British Gas is part of the Centrica Group. It is the country's best recognised energy brand. Centrica is a multinational company, with businesses in many countries. Centrica was formed in 1997 and consists of eight separate energy-related businesses, ranging from the supply of
gas and electricity to consumers and organisations in the UK and Europe, to storage of gas
for other providers, and drain and pipe work maintenance.
The UK energy market is highly dynamic. Customers look for the best deals and are
increasingly prepared to switch suppliers. In 2007, 900,000 customers switched energy
providers. An energy company needs to show it is not just competitive on price, but that it can
also provide the right levels of customer service to attract and retain customers.
British Gas Services (BGS) does not supply gas - this is handled by other British Gas divisions.
The core BGS product is installation and maintenance services. BGS is the UK's largest operator
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in the installation and maintenance of domestic central heating and gas appliances. It provides a
maintenance and breakdown service for electrical white goods and home wiring. Through the
Dyno brand, BGS also offers drain clearing services, plumbing and home security services.
To deliver these services, BGS needs high calibre staff. It employs more than 9,000 trained
gas engineers to install and maintain central heating and gas appliances. This case study
explores how BGS manages the recruitment and selection of new employees.
The role of human resource management
Managing a successful large business involves acquiring, developing and maintaining a wide
range of resources. These resources include materials, buildings, land, equipment, technology
and, crucially, people. Any organisation needs good employees who have the right skills to
achieve the company's aims and objectives. Human resource management (HRM)
is the business function that focuses on the people aspects of an organisation. It ensures the
efficient management of people in the business. It is responsible for ensuring that an
organisation has the right people to deliver its overall business plan.
Centrica, the parent corporation of BGS, has to deliver long-term profitability. Its
shareholders expect the business to show a return on their investment by making profits,
now and in the future. BGS needs to contribute to these profits. This means consistently
meeting the needs of its customers with competitively priced products and services that give
good returns to the company. BGS's core customer base is residential consumers across
the country. These customers expect top-class service at keen prices. If BGS does not meet
this standard, the company may lose business to competitors.
To ensure customer satisfaction, BGS engineers must have the technical skills to undertake
work to the required standard and the people skills to deliver good customer service. Through
its engineer recruitment team, the British Gas Academy must therefore ensure that the
company attracts and retains the best engineers. This involves several complementary tasks. It
requires planning to assess the BGS's future needs for skilled employees. It requires a
recruitment and selection programme to bring new people into the business. It requires a
training operation to equip new recruits and existing employees with the right skills.
BRITISH GAS SERVICES
at British Gas Services
• Human resources
Aims: the general end purposes
towards which an organisation
focuses its activities.
Objectives: the desired outcomes
for individuals, groups or
management (HRM): the
management of employees within
Shareholders: Persons owning or
holding a share or shares of stock;
Customer base: the main basis
of customers for a business.
Competitors: other producers
supplying similar goods or services.
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Importantly, BGS must also ensure that it retains its best people. It is much more cost effective
to retain trained and highly skilled staff than recruit and train up new people. BGS seeks to
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retain people by offering a mix of financial and non-financial benefits. As well as good pay
and a pension scheme, the company provides employees with the opportunity to buy shares
in Centrica and it offers a great place to work and high-class training.
As an expanding business, BGS needed to increase its workforce to meet customer demand.
At the end of 2002, BGS established the British Gas Academy. The Academy has helped to
develop and refocus training facilities to handle the extra training requirement in recruiting an
additional 5,000 employees into the engineering workforce.
There are several training routes:
• BGS runs an intensive apprenticeship programme. This is delivered in training centres.
Trainees should expect to qualify within 12 to 14 months. All domestic gas engineers
become fully acquainted with the latest computer-aided diagnostic technology.
• There are also traineeships, which provide a way for new recruits to learn about the gas
industry and gain relevant skills and qualifications.
• BGS provides technical training for all its engineers throughout their careers. This ensures
that its employees are kept up-to-date with new information and technologies to enable
them to provide the best service possible.
Training does not simply focus on technical skills and knowledge. Most employees have direct
contact with customers, so it is important that they have good people skills. Awareness
training is provided for employees across British Gas through an online learning package.
Another programme is improving staff's cultural awareness, particularly to support BGS's
growing international operations.
Workforce planning is the process of assessing a company's current and future labour
needs. This assessment must consider not just overall employee numbers but also the skills
that will be required within the business. Workforce planning also involves managing any
training and recruitment process to ensure the organisation has the right staff in place.
Managers at British Gas conduct a programme of forecasting to predict how much the UK
market for domestic gas engineering services will grow. This helps the company decide how
many additional engineers it will need in the future. BGS makes detailed forecasts of its
demand for engineering personnel for one year in advance and makes more general
estimates for a further two years into the future.
In BGS, workforce requirements are driven by two different demands. First, there are contract
customers that have service agreements with the company. Second, there are customers who
call for one-off assistance if they have a specific problem. Demand for both these services
has grown. In the last three or four years, BGS's need for engineers has expanded
accordingly. This has meant that it has had to recruit more staff.
There are several other factors that influence workforce planning for BGS. Engineering skills
need to be constantly updated. Health and safety issues are also critically important in the
gas industry. Health and safety regulations are changing all the time and EU regulations must
also be considered. Apart from regular formal training to close skills gaps to ensure engineers
stay up to date with technical matters, BGS can alert engineers about technical changes via
field radio or text messaging.
Workforce planning: looking
ahead at factors inside and outside
of the business to plan HR needs.
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BRITISH GAS STUDY 4/6/08 14:11 Page 2Engineers can work all their careers in the field until they
retire. Qualified engineers may
spend up to 10 years gaining their skills, qualifications and experience. They have valued
practical skills that are needed to deal with equipment and customers. However, BGS also
needs suitable people for promotion to higher roles, such as management jobs. It needs
managers to plan, organise and co-ordinate the teams of engineers. It therefore needs to
attract and recruit a wide range of people into the organisation.
As part of its workforce planning, BGS implements a diversity and inclusion strategy using
tailored action plans. This means it actively seeks new recruits from a wide range of
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The need to recruit a diverse engineering workforce is seen as critical by BGS. It plans
recruitment to ensure it has a socially inclusive workforce. This is important as it will
enable BGS to reflect the diversity of its customer base. For example, it is useful to have
employees from different nationalities and backgrounds to communicate with customers that
do not speak English as a first language. Recruiting more women engineers may help to
attract female customers.
To dispel the myth that only men can be good engineers, BGS runs a Georgina and the
Dragon campaign. This has had some success. The British Gas Academy has won an award
from Women into Science and Engineering as well as a national award from the Council for
Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) for its efforts to encourage and attract women into the
engineering workforce and into plumbing and associated trades. In May 2008 the recruitment
team at BGS was recognised by Opportunity Now, winning the prestigious award for
'Inspiring the workforce of the future'.
BGS tries to appeal to a varied and diverse audience when promoting its apprenticeships. To
advertise opportunities widely, BGS uses specialist Sky channels like Parliamentary Projects TV,
which focuses on careers, and Passion TV, which is aimed at the black community. In print media,
it uses women's magazines, publications targeted at ethnic minorities such as The Muslim Weekly
as well as other careers directories for the same reason. Other channels include radio,
newspapers, BGS's website (www.britishgasacademy.co.uk) and a DVD for schools.
Recruiting gas engineers of the right level is important. Candidates for a British Gas
apprenticeship must be at least 17 years old, have a minimum of four GCSEs at grade C or
above or equivalent (e.g. NVQs) and hold at least a provisional driving licence. However, they
need more than academic qualifications, they must be able to show some aptitude for customer
service, such as being able to listen to customers and understand their requirements.
BGS uses an online application form. To help BGS decide an applicant's suitability, this
includes a value-based questionnaire. This requires responses to a series of statements about
attitudes to work. There are 90 statements in all, and an applicant's overall responses are
rated either green, amber or red. The colour reflects the attitudes the applicant has about
work and people. This helps to show which roles a person is best suited to. BGS does not
take applicants with red ratings further as they may not show a 'fit' with the company
requirements. However after an initial screening, green and amber applicants are invited to
an interview and assessment centre for the final selection process. Here, candidates must
show evidence of qualifications, ID and driving licence.
At the BGS assessment centre the emphasis is very much upon 'core competencies' and 'life
skills'. Life skills are personal skills that are likely to affect the customer experience when
someone is working in the field. British Gas engineers needs to show courtesy and politeness,
for example. These are personal qualities that have a direct impact upon customer
perception. Core competencies involve team working, interpersonal skills (such as dealing
with people), motivation and responding to change. These are crucial skills that can affect the
way an individual fits in and works within an organisation.
Diversity: workforce that
contains people from a wide range
of backgrounds, races and sexes.
Recruitment: the process of
attracting people to apply for jobs.
Socially inclusive workforce:
ensuring through recruitment that a
company does not exclude any
particular group in society from its
Screening: initial checks to see
that applicants meet the basic
requirements for employment.
Life skills: social, communication,
decision making, goal achievement,
and problem solving skills.
Core competencies: strengths
and abilities of an organisation
that enable it to provide goods or
services that customers want more
than those of close competitors.
BRITISH GAS SERVICES
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Candidates attend the centre for a half-day assessment. This has three elements:
The total scores from the three-part assessment help BGS to decide who receives a job offer.
Candidates are notified of the outcome within 14 days. All candidates can receive feedback.
For those candidates offered a job, BGS provides the usual job benefits including a van from
the outset and a competitive starting salary. The new recruits then go on to benefit from BGS'
comprehensive programme of training through its Academy. This ensures that they are given
the best start in their new careers. It also builds employee motivation and commitment to the
Recruiting and selecting staff is an expensive process. By following a robust selection
programme in this way, BGS is able to ensure it gets the right people with the right skills. It
also means it maximises the benefit from its investment.
Recruitment and selection at British Gas Services is driven by the need to maintain the
competitive position of the company within the energy market. Domestic gas customers
demand the very highest standards of service. They can be assured that BGS engineers have
high-level skills and expertise through its careful specification of entry qualifications followed
by top quality training. BGS also assesses the personal attributes of staff through role play
and questionnaires as these influence customers' perceptions of the service and the company.
Great care is taken in determining the organisation's future staffing needs. This drives the
recruitment and selection process to ensure BGS is seen as offering dynamic and exciting
career paths for people of all backgrounds. By developing and nurturing its people, BGS
ensures that new recruits have the right qualities to help the business to compete.
1. What is the main purpose of workforce planning in BGS?
2. To what extent is workforce planning important
in helping BGS achieve its aims?
3. What benefits do BGS' application, recruitment
and selection processes give to both applicants
and the company?
4. It could be said that recruitment is the most
important function within BGS. What arguments
would you use to support this view?
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