Fit and healthy employees
It is important to Alliander that our employees can remain sufficiently fit, motivated and skilled for their work, both now and in the future. Managers discuss performance and development with individual employees on an annual basis. The results and agreements are documented in the HR system by the employee and manager. In addition to a dialogue between managers and employees, Alliander promotes the long-term employability of its people through a special budget and a vitality programme. These investments help keep our employees in good shape and ready for the work of the future.
We constantly assess whether our employees have the knowledge and competencies that are needed today and in the years to come. We are working on creating a culture in which it is normal to continue to invest in yourself, irrespective of your age, work experience or training. Every employee makes his or her own decisions in this regard. To raise awareness of this issue, we organised a Long-term Employability Event in October. This was a completely online event due to the COVID-19 measures. Employees could participate in workshops that focused, for example, on improving their lifestyle, or the skills needed for applying for a job online. Time was also made available for checking employees’ CVs, brainstorming with a career adviser or finding out more about working healthily from home.
We also take measures to increase long-term employability, for instance by offering training, internships and other learning experiences, and by getting employees and managers to discuss what the employee can do to remain employable in the future too.
In 2020, the sickness absence rate was 3.9% (2019: 4.3%). The official average for our sector in the Netherlands was 5.0% in 2019 (2020 figure not yet known). The COVID-19 pandemic caused a temporary spike in sickness absence at the beginning of 2020. Halfway through the year, this percentage returned to its former level. Together with our occupational health and safety service, we made plans to improve the prevention and reduction of sickness absence. We also looked at best practices within Alliander. We will continue to invest heavily in reducing sickness absence in the years ahead.
During the period up to 2019, we conducted an annual Great Place to Work employee survey to measure how our employees rate our culture and how satisfied they are with aspects of their work and working environment. We did not conduct such a survey in 2020 however. In 2020, we felt this to be inappropriate in view of the ongoing process to transform Alliander into a more effective organisation. That transformation makes conducting and following up on a large-scale survey difficult. Instead, we conducted some surveys that provided short-cycle information. In 2020, for example, we conducted two working-from-home scans to assess the state of mind of our office workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The first analyses indicated that employees experienced more disturbances when working at home and did not have a good home office set-up. Furthermore, they missed informal contacts with colleagues. Even so, a significant majority (58%) would still like to work from home more after the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees were also satisfied with the tools they had available. At the end of 2020, we set up an intranet survey on the subject of employee well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. 900 colleagues participated.
In addition, we also used team barometers in a number of areas in the organisation. These barometers give departments and teams information about the most important areas requiring improvement in relation to roughly twenty themes.
In 2021, we will implement a new tool to measure employee satisfaction.
Training and development
Alliander runs a training centre where employee development is the main priority. The key areas of focus include technology, safety and leadership. We ensure that, as far as possible, all employees are (and will be) equipped to rise to the challenges that the energy transition brings, which is why we want to invest in our employees and work together on further developing their vitally important trade professionalism. To this end, we offered training and other learning experiences in 2020. Supporting the development of our employees and finding high-quality staff also poses a challenge from a risk management perspective. Alliander therefore actively develops competencies through trainee and talent management programmes.
In order to enable everyone to learn at any time, regardless of their age, Alliander Opleidingen, the company’s training department, offers various (non-technical) training programmes and advice. Furthermore, through the company’s own technical college (Alliander Technische Bedrijfsschool), which offers a wide range of skills-oriented work-study programmes at all levels of education, Alliander Opleidingen makes a sizeable dent in the shortage of technicians. In 2020, Alliander invested 2.4% of its wage bill in employee training (2019: 2.7%).
Collective labour agreement for network companies
The collective labour agreement for network companies (CAO Netwerkbedrijven) applies to Alliander’s employees. This agreement runs from 1 May 2018 to 1 May 2021. All salaries were increased by 3.0% on 1 May 2020. A further increase of 2.0% comes into effect from 1 January 2021. The collective labour agreement also includes provisions for an à la carte budget scheme, which allows employees to choose to receive the budget in cash and/or in time off as they see fit, and a vitality scheme for employees aged 62 and older, enabling these employees to work fewer hours before retiring while keeping their original level of pension accrual.
The career centre supports all Alliander employees who are reviewing their employment options, either to make the next step in their career or because their work has been, or may be, redefined or terminated. A total of 59 colleagues became redundant in 2020 (2019: 75), and 188 (2019: 295) people to whom redundancy did not apply (or not immediately) also made use of our career centre. Thanks to this assistance, 79 employees managed to find a new job or an appropriate alternative (2019: 107).
Career counsellors help employees to discover their talents and find the most suitable role for them, either inside or outside Alliander. We believe that everyone is worth investing in, and we do this by offering internships, secondments, and training. We talk to employees about their future development in their current role or elsewhere. By making timely investments in our employees, we try to avoid redundancies wherever possible.
The Alliander Foundation encourages and helps our employees to engage in volunteering. Employees can request support for their own volunteer work or organise, on their own or with assistance, a team activity that benefits society. In order to raise money for good causes, employees can make use of an ‘Event Budget’, an amount of up to €500 to cover the initial costs of implementing their idea.
In 2020, the COVID-19 measures prevented many activities from taking place. The Foundation came up with alternatives, such as a scheme that employees could use to send a card with a photo of their choice to people. On Nationale Zaaidag, the national seed day in the Netherlands, roughly 400 employees ventured out into the fields and woods to sow flower seeds. More than fifty colleagues took part in the ‘Doing something for someone else’ campaign (‘Doen voor een Ander’), which allowed them to submit a request for a modest amount of money to make a person or group of people feel appreciated. In addition, we tackled outdoor jobs such as gardening at nursing and care homes. In collaboration with NL Cares, we published several editions of a good news magazine called ‘Blij Nederland’. Finally, dozens of colleagues took to the streets to deliver surprise packages to 124 families with sick children on behalf of Stichting De Opkikker.
The Alliander Foundation spent roughly €150,000 on projects and activities. Alliander is proud that the Foundation supports employee volunteering. In turn, the employees experience benefits such as an opportunity to broaden their horizons. The emphasis in the voluntary work is on independent organisation and on involving other colleagues in the initiative.
Internal compensation ratio
The transparency of compensation ratios within organisations is the subject of global debate. Alliander aims to report openly on this issue. The salary of the CEO and employees falls within the scope of the collective labour agreement for network companies (CAO Netwerkbedrijven). The total income of the CEO is 3.6 times the median salary of all Alliander employees in the Netherlands (2019: 3.6). The collective labour agreement salary increase in 2020 is 3%, with an additional maximum of 1% for outstanding performance, up to a maximum of the salary scale or statutory maximum amount under the Act on the Standardisation of Remuneration of Senior Executives in the Public and Semi-Public Sector (WNT). Consequently, the salary increase for the CEO in 2020 amounted to 0.9 of the average salary increase for all Alliander employees in the Netherlands. Alliander intends to investigate any differences in salary between men and women (the pay gap) in 2021.
Photo was taken before the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that adaptability is crucial. Alliander took action to create a flatter organisational structure in 2020, in order to improve adaptability. The employee representatives welcomed the Management Board’s decision to involve them in this change at an early stage. Since then, Alliander has demonstrated that it already has some degree of adaptability as we were able to adjust quickly and efficiently to the new reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were helped by our solid and up-to-date IT infrastructure and services, which make mass working from home possible, and by Facility Services and the cleaners who keep our offices safe. And, last but not least, by the caring and flexible attitude adopted by all employees, both in respect of each other and in respect of our work.
At the end of 2020, the Works Council issued positive advice on the new organisational design. That structure aims to use ‘agile’ innovation and digitalisation activities to accelerate increases in productivity, improvements in efficiency and greater convenience for customers. A complex challenge in which we must strike a good balance between producing and innovating/digitalising, and maintaining a steady focus on our bottom line results.
We have made robust agreements on how we, as the controlling body and the employee participation body, are going to tackle this challenge together in the coming period. For the Works Council, this is part of our objective of ‘helping Alliander achieve good, sustainable changes that will enable the company to focus as much as possible on the performance of its core tasks, not being disrupted by too many changes’. What about that other objective of the Works Council 'that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their best and share in good results based on their professionalism and vision…and the employee participation process as an integral component of the company’s operations’? In my opinion, we still have work to do in this respect. Because, as the Works Council, we have felt more than adequately involved and listened to by our managing colleagues in respect of the changes and we would like all our colleagues to experience the same level of attention and involvement.
Because if we all feel a sense of ownership and commit ourselves to full participation, we will maximise Alliander’s adaptability and boost success. Let us consciously encourage each other, in all our diversity, to accept ownership and participate. Let us show appreciation for each other’s contribution, at whatever level and in whatever way, shape or form. This requires excellent leadership and excellent employee participation.
On behalf of the Works Council, and the Focus and Preparation Committees,