EDF Energy, UK’s largest integrated energy and electricity company, and one of the three largest in Europe with 38 million customers is part of French state owned EDF Group. It was born in 2003 when thirteen companies integrated into one.
Since then, it has grown steadily, integrating and streamlining its operations to become more responsive and effective in a fast-changing marketplace. In 2009 EDF Energy took control of the UK nuclear generator, British Energy for £12.5 billion making the combined business UK’s largest energy generator and largest distribution network operator.
Pierre Gadonneix, EDF chairman and chief executive, was quoted on the purchase of British Energy to commit to three key promises of which people leadership and culture were foremost.
Reduce Carbon Waste in building a Sustainable Community The Green Customer Agenda in Community Investment Building Sustainable leadership and a World Class culture
‘Sustainability depends as much on people as it does on government policy and technology’.
- Vincent De Rivaz, CEO EDF Energy
How our work was profiled in
the top industry journal, Utility Week
The People/Leadership Challenge
Growing to become one of the country’s largest energy companies in such a short time is an impressive achievement, but to be able to continue its development was the major on-going leadership challenge.
Much has been made of the technical and scientific skills required to build a sustainable economy, but I believe leadership skills are just as important. This is why, in July 2009 when I was asked to become the Prince of Wales’s national ambassador for Business in the Community (BITC), I pledged to gain further understanding of the skills required for a sustainable economy.
- Vincent De Rivaz
Following integration with British Energy in early 2009, EDF Energy looked to refocus its leadership. There was a need to develop a pool of future-focused leaders who could build and implement a long-term vision of how the organisation would contribute in an uncertain future.
Utilities employees, broadly speaking, tend to be technically wired with strong left brain reliance. Building their internal and external relationship network base is often challenging, which means they can find it tough to inspire people through change, to build strong teams in uncertain times and to improve their leadership visibility and personal impact.
A programme has been implemented to help EDF managers access their right brain and emotional intelligence, not to replace their technical expertise but to complement it.
EDF Energy – training leaders for uncertainty
During 2009, on the wake of the British Energy acquisition, a talent review and succession planning process identified a targeted group of senior managers to attend a strategic leadership development programme designed and delivered by CorporateDNA. This was designed to accelerate executives’ ability to build a ‘leadership toolkit’ and to develop the resilience to meet tough challenges head-on. The participants were at a grade where they had to move beyond technical leadership and direct their energy to influence a range of people, including staff reporting into them, colleagues, clients and suppliers.
CorporateDNA spent six months witnessing the change and mapping what people felt and experienced during this intense wave of change, including the myriad of emotions, dilemmas, choice points, decisions managers and leaders faced. This helped pinpoint the essential development ingredients thereby designing a programme experience which would be fully anchored in EDF Energy’s reality.
CorporateDNA designed a programme called Leading in Uncertainty with Impact, Influence and Presence where high potential participants were nominated across different business functions. This group of people went through three stages of development.
(1) Feel the pain and sense the Opportunities
This stage explored: Ways to feel the uncertainty from three perspectives. Head (rational), Heart (emotions and relationship awareness) and Hands (what needs to change and for what outcomes).
(2) Unlearn, Learn and Build
A three module blended format of experiential skills, mindsets and behaviours that people needed to learn, unlearn/let go and build from scratch in this new paradigm of becoming the biggest energy operator. This included:
- Looking from the inside out
- Emotional intelligence
- Social intelligence
- Unpacking the work Gravitas
- Political Savvy
Delivering through others
Targeted coaching and mentoring sessions between each module.
(3) Live Impact Day
Vital to the success of the programme was a Live Impact Day arranged after 3 months of programme completion where participants had to bring and present their new selves to a select group of senior stakeholders talking through their achievements and equally their failures. The ask was to prepare and present their rebuilt leadership selves to high powered internal stakeholders and be ready to be challenged, probed throughout the way.?
The feedback from these sponsors to the participants was invaluable, and ranged from soundbites such as “ I never knew you were such a convincing storyteller or you had the voice to project such valued opinions” to “I am amazed by this new confidence and how you challenged me upwards from a position of influence– can you join my team?”
Essential ingredients were social intelligence, self-awareness, risk taking and innovation, whilst balancing leadership development with every day business priorities.
- “Before and after” 360-degree assessments on EDF Energy’s 4Is – impact, involvement, inspiration and integrity.
- The programme achieved an average savings of more than 5x per person’s toal cost compared to the program investment.
- Key successors put in place for this community.
- A climate audit conducted six months later helped to bring about a 60% uplift in positive performing environment experienced by the participating community and their directs.
A year from then…
- More internal candidates applying for management and outside-own-function internal vacancies
- Increase in staff satisfaction from 41% to 72% in six months,
- A decrease in key-position turnover to 15% from 25%
Participant feedback – “life changing, inspirational,…tangible” Change in behaviours, approach and capability as observed by direct team, peers and stakeholders
Bottom line impact on current projects:
The ability to reach project decisions more quickly, speeding up attainment of milestones and completing projects earlier (measurable financial gain for the business). Cost reductions achieved, including improved negotiation of more favourable terms for external spend – for example renewal of licence agreement negotiated down from £1.2m to £0.2m and supplier happy.
Process improvements championed and successfully implemented.
Improvement in feedback results at next three performance reviews; faster promotion, stakeholder satisfaction as evidenced by requests for support on future projects, specific feedback on increased impact and powers of persuasion.
Repeated ability to improve internal decisions (speed, quality and efficiency) as measured by improved financial return on projects. Increased financial contribution to the business resulting from enhanced ability to devise and direct key strategic initiatives.