Making the extraordinary ordinary

During extraordinary times, it’s said that ordinary people stand up and achieve extraordinary things. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people and businesses across the UK have stepped up to answer the call. From the frontline and support staff in the NHS to the transport, food and energy sectors, there is no shortage of stories of people going above and beyond.

In this blog, Toby Warren, Human Resources Director at Cory Riverside Energy reflects on the impacts of the pandemic and how the company and its employees have reacted.

The waste sector is no different. The pandemic has highlighted the quality and commitment of the people that are at the heart of the success of businesses like our own. They have stepped up to deliver critical waste services despite the concerns and difficulties presented by the pandemic.

Author: Toby Warren, Human Resources Director, Cory Riverside Energy

At Cory Riverside Energy, as the implications of the pandemic became clear, we had two priorities: the first was to ensure the health and wellbeing of our people, and the second was to maintain safe operations to support our customers. It was through the contributions of our employees that we were able to achieve these. Our staff worked to deliver uninterrupted, essential services to ensure that materials continued to be recycled and that non-recyclable waste continued to be processed into low carbon electricity.

Progress across the wider business was also maintained throughout the lockdown. We refurbished two slipways at our Gravesend shipyard, have just taken delivery of the first of a series of new barges and undertook a significant maintenance programme at our Energy from Waste facility to ensure the resilience of our business well beyond the horizon of the pandemic.

We are immensely proud of our people and their achievements through this period, so I’ve spent some time considering how we can capture what allowed them to go above and beyond and demonstrate such extraordinary performance. The goal is to embed this at the heart of Cory so that extraordinary becomes the new ordinary.

This led me to three central themes that have been showcased throughout the pandemic:

  • Good people step up to a challenge
  • Good processes are followed, even during a crisis
  • Adapting at pace

Good people step up to a challenge

First, having the right people is crucial. Adopting a rigorous recruitment process at all levels has equipped us with balanced and diverse teams.

At Cory we seek to nurture our people, providing opportunities for further education, whether that’s a degree in mechanical engineering, or helping to improve language skills for those for whom English is a second language, or have had little formal education. We see investing in our people as important as investing in our infrastructure, knowing that the combination of both these things is critical to our success. This is even the case in situations as unexpected as the current pandemic.

Good processes are followed, even during a crisis 

Strong governance and good processes are important for various reasons, whether to keep our employees safe or to make sure waste is being processed in the most efficient manner. Because our employees take pride in what they do, they understand the importance of the various processes they must comply with. Importantly these processes place trust in our employees, giving them the appropriate freedom to act, respond and deliver during times like these.

When the lockdown hit, our existing processes, as well as the necessary new health and safety measures obligated by the pandemic, ensured that we kept our people safe and continued to deliver for customers, despite a rapidly changing environment.

Adapting at pace

Our team was well equipped to respond to change, with the structures in place to support them in different parts of the business. The pandemic showed how important this was to maintaining resilience.

Our team was well equipped to respond to change

When Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRC) were required to close at the start of the lockdown, our staff were redeployed across the business, rather than being placed on furlough. They applied themselves in different roles and helped support other vital parts of the business that allowed us to continue providing essential services to our customers. When we reopened the HWRCs, they were able to adapt once again as they moved to ensure the sites could function safely and in line with government guidelines.

Take Away 

The combination of good people who are ready to step up to a challenge, robust processes, and the ability to adapt at pace, helped us ensure that our waste operations throughout London have not been disrupted. We are confident that we can operate for London through any further periods of disruption and would like to thank all those at Cory who helped us deliver on our commitments. We look forward to applying these learnings to the further challenges that will undoubtedly face us all moving forward.

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