We believe in providing a structure for career development and have put in place a development programme to support our employees from level 2 through to level 7, providing progression pathways from basic compliance training through to professionally recognised qualifications and preparing people for current and future opportunities within Esken.

Over the last two years our apprenticeship programme has grown and we now have over 35 live apprentices. We anticipate that this will increase over the next year as we provide an increasing number of apprenticeships for our employees to access.

Our Ascend Management & Leadership Programme was launched this year, providing a framework for training managers at all levels, including; e-learning through our newly established learning management system, face to face sessions to embed process and procedures as well as formal management qualifications at levels 3, 5 and 7 through our apprenticeship programme. Partnerships with specialist organisations offering Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accreditation, as well as with universities such as Imperial College in London for our level 7 leadership apprenticeship, provides our learners with a credible and aspirational programmes of study. 

Our Esken Management Essentials programme of short courses aims to provide core management and leadership competence across the business. All managers are enrolled on this programme and have twelve months to complete it. They are supported by internal face to face sessions to discuss the application of learning and to link to Esken processes and procedures.

The Esken Learning Hub has been implemented and enabled us to provide fully mobile training to employees at a time and place to suit them. We have developed a suite of reportable dashboards to manage completion and compliance, and with the development of our onboarding and induction programme we have launched a Basic Training programme for all new starters. Current employees have also been assigned this training so we can be sure that everyone has a solid baseline of compliance training. The Learning Hub will be further developed to provide more analytical data on engagement as well as focussing on providing more on-demand content for employees to access outside of their directed learning programme.

Our performance management process has been re-written this year to provide more focus on objectives, talent and succession, with this being a key focus of the discussions. The launch of My Check-In for operational staff will provide a focussed discussion around current and future roles, training and development and wellbeing. In fact, a more formal discussion around wellbeing has been included in the main performance management process, extracted from our newly introduced Mind-approved Workplace Action Plan (WAP), as we continue to raise awareness of mental health and provide support and signposting, as well as the many signposts to resources we have developed on our People Hub SharePoint site supporting our diversity strategy. We utilise our HR Self Service system to capture and report on objectives, and we will report on how they link to different areas of the business and to our newly launched business values. We have also introduced personal ESG contribution into our appraisal process so we can start to track the impact of our ESG activities.

The implementation of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) has provided visibility of all vacancies across the business and a sophisticated tool for hiring managers to attract, interview and select talent. With links directly into job boards, integrated interview scheduling, blind hiring with anonymised applicant data, video interviewing, simple communication, real time reporting and analytics and applicant feedback, this is a powerful tool which we will continue to develop and upskill managers to ensure we leverage the capability fully. Where we do need to utilise recruitment agencies, we now required them to sign up to a clear set of Equal Opportunities principles ensuring that they will take all possible steps to ensure a diverse applicant pool if presented to us, with candidates from various backgrounds and identities. We now explicitly require recruitment partners to ensure they go through a process which does not discriminate or seek to exclude (directly or indirectly) any candidates from minority groups when dealing with Esken vacancies.

Inclusion & Belonging

We have further stepped on our Diversity & Inclusion agenda to reflect modern societal changes and our approach has developed into that of inclusion and belonging, both from a diversity and wellbeing perspective.  We have refreshed the language in our employee-facing documents to be more inclusive and remove gender stereotypes. We now talk about the ‘primary carer’ in our Maternity and Adoption Policies for instance, recognising that society has many iterations of a family life. In fact, we’ve overhauled our Family Friendly Policies this year to modernise and further support the attraction and retention of females and all working parents by providing enhanced payment terms, and parity for primary and secondary carers to attend antenatal and adoption appointments.

Our Esken Gender Agenda forms part of our wider Diversity & Inclusion Strategy and not only focuses on providing parity for women in areas such a reward, training and promotion opportunities, but creating an environment where women can thrive in our, in some areas, male-dominated workplace.

Last year we reported the introduction of our new Menopause Policy and we’re proud that we were one of the first businesses in the UK to have this in place. To further support our Gender Agenda this year we commissioned a Keynote for International Women’s Day which, for the first time, was available to every single employee in the business to take part in. The session will now provide a catalyst for us to signpost female employees to specialist podcasts and coaching designed specifically for women in the workplace.

We have continued to invest in educating our workforce on all inclusion-related matters and we now have over 35 modules on our Learning Hub dedicated to various Diversity & Inclusion topics to help support our managers to create a fully inclusive culture for our employees - and it’s paying dividends; 86% of our employees told us in our latest Employee Survey that agreed or strongly agreed that they felt comfortable being themselves at work.

Our brand-new Workplace Adjustments Guide for Managers provides support on a whole host of issues their employees may face from managing neurodiverse employees, right through to long-term health conditions such as cancer. Driver Eric Drinkwater tells us how he was helped when he needed a workplace adjustment due to an ongoing health condition.

Last year we committed to voluntarily reporting our Ethnicity Pay Gap and whilst we have faced technology-based challenges with this to meet our self-imposed deadline, we are still committed to doing this retrospectively as soon as is practicable. Nonetheless, we are committed to providing an equitable workplace for all and have recently fed into a government consultation process led by the Cabinet Office, which calls to improve data and transparency on disability in the workplace recognising that reporting on disability which allows businesses to assess the impact of their inclusive practices on the recruitment and retention of disabled people.