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How HS2 is creating a legacy of equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

27 September 2023

HS2 is committed to creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe and able to be their best.

How HS2 is creating a legacy of equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Encouraging underrepresented groups to enter and progress their careers in the sector remains a key focus for HS2. Image credit: HS2

Our commitment to inclusivity is a key part of how we will build the best railway in the best way.

At peak construction, we’ll need 34,000 people working to design and build HS2.

Attracting and retaining diverse and talented people is critical to our success and enables us to achieve our goals.

The diverse and skilled workforce that we leave behind will benefit the construction, infrastructure, and rail industries for years to come.

As Europe’s largest infrastructure project, our aim is to drive inclusivity and push boundaries through our strategic commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

We’re also embedding inclusive procurement practices and contractual commitments in our supply chain.

Going platinum

External accreditation through Clear Assured – which helps organisations improve their EDI practices – has helped us set new standards and drive continuous improvement.

It has boosted innovation and collaboration with a focus on inclusive and fair work practices.

Achieving the accreditation goes beyond just checking boxes.

It supports employers like us to focus on what truly matters in our EDI journey and helps make a real impact in our workforce and across the sector.

Our journey to the initial accreditation and retention of our platinum Clear Assured status hasn’t been an easy one.

It’s taken us out of our comfort zone, challenged our senior leaders, and driven positive change within our organisation.

“As EDI experts and auditors, the Clear Company has witnessed first-hand [HS2’s] remarkable efforts in creating an inclusive and equitable workplace,” says Alexandre Maria, director of Clear Assured and Supply Chain.

“The leadership of HS2’s EDI team, HS2’s effective use of EDI data, commitment to accountability, and industry impact make them an exemplary organisation.”

Keeping up the momentum

To retain our Clear Assured Platinum status, we’ve developed an ambitious Inclusion Improvement Plan for 23/24 to help us maintain momentum on EDI.

Key and continued areas of focus for us include:

  1. A committed board sponsor of EDI, Dame Judith Hackitt

  2. An executive leadership team (ELT) sponsor for all eight of our staff networks:

    The sponsors champion and raise the profile of the staff network priorities, initiatives and events.

    Our staff networks play a pivotal role in helping us make HS2 Ltd a great place to work.

    We also use our staff networks to raise the profile of allyship within our workforce and engage staff members in conversations on how they can support diverse communities that they may not be a part of.

  3. Setting an EDI goal:

    An EDI goal is part of all staff annual objectives, with a bespoke library of goals for our executive and our senior leadership team (SLT) focused on championing inclusivity and challenging bias.

  4. Inclusive recruitment:

    We take an evidence-based approach to decision making during the end-to-end recruitment process.

    Alongside our introduction of MeVitae (a CV blind sifting tool) we continue to provide comprehensive inclusive recruitment training for all of our hiring managers.

  5. Using EDI data:

    We use our data to identify trends in recruitment, talent management and performance, which helps us ensure key people-based decisions are fair and free of bias.

    Our data helps us ensure that our diverse talent has the same chances for learning, growth, promotions and getting hired.

    Where we find we fall short, we develop targeted interventions to work against these challenges.
  6. Inclusive leadership training:

    Inclusive leadership is a key part of how we attract and retain the right people.

    In 2023/24 we’re rolling out a bespoke inclusive leadership training to support our senior leaders to better understand the importance of evidence-based decision making and managing unconscious bias.

  7. Reverse mentoring for our senior leaders:

    Each year we run a structured reverse mentoring programme where all SLT are matched with a member of staff from the workforce.

    Topics explored include authenticity of leadership engagement, EDI aspirations, wellbeing and safety.

    The programme provides reverse mentors with exposure to different areas of the HS2 project.

    It also helps develop professional and personal skills that can lead to progression and personal development.
  8. Gender, ethnicity, and disability pay gaps:

    We continue to publish data on pay gaps across gender, ethnicity, and disability groups. We’re also now including sexual orientation data (a change that was requested by our staff networks).

    For the fourth year in a row, we have reduced the mean gender pay gap (almost 5% reduction since 2019).

Leading by example

Our latest annual EDI report included a focus on women in construction, particularly development to senior roles.

Our report highlighted the stories of women who have progressed at HS2 Ltd and their experiences so far. This includes:

  • our first female project client, Alisa Waygood
  • an insight into the development journey of Niki French, head of utilities
  • a case study on Natalie Rose's journey at HS2 Ltd, which started in 2016 as a team coordinator to now a corporate health, safety and security manager

However, encouraging underrepresented groups to enter and progress their careers in the sector remains a key focus for HS2 Ltd.

Of our executive team, 40% is female and 36% hold director roles within the company.

Throughout 2023/24, we will continue to focus on our recruitment and retention strategies to increase our female and ethnic minority representation at our most senior levels.

Shira Johnson,HR director at HS2 Ltd, says: "The fruits of our work are really beginning to take shape.

"More women and ethnic minority groups are stepping forward to play their part in Britain’s new railway, as they recognise the importance we attach to ensuring that HS2 is an inclusive workplace for all.

"Clear Assured provides rigorous assessment and direction allowing for accountability to be allocated throughout the organisation and consistently measured.

There is always more we can do, and that remains our focus in the months and years ahead."

  • Louise Darkwah, equality, diversity and inclusion manager at HS2 Ltd