Building a resilient railway through its workforce

Author: Prerna Sharma
Day: Introduction Day
Session: Resilience

The UK Railway industry is devoting an enormous amount of time and effort to get the best talent, but if our workforce cannot overcome setbacks and challenges those resources might be wasted. The industry might be good at facing certain problems, but we need a diverse skill set to be able to overcome any difficulty. We cannot have a resilient railway if we do not have the skills in place to ensure that the engineering and maintenance can be delivered. By encouraging a genuine diversity and inclusion agenda, recognising both conscious and unconscious bias in the industry, we can build a resilient railway.There are already many initiatives aiming to bridge the gender gap as figures show that women make up around 16% of the industry workforce. These initiatives include Women in Rail Mentoring Programme whereby men and women from the rail sector, from senior and mid managers to executives give up eight hours a year of their time to provide support and guidance to women within the industry. Siemens has been involved in multiple initiatives one of them being The Siemens Education SeeWomen project which aims to inspire and motivate young girls to pursue STEM careers and challenge gender stereotype.Bridging the gender gap is not enough for the rail sector to be diverse as there needs to be an emphasis on hiring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups as well. BAME people make up 14% of the UK population and are underrepresented in the industry by making up around 6% of the workforce. Network Rail's Everyone Strategy aims to tackle this issue by working with their BAME network, Cultural Fusion to better understand the barriers that cause low conversion rates from application to appointment.Amongst the talk of increasing ethnic and gender diversity within companies and organisations, another area that needs focusing too is Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labelled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome and others. It is estimated that around 10% of the UK population is neurodivergent in some way, and according to the National Autistic Society, only 16% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment, compared with 47% of disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people. Choosing to ignore neurodiversity would mean missing out on talent.Furthermore, neglecting to think about how different types of thinking styles can work together, whether they have recognised conditions or not, means one might be actively encouraging 'groupthink' and failing to reflect the neurological make-up of broader society.Academic research has found that diverse groups of people of average ability tend to outperform homogeneous groups at solving complex tasks, even where the homogeneous groups are more capable. In order to build a resilient railway, one that can overcome complex problems, we need a workforce that truly reflects the population and includes everyone.