One of the biggest areas of complexity my organisation faces is that our employees are so busy with day-to-day work – on major schemes, some of which are classified as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) that impact the UK energy landscape – that it’s a challenge for them to find time and space for their own growth and development.
We want to foster game-changing leaders of the future, for one very simple reason: we know the global demand for reliable, affordable and sustainable energy is increasing and the energy landscape in 10 years’ time will look vastly different to how it looks today, because its condition today is so different from what it was a decade ago. Plus, our order book is already full with a programme of work covering the next 10 years or so.
As such, we need people who will be comfortable with change, experimentation, innovation and advancing technology.
That challenge sits within the broader complexity of the company itself. A part of the wider Siemens family, Siemens Energy was formed in November 2020 in response to major shifts in the market. A sixth of global electricity generation is based on our technology, which means we’re underpinning a lot of infrastructure. Customers expect us to respond quickly to their needs.
In the past five to 10 years, we have seen a steady acceleration among governments to get to net zero. But generating the power in a clean and efficient way is only part of the task. We must also be able to capture and move it to get it into homes, businesses, hospitals etc.
You can’t have the transition to net zero without effective transmission. But if we look at the infrastructure of most countries in the world, there hasn’t been investment at the level required to suddenly accept all this power from a whole range of different, new sources. And now there is a huge race on to try and get the build slots, technology and expertise lined up to answer that need.
For example, we have lots of innovations underway in offshore power. Windier conditions are typically found further out at sea, but the further away from shore, the longer the cables you need to bring in the power. This is the same with cables used for country-to-country grid interconnection. This means using Direct Current (DC) over longer distances and transferring to Alternating Current (AC) at shore to reduce the amount of power lost through transfer.
Siemens Energy has 96,000 employees worldwide, of which 6,000 are UK based, plus several thousand third party workers in our supply chain. In terms of my own role, I sit within the Grid Technologies division which, by itself, has 500 employees.
It takes so many different people to make a company like Siemens Energy work. So, as High Performance manager, part of the challenge for me is looking at all our different job types and disciplines – from health and safety and project management to document control – and asking: what are the common, core characteristics required in our organisation for us to succeed? What sort of mindset, culture and approach must we have to ensure that everyone will thrive?
Colleagues often ask me, what does high performance actually mean? And my definition is that it’s about exemplifying the very best version of yourself and your role.
Some three-and-a-half years ago, we began to develop our High Performance Series, in partnership with the Institute of Leadership. So, every employee in our business is on one of four pathways: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. That’s all the way through from our earliest-stage talent. At the moment, Grid Technologies has around 50 interns, apprentices and graduates, comprising 10% of the workforce – so, they’ve embarked on the development track straight away, at Bronze level.
There are core factors and qualities that we want our employees to embed into their toolkit from a very early stage, such as authenticity, communication and storytelling. Those of us who have been here a little longer – I myself have worked in the Siemens Group for 20 years – take the view that it’s not just refreshing, but entirely necessary, to take time out and listen to different ways of thinking, so that we will look at challenges in a slightly different way.
So, how does the series work? Essentially, it consists of online learning modules from the Institute that guide employees through the pathways, and at the end of the process, they receive accreditation. But there are lots of other elements involved, too. We have coaching conversations to support the learning – and we also have employees training to become Level Three or Level Five coaches and utilising that skill across the business.
In addition, we provide ‘lunch and learn’ masterclasses, enabling our learners to take 45-minute dips into a whole range of different topics. While these are self-selected, we expect learners to complete a certain number within a two-year period. At the end of those two years, they give a presentation to myself and their director to share what they’ve learned, and set out what sorts of changes they feel the material has triggered in them that are now part of their daily routine. That enables us to check the validity of the learning.
Our whole aim for the pathways is to ensure that they are ingrained in the company as a common language, regardless of your specialist field. You could find an engineer, a health and safety manager and a finance worker who are all on the Bronze pathway, and they will be able to discuss it among themselves as a shared experience. From a leadership point of view, it was about identifying what we thought were the key, common traits we wanted our people to have – qualities that we could either stimulate, or grow from scratch, among our newer hires, or cultivate in the talent we already had.
We do face some geographical challenges. For our office-based staff, it’s relatively easy to carve out an hour or so every few weeks to dedicate to learning. Whereas our people who are out in the field on projects and construction sites are far more programme driven, in line with the schedules we’ve worked out with our clients. We may be dealing with project-critical activities which makes it hard to say, “Okay, it’s three o’clock now – I’m going to do some learning.” Or, workers may be at site in a cabin on the coast somewhere with a low signal, so we have to set up a satellite link. The important point is that while those logistical hurdles are difficult, overcoming them is not impossible.
At least twice a year, colleagues and managers hold performance & growth dialogue sessions - where development and learning should be discussed and agreed, we aspire to embed learning as an integral part of the organisation DNA. We take every opportunity (through town halls and team briefs) to provide updates on the High Performance Series, celebrating those who have completed their programme, sharing what comes next – and also tipping our hat to those who are about to start, just to say, “Good luck – let us know how you find it.”