In March 2022, the last COVID-19 containment measures were lifted. From then on, the coronavirus crisis team followed developments in the background. In the autumn, the government instructed companies to draw up their own plan for controlling the coronavirus. In response to this instruction, the crisis team prepared the Alliander Coronavirus Roadmap based on different levels of risk and corresponding measures. The phase that applies at any given time depends on a number of factors, such as the impact of the coronavirus on daily life, the national measures that apply and sickness absence within Alliander. Fortunately, the roadmap did not need to be used.
Health and sustainable employability
In order to fulfil our social task, i.e. achieving the energy transition, we must focus on sustainable business operations. This will require continuous investment in our people. Alliander is actively committed to being a sustainable and valuable employer. This means that we pay close attention to retaining and attracting the right people and helping them to get the best out of themselves and the organisation. In this context, it is important that we see the energy we invest in our people reflected in their commitment, agility, vitality and active effort to be and remain employable. In addition to attention for employability in the dialogue between managers and employees, Alliander is improving the long-term employability of its people through a special budget and a vitality programme.
The explosive increase in the work we have to do and the extremely tight labour market require extra attention for keeping our employees employable and preventing absenteeism. With colleagues leaving the company and a limited influx of new colleagues, our employees perceived the workload as high. Absenteeism for mental-health reasons therefore continued to be an area of explicit focus in 2022. The dialogue with employees about the workload therefore remained important. In addition, several initiatives have been rolled out in the organisation to strengthen self-management among employees and managers. For example, we offer coaching through our career centre, AllianderFit for employee health, training courses relating to self-management (‘Eigen Regie’) and coaching with requirements (‘Eisend Helpen’) for managers and a broad selection of training courses through the GoodHabitz platform.
Financial support for employees
The arrangements agreed in the bargaining process for the 2023 NWb collective labour agreement included employer action to help employees in managing their financial affairs. An example is ensuring that they have a good understanding of their personal financial situation as the starting point for making considered choices. Alliander offers employees the opportunity of better understanding or maintaining a good overview of their financial situation through the Geldvinder platform, where they can also optionally seek advice from an independent financial coach.
In the case of current or former employees who need financial help due to unexpected, high medical expenses that the health insurance company or another scheme does not cover, we also offer support via Alliander's Personnel Fund. This foundation decided at the end of 2022 to create a temporary support scheme with retroactive effect from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2023. Among other things, the support scheme includes a lower threshold for applying for support via the fund, a contribution towards energy costs and reimbursement of the Staff Fund contribution for all those who successfully submit a request for support.
In 2022, the sickness absence rate was 4.8% (2021: 4.6%). The Netherlands’ average in our sector was 4.8% at the end of the third quarter of 2022 (the figure for the whole of 2022 has not yet been published). There was significant long-term sickness absence in the period up to and including September. That declined towards the end of the year, but medium-term absence emerged in its place. This was probably due to COVID-19. The frequency of sickness absence also increased somewhat. We expect the effort put into the Periodic Employability Consultations, ‘Eigen Regie’ training course and case management for absenteeism to pay off.
Alliander is assisted by an external occupational health and safety service when dealing with sickness absence and absenteeism issues. If they wish, employees can make an appointment themselves, including for preventive purposes. Managers who have questions and require advice on counselling employees who are ill, absent or reintegrating can contact both the internal reintegration advisers and the occupational health and safety service for assistance. As at 31 December, WGA benefits (under the Resumption of Work (Partially Fit Persons) Regulation) had been granted to eight individuals in 2022 (2021: eight).
We use the Central Employee Barometer to measure how satisfied all colleagues are with our work at Alliander. We do so by asking questions on numerous topics. As in 2021, Alliander's employees feel engaged and are inspired and satisfied by their work. Engagement and satisfaction with Alliander have further increased. With regard to our shared goal, we see that the answers vary and that there is not yet an organisation-wide recognition of what our objectives are. Furthermore, there is room for improvement in the interpretation of that shared goal in terms of individual contributions, to ensure that everything we do makes a real difference for the energy transition.
In the area of physical safety, we have become more critical of ourselves. Employees indicate that more attention should be paid to this aspect. A positive trend can be seen in regard to personal safety, which does not alter the fact that more than 7% of colleagues reported being treated inconsiderately by a colleague last year. We remain committed to ensuring that this type of behaviour does not occur in the future. The new ‘Through Different Eyes’ intervention can help people learn to recognise such situations and teach bystanders what they can do.
The perceived workload decreased significantly in several areas of the organisation. Even so, the barometer shows that more colleagues are now looking around for a job outside Alliander. Because our social task requires the availability of a large workforce, retention remains our primary focus. There are also teams where the workload is still perceived as high or very high.
The various organisational units and teams have been informed of the most important points for improvement. The barometer results are a good starting point for a dialogue.
Alliander scores highly as a good employer
In the Management Team 500 list published on the MT/Sprout platform, Alliander is ranked the best utility company when it comes to being a good employer. The MT500 summarises the results of an annual survey conducted by the University of Amsterdam to assess the reputation of Dutch companies among managers, decision makers and executives.
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 2022, Alliander invested 2.9% of its wage bill in employee training (2021: 2.8%). We offer various training programmes and opportunities for development to make teams better able to perform and learn. In addition, the right professional knowledge and skills are available when needed and we apply a broad approach to talent development, both professional and personal. 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
Following collective bargaining negotiations, the employers and unions reached agreement on the new NWb collective labour agreement, which comes into effect on 1 January 2023. A 4.0% structural wage increase and a one-time payment of €1,250 are among the important results. We agreed furthermore on the outline for a new Sectoral Social Plan. In addition, we decided to extend the Vitality Scheme and make it available to part-timers. The package includes an agreement on diversity and inclusion as well. We realise that we live in times of significantly rising costs. We discussed inflation and our need to show our employees that we value them highly at some length with the unions. We are pleased that, in addition to the agreements on sustainable employability, diversity & inclusion and other topics, the unions are also satisfied with the wage arrangements laid down in this agreement.
The career centre supports all Alliander employees who are reviewing their career and employment options because their job has changed, or may be about to change or be terminated. A total of 23 colleagues became redundant in 2022 (2021: 84), and 340 (2021: 330) people made use of our career centre. Thanks to this assistance, 64 employees managed to find a new job or an appropriate alternative (2021: 91). 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. The Alliander Foundation spent a total of €275,000 on various projects and activities in 2022.
In 2022, the Alliander Foundation also celebrated its fifteenth anniversary. To mark this milestone, all colleagues were given four hours off for voluntary work. Over 1,400 colleagues participated in this initiative. Many societal team activities were organised and there were also special anniversary activities in which colleagues could participate individually. In addition, as in other years, colleagues could obtain support for their own voluntary work or set up an action for a good cause. There was also an opportunity for pleasantly surprising people going through a difficult period or who are lonely, with a fun activity or gift.
Alliander is proud that the Foundation supports employee volunteering. In turn, the employees experience benefits such as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and increased workplace happiness.
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 (2021: 3.7).
Review by the Works Council
2022: a stable base in an unstable world
“As the new Works Council for the 2022-2024 period, we formulated our own vision, Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures (OGSM) and key priorities based on Alliander's vision and strategy. The key priorities relate to the balance between control and participation, between acting as an outstanding employer and as outstanding employees, and between fulfilling Alliander’s task and resilience. The Works Council aims to use this basis to contribute to Alliander, precisely by proactively and effectively representing the interests of the employees in the discussions with Alliander's board and management. In 2022, in addition to regular meetings with the Management Board, we handled 12 requests for advice and 6 requests for consent on digitalisation, State participation and the on-call and breakdown service, among other topics.”
“The new year started with the formation of the new Works Council, a group of 13 members, most of whom were new to the role. The start of the new Works Council's activities coincided with tumultuous developments in the world around us. Although the coronavirus containment measures were gradually being relaxed, working from home remained the norm. And, at a time when we in the Netherlands were slowly regaining our freedom, a serious threat to freedom arose in Ukraine. The war in Eastern Europe had an effect on all of us. We all immediately felt the consequences of the conflict, not least the network operators, who found themselves having to cope with a full-blown energy crisis.”
“As the situation in Ukraine developed, ‘energy poverty’ emerged as a phenomenon. Some of our employees also found themselves struggling to make ends meet each month. The sudden sharp increase in electricity and gas prices hit everyone directly in their wallets. The Works Council used its influence and advocated measures to strengthen the purchasing power of employees. Examples were company schemes that compensate for inflation, increases to the travel allowances, increases to the standby and breakdown service allowances, sundry expense allowances for employees working in the field and arrangements to help employees with debts. In that light, the Works Council is pleased with the industry-wide agreement not to disconnect customers who cannot pay their bills. That decision illustrates how seriously we take our social role.”
“Alliander has proved itself to be a stable organisation in this ominous situation that has caused turmoil in the energy sector. In our role as the Works Council, we see considerable progress has been made in the transformation to 1Alliander. Despite the turmoil, Alliander showed that it can up its game. Some employees are still working mainly from home at present. The new organisation is effective and has proven its ability to withstand shocks.
This gives us confidence that Alliander can cope with the impact that new laws on energy and heating will have on Alliander’s organisation. The impending legislation will potentially have a significant impact on our organisation. For example, the new Heating Act proposes, among other things, that collective district heating networks will pass into public hands, possibly resulting in an important role for network operators. In addition, the Energy Act means that Kenter will have better opportunities for growth outside Alliander. Hence the initiative to start investigating the sale of Kenter. This is a development that we, as the Works Council, are closely involved in, with an advisory role.”
“There were further external developments that impacted our internal organisation. The year 2022 will go down in the history books as the year in which abuse came to light in TV programmes such as The Voice and DWDD, for example, and even in the Dutch Lower House. In other words, personal safety (or the lack of it) and inclusion became even more of a hot topic. As a cross-section of Dutch society, this issue is inevitably also relevant in our organisation. Making it possible for people to come forward with their story is extremely important in an increasingly diverse Alliander. The basis for doing your job well is to feel accepted as you are and to feel safe in your interactions with managers, colleagues, suppliers or customers.”
Survey investigating employee retention
“At the same time, we face an increasingly tight labour market. As a result, employee retention has become an important theme for the Works Council. The Works Council, in cooperation with the specialist committees, conducted a major employee retention survey. The outcomes have led to talks with our directors about how to keep employees permanently committed to us. The findings also played a role in the collective bargaining negotiations between Alliander and the trade unions. Furthermore, they have provided valuable input for drawing up company regulations and the terms and conditions of employment.
Employee retention will continue to be a focal topic for us as the Works Council, both in 2023 and the years to come. It is especially important in an unstable world in which employees attach great importance to a pleasant, safe and stable working environment in which they can perform optimally and develop effectively. The Works Council continues to work to achieve this situation.”
On behalf of the Alliander Works Council,