Diversity will help fill the gap at HS2

Source: RTM Aug/Sept 2018

Mark Lomas, head of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at HS2 Ltd, details what his team is doing to ensure diversity is present at every step of the recruitment process and beyond, all the way down the supply chain.

For years, there has been a stop-start approach to major infrastructure projects in the UK. This is definitely no longer the case. With Crossrail coming to an end, there are a significant number of major projects in the pipeline, from energy to transport. As Europe’s largest infrastructure project, HS2 represents an opportunity to significantly improve the skills of a generation and support an industry with expertise that can be exported around the world.

To deliver all of these projects we need people – and lots of them. People that are passionate and that can bring new ideas and creativity. The infrastructure sector does not always do well at widening its recruitment pool. Bringing in people from different backgrounds, with different histories and different ways of doing things can provide a breath of fresh air into the sector, while also helping fill the skills gap. With so much to deliver, now is the time to do something different.

We need equality for those already working in the infrastructure industry, more diversity in those we aim to attract, and working practices need to change to be truly inclusive.

Doing this will enable infrastructure projects, and the companies that are delivering them, to have a wider range of ideas and a greater insight into what is needed to deliver projects. Crucially, doing this will help establish a sustainable talent pipeline into, and beyond, the next decade.

At HS2, we’re passionate about broadening the talent pool within the rail engineering and construction sectors. Organisations keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Women, BAME, LGBT, and disabled groups are ready to be recruited, and have the skills needed to be leaders that will shape and shift organisational culture. By changing recruitment models, reassessing promotion criteria, and working hard to eliminate the effect of bias on selection processes, we believe that this can be achieved.

Blind auditioning

At HS2, we recently piloted blind auditioning. This is not just removing the name from a CV or application. Instead, blind auditioning removes the CV or application form entirely and replaces it with skills-based assessment that has been derived from the job description and is curated by the line manager.

By utilising this process, shortlisting success for women jumped by 53%. For BAME groups, shortlisting success increased by 64% based on technical competence for the role. We changed the selection model and the results changed by themselves.

To support this, and to make sure the recruitment process is uninhibited from start to finish, we’ve updated our HS2 careers website to an AA accessibility standard. In addition, we’re just making the finishing touches to the rest of our company website to make sure that this also reaches the AA accessibility standard.

Our HS2 EDI team play an influential role in our leadership. They offer a broad range of opportunities for extended learning and development right across the organisation, out into our supply chain, and across the wider sector.

This year, HS2 was recognised in the top 10 gender-diverse employers by Vercida for our approach to tackling gender and diversity. We also achieved Disability Confident Leader status – the highest level of disability confident accreditation – as a result of our proven accessibility.

From procurement to training: inclusivity at every step

Creating an organisation that is truly inclusive is not just about recruitment. It’s about building an inclusive approach right through your organisation.

Inclusivity continues once inside the organisation – through ongoing training, equality analysis of key processes, getting people to participate in EDI-related activities, communicating and celebrating EDI successes, and being transparent about workforce representation at each level of the organisation.

We’ve created a whole series of staff networks that represent people with different backgrounds so that they can gain from peer-to-peer support and influence the culture of the wider organisation.

HS2 also takes the point of view that we have to be a responsible client organisation, and we work hard to get the most bang for the taxpayers’ buck within our procurement activities with our supply chain.

That’s why we’re proud to be setting new standards by developing an inclusive procurement model that is already award-winning and recognised as UK-leading. This makes it essential that any organisation bidding for HS2 work focuses on improving its EDI practices.

Through the procurement process we are consistent in focusing on removing barriers and supporting our supply chain to perform. We actively provide them with the tools they need to improve EDI throughout HS2’s delivery. This includes providing EDI toolkits with databases of diverse community groups, demographic tools, job description templates, access to videos, case studies, and the implementation of an EDI and Skills Education & Employment supplier community we are supporting our supply chain to deliver. This practical assistance has made a huge difference.

Over the past year we’ve improved the analysis of our supply chain’s diversity reporting, achieving greater clarity – and this will continue to raise the bar across the industry. 

Exploring new innovative methods to create a diverse workforce and inclusive culture not only makes good business sense, it is a fundamental part of futureproofing an organisation.

Now is the time for collective change. Together, we need to invest in the current pools of talent, whilst making sure the sector is equipped and ready to deliver on the diverse needs of future projects. We must make the changes needed to existing working practices in order to make a case for future talent to choose our sector.

We know the talent is out there, we know we need more people – skilled, creative, and driven people. HS2 is clear that diversity will help fill the gap.


Mark will be taking part in the Diversity, Equality & Inclusion panel discussion at this years TransCityRail North conference in October. Don't miss your chance to attend, visit the website here


Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

12/08/2020Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

A highly versatile and robust epoxy coating s... more >
Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

03/08/2020Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

Network Rail and Cycling UK have launched a p... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >
Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >