Health and sustainable employability
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. Employees and their managers record the results and agreements in the HR system. In addition to a dialogue between managers and employees, Alliander is improving 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 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 education level. Every employee makes his or her own decisions in this regard. 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 2021, the sickness absence rate was 4.6% (2020: 3.9%). The Netherlands’ average in our sector was 5.1% at the end of the third quarter of 2021 (the figure for the whole of 2021 has not yet been published). Long-term sickness absence for mental health reasons has increased since the beginning of the year. The main causes of long-term sickness absence are: mental health complaints 45%, locomotor apparatus complaints 16%, other physical complaints including back problems and cardiovascular disease 30%, and complaints relating to COVID-19 9%.
The measures imposed due to COVID-19 have caused greater insecurity among employees and they miss the social support and contacts they have lacked due to working from home. Together with our occupational health and safety service, we have made plans to improve this, and the dialogue with employees about work pressure is an important element of those plans. We also looked at best practices within Alliander. We will continue to invest heavily in strengthening employability in the years ahead.
Alliander is assisted by an external occupational and health service when dealing with sickness absence and absence issues. If they wish, employees can make an appointment themselves, including for preventive purposes. The occupational and health service is the first point of contact for managers who have questions and require advice on counselling employees who are ill, absent or reintegrating. As at 31 December, WGA benefits (under the Resumption of Work (Partially Fit Persons) Regulation) had been granted to eight individuals in 2021.
In 2021, we began using a new method for measuring employee satisfaction: the Central Employee Barometer for internal and external employees. Alliander achieved high scores for engagement, sound employment practices, vitality, long-term employability and social safety. Colleagues are satisfied with their work and with Alliander as an employer, they enjoy their work, they consider it to be worthwhile and they are proud of their work. Points for improvement were the high workload, the agility of the organisation and how we explain our choices to stakeholders. There is also scope for improving cost-conscious working. The various organisational units and teams have been informed of the most important points for improvement and will discuss them jointly.
Training and development
Alliander seeks to be a highly effective, agile and cost-efficient organisation in which every employee works on Alliander’s strategic goals by deploying their professional skills. In 2021, Alliander invested 2.8% of its wage bill in employee training (2020: 2.4%). We offer various training programmes and opportunities for development to make teams better able to perform and learn. Besides this, the necessary expert knowledge and skills are available whenever they are needed. We take a broad view of developing talent, both professionally and personally. These learning and development opportunities are offered by way of team coaches and training and development programmes, but they are also part of our talent management and trainee programmes.
Collective labour agreement for network companies
The parties to the collective labour agreement reached an agreement in July about a new collective labour agreement for the network companies. This agreement runs from 1 May 2021 to 31 December 2022. Employees who were employed full-time on 1 September received a once-only gross payment of €350 in September. All salaries will be increased by 2% as of 1 April 2022. The Sectoral Social Plan and the Vitality Scheme were extended without changes up to 31 December 2021. These are schemes for employees over the age of 62 to enable them to work fewer hours while retaining their pension accrual in the run-up to their retirement. Finally, agreements were reached in the collective labour agreement to investigate which measures can be adopted from the investigation report into the workload and resilience of employees in the on-call and troubleshooting service to improve long-term employability.
The career centre supports all Alliander employees who are reviewing their employment options because their work has been, or may be, redefined or terminated. A total of 84 colleagues became redundant in 2021 (2020: 59), and 330 (2020: 348) people made use of our career centre. Thanks to this assistance, 91 employees managed to find a new job or an appropriate alternative (2020: 79). 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. 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. The Alliander Foundation spent a total of €123,000 on projects and activities in 2021.
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. At the beginning of 2021, the measures to combat COVID-19 prevented many activities from taking place. The Foundation therefore came up with alternatives, such as a campaign in which employees could send Valentine cards to elderly people. Online activities were also organised, such as language lessons for refugees.
During the year, colleagues undertook various social activities, such as a ‘social clean-up’ in which employees joined forces with elderly people to remove rubbish from the streets in the city. A care-home garden was also spruced up and families with sick children enjoyed an ‘Opkikker Dag’, a day organised to give them some light relief.
The Foundation’s set-up was reassessed in 2021 to bring it more up to date. Measures were devised to further lower the threshold for participation.
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 CEO’s salary and that of employees fall within the scope of the collective labour agreement for network companies. The total income of the CEO is 3.7 times the median salary of all Alliander employees in the Netherlands (2020: 3.6). Regarding employment benefits, we conducted an equal work/equal pay analysis. The recommendations included conducting an analysis of the most significant driving forces behind the basic and fringe benefits. This will help us to reduce the difference in equal work-equal pay from 4.6% to 0%.
For many Alliander employees, 2021 was a turbulent year. COVID-19 continued to affect the way we work. The Works Council monitored developments and was involved in the hybrid working process: a challenge in which employees again demonstrated their flexibility and adapted to the demands of the situation.
It is Alliander’s job to give substance to the exponential growth in our work package. The purpose behind introducing a new organisational structure is to operate with more agility, and be more cost-effective and more decisive from 2021 on. The Works Council periodically discussed the status of the 1Alliander movement during its consultations.
Initiatives materialised all over the company to accelerate this. We also looked beyond simply changing the organisation structure, for example by considering managing by focusing on OGSM (objectives, goals, strategies and measures), different ways of working, simplifying processes, digitalisation and coordinating initiatives in a quarterly cycle. Giving all employees the ability to contribute to these developments is something the Works Council sees as a prerequisite for a movement that enjoys broad support.
Monitoring these developments was one of the Works Council’s most important activities in the past year. In addition to the monthly contact with the Management Board, information from the business unit committees improved the Works Council’s overall picture. The Works Council furthermore actively fulfilled a role in focus areas such as culture and leadership, safety and people development.
Despite the relevance of our social mission, the speed of the developments brings uncertainties for our employees. Enormous demands are placed on employees, sometimes resulting in a high workload. It is becoming harder to simply rely on existing experience and expertise. Does the organisation offer sufficient opportunities for making the most of our potential? Are there sufficient prospects for employees to grow and acquire the necessary competencies for the task facing us today and in the future?
In 2021, the Works Council approved the new method for the employee satisfaction survey. The initial results present a mainly positive picture, with many engaged and proud employees. However, there are some points which need to be addressed. The workload in various places is felt to be high, for example. The new method and dialogues will help us to monitor the balance at an individual and team level.
The working conditions and sickness absence policy is discussed in the Works Council’s permanent committees dealing with safety and the environment, and HR (Health and Welfare unit). Decisions on proposals from the Management Board for which the Works Council has the right of consent and the right to give advice are made in the regular Works Council. The Works Council has delegated the topic of risk assessment and evaluation to the organisational units. However, risk assessment and evaluation as a whole is handled by the Works Council through the permanent committee on safety and the environment.
We are perpetually working to achieve a reliable, accessible and affordable network. The agreements in the Dutch Climate Agreement are ambitious. We have a substantial role to play in the energy transition, but to do this we urgently need the knowledge, experience and talents of all our employees. Our social responsibility can best be put into practice by seeking to achieve satisfaction, pride and pleasure in our work. The Works Council hopes to continue its good relationship with the Management Board in the coming year so that together we can keep an eye on our employees’ health and vitality.
Johannes Elmarasy, Chair of the Works Council in 2021