preserving roles that are key development pathways, whilst also providing employment for our local communities. Where digital upskilling is required, we are working in partnership with external providers to ensure staff get access to learning at the point of need.

Enabling employees to be continuous learners

Adopting a learner mindset will be critical to our success.  Our mindset has a profound effect on how we respond to situations and therefore impacts things like our approach to collaboration or creativity. We also know that mindsets, and therefore behaviours, can be changed when we’re amenable to change and when we practice.

At the same time, the half-life of skills is continuing to drop. We want to place employability at the heart of the value proposition: helping staff to identify which skills are becoming less important, which remain core, and which ones are new and emerging. HR plays an important role in supporting staff to continuously learn.That could be deepening the skills someone needs for their continued professionalism or identifying hidden skill adjacencies that open up new career pathways.

Shell has had a job rotation model for decades, which has enabled individuals to develop and learn through new experiences. Over the coming years we will support our staff in upskilling and reskilling in line with our changing portfolio. Our growth areas are renewable energy solutions, hydrogen, sectoral decarbonisation.We will continue to develop people who are at the cutting edge of their profession to ensure we safely and reliably deliver our operations whilst also providing excellent customer service.

Success depends on a combination of factors, and we need to continue to learn and pivot as we go. Like any organisation, Shell, and the energy sector in general, is a fast-paced environment, and we do not have all the answers.

But at Shell, we are clear what we want to achieve. Our Powering Progress strategy is to transform to become a net zero business, purposefully and profitably. We want to be a company that brings value to society, a company at one with society as it moves towards that net-zero future.  In making these changes we want to drive a better experience for our employees, bringing in more insights that will enable individuals to make more informed decisions around their career, what options are open to them, and more.

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