German-owned group is coming up with new HR strategies to boost engagement amongst its members of staff in the UK



Employee engagement is a buzzword that many industries have adopted over the last decade or so and it would seem that the transport sector has taken its time to catch up. Arriva is aiming to get ahead of the game, with a number of changes that aim to bring out the best from the group’s employees.

Leading this charge is Arriva’s UK human resources director Rachel Baldwin, who was appointed in September 2013. An experienced HR specialist, she has a background in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, an area that has parallels with passenger transport. Indeed she notes that both are very people-orientated industries which are continually fast-paced and highly consumable.

At Arriva she has overseen the unique decision to bring together the HR functions of the group’s UK rail and bus divisions with a methodology that aims to bring together the best bits of their HR operations. “People have a tendency to work in silos and work in isolation,” she explains. “12 months ago we took the conscious decision to improve our working practices, essentially ensuring that the UK central HR team maintained closer, more effective relations with the regional operating companies and TOCs, sharing both knowledge and skill-sets, as well as delivering a more joined-up approach to our operations.

“Because ours is a business which is very locally-focused, this made sense. “Virtually” pooling the resources we had, locally and centrally in an HR context, encourages a joined-up way of thinking and gives us a cohesive strategic direction which we can all work towards.

“We want to take a good idea, an idea that works at say a bus depot in Yorkshire, and share it around the group,” she says. “What works well in one location is more often than not transferable. We want to get people to share ideas and collaborate together.”

The results of this sharing of best practice have their roots in the group’s creation and specification of five core values, namely putting people first; acting with trust and respect; delivering successful results; delivering outstanding customer service; and growing a sustainable business. Of course many businesses now use value statements such as this to define their way or working, but for the group’s bus division, it was a first.

“The bus side has been more open to it as they didn’t have anything like it before,” Baldwin says. “It’s mainly about getting people to think about their job and their role and think about how they relate to the group’s values. Do they measure up?”

She adds that it’s “still early days”, so an engaging way was needed to embed it within the group. It has led to the creation of large posters that are being displayed prominently within all depot locations.

“Quite often that sort of thing could have become wallpaper and just ignored,” she adds. “So we had to come up with something that would engage with staff and be relevant to them.” This means that these posters are tailored to the specific location. Baldwin demonstrates one created for the group’s Tottenham bus garage in north London that translates just how the facility relates to the wider ‘Arriva World’, in particular the group’s operations both in the UK and Europe and, ultimately, its ownership by Germany’s DB. There’s also space to push those Arriva values.

And the group’s wider relationship with DB is coming into play in other ways. Every two years Arriva runs a group-wide survey to benchmark employee satisfaction across a range of measures, but this year the group has participated in a DB-wide survey that aims to quiz all 300,000 of the German group’s employees around the world.

Of course staff surveys are notoriously hard to engage employees with and Baldwin and her team have worked hard to ensure that there is that engagement. In each depot location, survey champions have been appointed to extol the benefits of participation and motivating them has been key. Malcolm Cotterell, the group’s head of employee UK engagement and benefits, describes how sessions were run in Reading, Birmingham and York with champions around the country to get their feedback and dispel some of the myths around where the results of the survey would end up.

“It was a really positive experience,” he says. “They left fired up and knowing that taking part in the survey can actually make things change. The problem is dispelling those myths that ‘nothing ever changes’ and pointing out that things can and will change as long as they are discussed openly. The survey is about giving a tool that allows that to happen.”

The survey was open to Arriva employees throughout October and the results are now being collated independently. Both Baldwin and Cotterell are at pains to point out that each employee taking part remains anonymous beyond having knowledge of their role and location, but the results will be fed back to individual locations with a methodology then created that will allow feedback to be implemented. “That’s when the work really starts,” adds Baldwin. “We obviously can’t make everything happen, but we can make changes and the employee survey is a process that allows that to happen.”

DB’s ownership of the group is also feeding back into Arriva’s Big Picture employee programme, which was first introduced several years ago. The latest phase sees the introduction of Big Picture 2, which aims to emphasise not only the group’s five core values, but the wider scale of the group now that it is part of DB. To help ensure these messages were effectively disseminated, Arriva began rolling-out a programme of facilitated half-day training sessions designed to emphasise the group’s strategy to all of its employees. Starting earlier in 2014, and continuing into the next 12 months, these sessions see employees working in teams to create Road Map 2, which once again brings back the large graphic of the original programme, but in giant jigsaw puzzle format (see image left).

“There’s a reality to it in that Road Map 2 doesn’t shy away from the harder messages,” explains Baldwin. “It’s looking at the finances; in essence it’s the sum of little parts and making all of our employees aware of the big part that they  play in the success of the group as a whole.”


Engagement and benefits

Many Arriva subsidiaries have long held internal staff award schemes and the group has more recently picked up on these to create a UK-wide national scheme that aims to celebrate the hard work and commitment of the best of its employees.

The Made A Difference Awards (or M.A.D. Awards) are now an annual fixture at the group with all employees across the UK urged to nominate staff members who they feel have made a difference to their workplace or done a great job. Nominations are scrutinised by an independent panel to determine the winner and this year’s nominations have already seen over 100 members of staff entered.

“The local award schemes are really important and we don’t want to detract from that,” explains Malcolm Cotterell, the group’s head of employee engagement and benefits – UK. “This is about taking it to the next level and recognising and rewarding the best of the best on a national level. For a member of staff, if your hard work is recognised like that, it’s incredibly motivating.”

Cotterell is also involved in the Arriva UK staff benefit scheme, which aims to create benefits for employees in the UK. This year has seen the creation of the Arriva Village, a dedicated website that allows all members of Arriva UK staff to take advantage of money-saving offers at a wide variety of retailers. Building on an existing scheme that was in place at three group subsidiaries, so far almost 1,000 stores have signed up to the scheme, from high street retailers to telecoms providers and holiday firms. “It’s a great scheme as not only can employees use it, but their families can use the Arriva Village too,” explains Cotterell. “So it has been very well received and we’re looking at options to roll it out with smaller, local businesses.”

For the next year the focus is changing for Cotterell and he is looking at options to improve health and wellbeing amongst members of staff in the UK, including a ‘pedometer challenge’. This will see teams of Arriva employees wearing pedometers in an attempt to “walk around the world twice” in support of the British Heart Foundation. The teams who collectively tally the highest mileage will also be recognised for their efforts. “That’s healthy competition,” adds Cotterell with a smile.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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