Our associates are key to the success of our business. They demonstrate our values every day by providing superior customer service, working with the utmost integrity, delivering exceptional results, thinking innovatively, keeping themselves and others safe and limiting the impact on the environment. They foster our culture by maintaining lasting relationships with customers whilst delivering excellence at all levels. You can read more about our values here.
Continuously improving our business relies on the effectiveness of our leaders and how they manage our associates. As with last year, we continue to see a number of external and internal succession appointments within the USA, Canada and the UK to leadership positions this year, enabling us to broaden the experience, knowledge and diversity of our leaders. How we develop all our associates, including our leaders, is discussed in the “Talent management and development” section below.
Talent management and development
To ensure we can connect our associates to the overall direction of the business we have updated the Group’s Mission, Vision, and Values. These underpin all that we do and help us to make the right decision when it counts, inform stakeholders about what we stand for and help attract and retain our talented associates. Our values encourage great behaviours and inspire our associates to give the best customer service, respect our fellow associates and stretch ourselves every day.
In 2018/19, we invested in our talent management model which includes a comprehensive talent review and succession planning process for leadership roles. This effort focuses on development of high potential individuals, identifying emerging talent, as well as business critical key roles across the organisation. In 2019 we welcomed over 1,200 college graduates to the US business, more than double compared to last year, bringing our total number of associates with higher education degrees to almost 8,200.
In the USA, we launched a comprehensive branch management development programme comprised of virtual, classroom and a hands-on immersion to practise new skills and behaviours. A distribution centre management development programme also launched in July 2019. This year, the US had over 220,000 enrolments in web-based training and micro-learnings on topics ranging from compliance, safety, product knowledge, management, systems, and sales with an additional 6,600 completions of instructor-led development courses including our College of Ferguson trainee programme. We continue to add to the curriculum to develop our associates.
In both the UK and Canada, we are building organisational capabilities focused on developing the core skills of leaders and associates, as well as delivering exceptional customer service.
Diversity and inclusion
We want access to the best talent irrespective of race, colour, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability or any other characteristics that make people unique. The Board has a 50:50 balance of males and females in our Non Executive Directors. The percentage of women in senior management positions across the Group was 24 per cent. You can read more about the Board Diversity Policy and performance against its specified objectives in the Annual Report.
We have rolled out our new Group Diversity and Inclusion framework which builds on our current practices where we continue to identify and remove any potential for unconscious bias in our employment, promotion and succession practices.
Ferguson is committed to developing a diverse workforce and an inclusive working environment in the communities where we operate. We continue to review our progress as we make strides in delivering improvements in workforce diversity. We believe that creating a more diverse and inclusive organisation that reflects our communities provides us with a competitive advantage in all areas of our business.
To achieve our objectives, all people decisions at Ferguson are based on merit, where the best candidates are hired and promoted within the organisation and associates are encouraged, supported and developed to reach their full potential. To ensure success, senior leaders are participating in training sessions focused on reducing unconscious bias in order to continue to support an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, where all associates are treated with dignity, fairness and respect. In the coming year, we will be forming business resource groups across the Group to ensure that all our associates feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. Our recruitment practices factor in under-represented groups and we insist on diverse candidate slates when using executive search firms. In the UK, the Government requires certain businesses to declare their gender pay gap. Our UK business has a 5.02 per cent gap in base pay compared to the UK average of 17.9 per cent. We are continuing to deploy strategies and develop new initiatives to eliminate the pay gap.