Much has been written about the energy transition and the challenges it brings but there are, of course, many opportunities too. As we continue on the journey to net-zero, we have a real opportunity to transform the offshore energy sector into one that is truly representative, which celebrates difference, and which is genuinely inclusive. There has already been some great work in this area but now is the time to accelerate the pace at which change is being made.

There is a clear business case for diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace. Many leaders now recognise this and are supportive of the agendas being pursued within their organisations. Some of the larger operators and supply chain organisations now have dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) managers who are responsible for devising and implementing their organisation’s DE&I strategy. Not all organisations will be of a size to justify having such a role but there is still lots that can be done with a view to increasing diversity and creating an inclusive culture. This is especially the case at the recruitment stage, which is fundamental to the attraction of diverse talent to the sector. 

A review of job adverts and role descriptions can be a useful exercise to check that they clearly explain what the role involves and the skills required to perform it. A useful test can be to think about whether someone outside of your organisation would understand what it is that you are looking for. Consider what wording you include in your job adverts to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion. For example, what do you say about the availability of hybrid working, part-time or other flexible working and place of work? To attract new entrants to the sector, you may need to add to or change the job boards you currently use and the recruitment consultants you currently engage with a view to broadening the pool of possible applicants who see your adverts.

When it comes to shortlisting, one way of ensuring that unconscious biases do not play any part in the process is to remove all personal details from the information presented to the recruiting manager. It has become standard practice for candidates not to provide their date of birth, but stripping out a candidate’s name, home address and their educational history allows the recruiting manager to assess applications based solely on candidate skills and experience. Having recruiting managers complete conscious bias training is also recommended.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits certain forms of discrimination in the context of work, and the protection under this legislation extends to those who are applying for work. This means that the duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments in respect of those who have a disability extends to the recruitment process. Employers should, therefore, ask all job applicants if they need reasonable adjustments for any part of the recruitment process and be willing to adapt their standard process as necessary in each individual case.

There is no legal obligation to carry out equal opportunities monitoring but it can be a useful way of highlighting workplace inequality and potential discrimination. It is good practice to review each stage of your recruitment process to identify (and seek to eliminate) any significant disparities between the success rates of different groups of people. If equal opportunities monitoring questions are asked as part of the recruitment process, it is important that they are kept separate from application forms or CVs and are not seen by those making decisions so that the information does not influence the decision-making process. It will also be important that the data is processed and stored in a way that complies with data protection legislation

Outside of the recruitment process, a root and branch review of the colleague experience during the lifecycle of the employment relationship is essential to identify where adjustments and improvements can be made. Just in the last few weeks, there have been reports in the press about facilities offshore to support women who are breastfeeding and access to sanitary products offshore. More generally, consider as part of any review what policies are in place in respect of flexible working, family leave and pay entitlements, equal opportunities and antiharassment. Think about how complaints of bullying and/or harassment are dealt with. Are there clear and transparent promotion criteria? What about training – have sessions been delivered recently to colleagues on topics relevant to this area including, for example, unconscious bias training and bystander training? Even simple changes to the language used within the business can make a difference. Colleague networks can be used to help drive forward a DEI agenda while fostering an inclusive environment. Mentoring schemes are a great way to drive colleague engagement and to create role models.

It will be important that we track the progress being made within organisations and across the sector as a whole. Offshore Energies UK, a trade body for the UK’s offshore energy industry, recently launched a survey to help measure the diversity of its members’ workforces. The results of this survey, which are expected later this year, will provide us with a clear picture of the position as it currently stands. It will also enable us to devise and implement initiatives and strategies to ensure we deliver a diverse and inclusive offshore enegry sector as well as net-zero.

This article originally appeared in The Press and Journal.