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Northern’s ambition to be ‘Best in Class’ in EDI

Category: celebrating women, rail career, equality, diversity and inclusion

Northern Rail

When it comes to breaking down barriers and pushing for equality and equity, Northern Trains is certainly on the right tracks thanks to our comprehensive roster of company-wide initiatives that promote and support under-represented groups.

With an ambition for our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) programme to be the best in class, our progressive initiatives have the backing of our Managing Director, Nick Donovan.

As the biggest rail operator in the North of England, we are a leader in the industry, and we do everything we can to provide our colleagues with the support they need to thrive, whilst encouraging more people from diverse backgrounds and under-represented groups to work for us.

Action for far-reaching change

From using more inclusive language in recruitment ads to consulting with staff at all levels, Northern is serious about pushing for equality. In fact, we have a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination – on any basis.

Our whole EDI approach aims to embrace people from all under-represented groups, with strategic initiatives which include the guidance and support of Northern’s EDI managers, which are designed to continually drive us forwards. We will never stop this crucial work; we constantly always asking ourselves “what next?” to identify more areas of improvement. 

Not only is our EDI work the right thing to do, but we recognise that the more diverse the workplace, the more successful and innovative they are. Whereas non-diverse companies stagnate.

To ensure we do our best for our colleagues and the company,  a level of EDI learning is mandatory for anyone from frontline employees all the way up to Director level.

Where many other large companies have EDI policies in place, they often fail to walk their talk. Northern’s approach is proactive and involves collaborating with EDI organisations, colleagues and rail unions to ensure we are delivering highly effective and appropriate measures.

Our National Inclusion Week, Diversity Book Club and employee engagement group, The Northern Crowd, are just a few examples of where we gather honest feedback from colleagues and are all popular. 

It is amazing to know that our work is winning hearts and minds, and it is because we are demonstrating that we are serious about creating an inclusive, diverse and positive place to work.

Nurturing a diverse workforce

For the first time in Northern’s history, we are now asking candidates for feedback on our recruitment process. We are also about to run a blind recruitment pilot, whereby nobody at Northern knows the name of the candidate – me included – until shortlist stage. People often tend to recruit in their own image, and we need to tackle that.

This helps us to identify and address issues such as conscious and unconscious bias within our recruitment process, as well as encourage the appointment of more colleagues from under-represented groups. Of course, conscious bias is totally unacceptable, and we are determined to tackle that, and any other forms of prejudice.

Additionally, we have started to use new recruitment networks to engage with many more women and job seekers from the various BAME communities we serve.

Furthermore, we are launching an information amnesty to increase the level of data we have on people’s backgrounds, so we are able to understand our workforce better, and how to support, promote and celebrate them.

Working with the National Centre for Diversity, I have tailored and produced an e-learning package for all managers to help them develop a deeper appreciation of people’s backgrounds; it covers Black Lives Matter, systemic and institutional racism, the  Civil Rights Movement and other significant historic and present-day issues related to or creating barriers for people of BAME heritage.

Next for Northern’s EDI

Although we are already investing heavily in EDI, it will take time to achieve our goals of equality across the entire business, but we are setting down the building blocks for the future of Northern and the rail industry.

In 2021 we will be adopting a new EDI policy that is in the process of being ratified by rail unions and we are applying for re-accreditation in Investors in Diversity. Also, I am excited about nominating colleagues for the Women in Rail awards, and ensuring that there is more diversity among the colleagues on our Horizon programme – a springboard for frontline staff into more senior positions.

There is also the potential for repeating our mentoring programme in partnership with Women in Rail, which ran in 2020.

We always have something in the pipeline; we know we must keep up the momentum and continue to stretch ourselves to achieve our goals for the good of our colleagues, the company and the industry.

I want Northern to be a great place to work, for everyone.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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