Review by the Works Council

2023: scaling up in an unstable world

In 2023, the Works Council further specified and shaped its vision, OGSM and spearheads formulated in 2022, 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.

We had monthly meetings with the Management Board in 2023 and also handled seven requests for advice, eight requests for consent and 26 information memos, with changes limited to a part of Alliander. Examples of these are the requests for advice on future-proof GVR&N (high-volume usage, reconstruction and networks), the set-up of major work packages and the sale of Kenter. Our meetings also covered changes with a major impact on all of Alliander’s employees, such as the performance management, job classification system and remuneration policy HR projects. In addition to this, the Works Council also carried out deep-dives with experts responsible for matters such as strategy, finance, HR, the occupational health and safety service and sustainable employability. Finally, informal meetings about Alliander were also held with the Management Board based on the control and participation roles, and an open discussion was held with the Supervisory Board on the topic of task feasibility.

Task feasibility: everything affecting Alliander’s work package

In meetings with the Management Board, the Works Council gained a clear insight into Alliander’s strategy, financial situation and way of communicating with the national government. Last year we regularly discussed the topic of task feasibility based on the strategic agenda and in different sessions with the Management Board and the Strategy Director. Task feasibility is aimed at building, building and more building, on using networks in better and more flexible ways, and on improving communication with customers. The most important things for the Works Council are to know what the feasibility challenge is, how Alliander is doing, whether its task is manageable, whether Alliander’s plans are suitable for it, and what the impact is on the organisation and its employees. In response to the working week in September, for example, where the directors shared their strategic multi-year plans, the Management Board ran us through Alliander’s integrated business plan. In the business unit committees, we continue to follow the specification of the business plans of the individual organisational units with a sharp and critical eye. The investigation into the sale of Kenter was also carried out and concluded. As the Works Council we were closely involved in this development, with an advisory role. The Works Council also supported the development of employee participation at Kenter.

Top-class employer: management of and prerequisites for the organisation

Congestion issues greatly affect what our employees have to do and how they do this. Increasingly often this results in unsafe situations for our employees, both in the field and online. As the Works Council, we find this completely unacceptable and we applaud the introduction of the aggression help desk this year and other measures to make our employees more resilient.
The planned massive growth in the number of employees requires all HR processes to become more efficient, so the Works Council has spent a lot of effort on the HR projects, including a simpler job classification system, more effective performance management and a more transparent remuneration system, and in the relationships between these instruments. For its consent regarding performance management, the Works Council already asked that attention be paid to its major impact and linked it to the Works Council’s spearhead ‘from work pressure to work enjoyment’.
The Works Council also participated in other matters as co-creators, for example, by advising on the lease policy regarding the topics of vehicle fleet electrification and standard lease amount increases. In its meetings with the Management Board, the Works Council has called for modernisation of the current mobility policy.

Top-class employee: proactive implementation of Alliander’s policy 

Despite the outflow of employees due to retirement and the labour market shortages, the number of employees grew significantly last year. Because of this, about half of all employees have only been working for Alliander for four years or less. This requires a greater focus on topics such as onboarding, training and guidance. It puts additional pressure on the current employees. Alliander is asking its employees to proactively contribute to the challenges faced by Alliander, to cultural changes and to further developing their personal leadership. As a participation body we share our thoughts to ensure that this process succeeds. One example is the Works Council survey investigating employee retention, the results of which were used for the development of the aforementioned HR tools. The Works Council will closely follow their implementation in 2024.

In 2023, the Works Council also made the Management Board aware of the risk of (energy) poverty among our employees. The HR organisation is keeping track of earnings attachment numbers as an indicator for energy poverty. However, as not all employees are sufficiently aware of the schemes offered by Alliander, the Works Council has called for better communication in this regard.
Negotiations on employee benefits are held between the employer and the unions, but as a participation body we have influenced this process by giving both parties an insight into people’s thoughts and feelings within the organisation and the expectations employees have in terms of modern benefits. The Works Council directly affects the formulation of employee benefits in company schemes, for example, it used its influence and advocated measures to strengthen the purchasing power of employees. Further examples are company schemes that compensate for inflation, such as temporary increases to travel allowances, increases to standby and breakdown service allowances, sundry expense allowances for employees working in the field and a temporary ‘measure A’ for authorised technicians. We also have schemes that can be used to assist employees with debts.

Resilience: from work pressure to work enjoyment and mental resilience of employees 

The workload perceived by employees in some departments or teams worries the Works Council, making it a frequently discussed topic during meetings with the Management Board. The Works Council has expanded the framework document on reorganisations, which we use for every planned major change to call for an explicit focus on the impact of the change on the workload and work enjoyment of employees. Personal safety remains important to the Works Council. Making it possible for people to come forward with their story and keeping it this way is extremely important in a rapidly growing and 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 and customers.
As more responsibilities are being transferred to the organisational units, employee participation needs to be strengthened at the management level of the organisational units. After all, employee participation is only effective if it follows whoever has control. This may help to ensure that we can talk to directors about the thoughts and feelings of our employees.

Employee retention will continue to be a focal topic for us as the Works Council, both in 2024 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,
Nico Büskens