The only way is (levelling) up for Northern Ireland Water – 2022 Winner
Employee Wellbeing & Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion Award 2022

Northern Ireland Water (NIW) is a multi-award winning Government owned company, responsible for delivering 575 trillion litres of drinking water and treating 340 million litres of wastewater to 2 million people every day.


Working in the engineering sector, NIW have faced several diversity and inclusion challenges, with over one-third of the organisation aged 55+ and 78% percent male.

However, they have found that through their ability to offer a meaningful career, where employees make a positive impact on society, they can build a strong, diverse workforce. This is reflected in their diversity tagline, ‘Here, everyone matters’.

What Northern Ireland Water Did

NIW use female role models and imagery, and gender-neutral language, to change the performance factors used to shortlist candidates and remove potential gender bias from its selection process.

This includes visibility of females in senior positions and participation in national diversity campaigns.

The company puts a focus on internal promotion, creating a healthy picture of career mobility, as well as investing in entry level strategy through incentivized Higher Level Apprenticeships and Graduate Opportunities.

There is a company focus on the celebration of national diversity initiatives such as International Women’s Day, International Women in Engineering Day, International Men’s Day, National Inclusion Week, and World Menopause Day.

Diversity and Inclusion training is offered to all employees, with senior staff leading the way by role-modelling the behavior which is expected in day-to-day work and calling out unacceptable behavior.

The NIW board and Executive Committee made a standing quarterly agenda item to evaluate Diversity and Inclusion, and a recent values campaign was embarked upon, where over 100 employees work together to define the behaviors that sit behind NIW values.

NIW’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy will to move from awareness stage (Level 2) of the diversity maturity matrix to the understanding stage (Level 3) by living by a set of values, including respect, integrity, excellence and sustainability) rather than by setting hard diversity targets.

Outcomes and Benefits

  • Northern Ireland Water was the first company in NI to sign up to the levelling up goals in Northern Ireland and has undertaken actions such as creating degree and non-degree pathways; advertising in unemployment blackspots and rural areas; and offering incentives such as subsidised driving lessons
  • NIW has retained its Bronze Diversity Charter mark and is a Disability Confident Employer
  • Entry Level Career Opportunities news is reaching over 30,000 pupils every year; HLA roles are being provided to areas of social deprivation; and 33% of hires for the NIW 2021 HLA programme were female
  • 82% of promotions were internal
  • Greater female participation in professional development programmes
  • Creation of opportunities that appeal to a wide demographic, ensuring the organisation represents the society it serves
  • Improved health and wellbeing across the organisation, with best-practice shared at business continuity forums and supplier events, and health and wellbeing initiatives shared with family, friends and the frontline workforce

What the Judges said…

“NI Water is a hidden gem of an organisation which is positively demonstrating excellence in creating and developing a diverse and inclusive workplace. The team demonstrated tremendous commitment and passion to tackle the strategic challenges of the business whilst operating under a challenging environment with resource constraints. One of the standout initiatives is targeting unemployment black spots to get people into work whilst also ensuring the knowledge and experience transfer from an ageing workforce. Generous with their knowledge sharing of best practice, NIW have set the bar high to hold their major suppliers also to account when it comes to D&I standards.”

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