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Our people case studies

Living our vision

A world where every journey is taken care of – is our new Group vision. It is future focused, aspirational and puts customers at the heart of our business. It sets out where we want to be.

Creating our vision has been a collaboration between colleagues across the organisation and external stakeholders including customers. We know it is important that this is not just an exercise to refresh the words we use but that they make a tangible difference to how our people feel about working at Group, how customers experience the service we offer and a point of differentiation from our peers.

The vision is a continual reminder that we are an organisation that provides a valuable public transport service for people rather than just being operational logistics experts. The act of taking care of people’s journeys resonates with our employees and is a common purpose for everyone in the Group.

Embedding the new vision, behaviours and attitudes across the organisation is underway – our policies, procedures, KPIs and contracts are all being re-drafted to align the organisation with our vision so that we are agile and responsive to meeting our customer needs. We have launched a programme entitled ‘going forward together’ to deliver the key changes we need to put in place in all our operating companies to continue to grow, deliver better value for money and provide a good service for customers. Facilitated workshop sessions have been held at all operating companies to ensure consistency of approach and language throughout the business. Action plans and commitments are part of our ‘better together’ sessions with leaders and managers accountable for overseeing delivery.

The new vision, beliefs and attitudes help us meet our shared goals and objectives in a way that we have mutually agreed is how we wish to behave and be seen to behave. With these strong values in place, the organisation will support the right behaviours and challenge those that go against them. Like other successful organisations we will use our values and behaviours to govern decision making. Our leaders and senior managers play a crucial role in assisting others to do this.

Delivering improved efficiencies and greater agility will help us to be one step ahead of the competition and continue to invest in the future. We know that by working together we will be able to create a truly customer-focused collaborative workplace and through that deliver growth. Passengers will benefit from better services; customers and our supply chain will benefit from increased responsiveness and improved value for money; our people will benefit through greater opportunities across the Group; and our shareholders will benefit in our success.

Next generation

Succession planning is an important part of running a responsible sustainable business and our people plans include several schemes to ensure colleagues have opportunities for full and successful careers within the Group. We have a strong talent programme where individuals with potential are encouraged to work on projects and take secondments in other areas of the Group to deepen their understanding of the industry.

Go-Ahead bus division’s two year graduate scheme, launched in 2013, has now successfully seen dozens of graduates go through the programme and around ten take management roles. The scheme built on the Group’s well established engineering scheme and broadened the scope to include high calibre individuals enthusiastic about transport, who were commercially aware with strong leadership potential. Participants focus on the operational aspects of company management and have the opportunity to work across all areas of the business including driving, contract and project management, marketing and stakeholder relations. A coaching approach underpins the scheme and MDs and operations directors act as mentors for the graduates.

For the past few years our rail division has taken part in the industry’s ‘track and train’ scheme providing all-round experience for graduates. In the past year we have introduced our own Govia graduate scheme with five graduates every year, in line with our effort to increase gender diversity across our business, two women are part of the cohort.

Investors in People

The Go-Ahead Group head office has been recognised as an Investor in People (IiP) and has achieved the Gold award. The IiP framework is used to measure and assess an organisation’s commitment to achievement through its employees and to accepting that people’s strengths, ambitions and ideas are the engine of success. Particular strengths highlighted in the assessment included the quality of leadership, level of employee engagement and involvement and commitment to continuous improvement. 

Listening to our people

Two-way communication is key to making Go-Ahead a great place to work. All our operating companies have internal mechanisms to make sure employee ‘voice’ is heard loud and clear. Employee phone-ins, staff panels, forums with management teams, employee surveys and online interactive feedback tools are just some of the ways that we make sure that employee views and suggestions are listened to.

Southeastern became the first train operating company in the UK to provide a social networking tool for its 3,800 employees to share information and discuss work-related issues with colleagues. The site, Workmate, means staff can interact with each other in the way that many of them already do with friends and family on sites like facebook and twitter. Workmate enables Southeastern to provide better service to customers – if an employee posts a question the site, there are hundreds and thousands of colleagues  who have the power and ability to instantly respond with the answer.

In our bus division, our largest company Go-Ahead London has launched a ‘Have Your Say’ forum on its employee website which enables all 7,000 staff to post questions, feedback and opinions. Managers, including directors, are involved in responding to questions, with the aim to reply within 48 hours.

We also listen to the views of our people through our consistent employee surveys. Over the past few years we have been undertaking an annual employee survey across the Group’s head office and our subsidiary companies in order to continually identify ways to make Go-Ahead a better place to work. 

Engineering excellence

Southeastern’s award winning 50,000 page Wikipedia site, developed and built by the company’s engineering team, features technical processes and manuals and 30,000 images – everything the technicians need to maintain the organisation’s 400 strong train fleet.

Maintaining a large fleet of trains for one of the most demanding commuter networks in the UK is challenging. Almost every train is in passenger service every day, so the smallest delay in a depot could result in cancelled services. Moving to a paperless system has resulted in significant time savings and improved efficiencies.

Having seen the benefits Southeastern’s innovative system has delivered, other train operators and even aviation companies are looking to replicate its success. The wiki was awarded ‘Small Scale Project of the Year’ at the Railway Industry Innovation Awards and also won accolades at the National Rail Awards and the National Transport Awards.

Continuous development of our leaders

In line with best practice and good corporate governance, the Board is required to undertake a formal evaluation each year to help continually improve its effectiveness. This year as part of the Group-wide culture change programme, Go-Ahead’s Board has considered the personal development of each member in the wider context of the Board’s overall effectiveness. The programme, which runs over several months, and is still ongoing, includes interviews, surveys, data analysis, personal coaching and feedback sessions, as well as a two-day off-site session to foster stronger relationships between Board members. Challenging conversations in a supportive and constructive environment have resulted in a commitment to make better use of the relationships between executive and non-executive directors

Leaning into change

We are adopting lean working methods across all of the Group’s engineering departments, to ensure depots are structured in a way that best supports the needs of the business. Lean is a set of management tools and processes which encourages continual review and change. It ensures there is a focus on improving important operational areas, eliminating inefficient practices and reducing waste. As a result, this means all working practices are reviewed and altered where needed. As waste is reduced, productivity is increased and costs are rationalised. In line with the Group’s collaborative approach, this process encourages the establishment of long term relationships and partnership arrangements with suppliers. Our bus company, Brighton & Hove, has transformed its engineering function through the introduction of lean processes which have led to streamlined costs, better fleet and scheduling management, and also improved operational performances. Through the adoption of lean working, remarkable improvements have been delivered. These include a reduction in spare capacity in vehicles, stock and employee time, cutting ‘dead mileage’ and drastically improving MOT performance. At Brighton & Hove, involving the trade unions in the change programme from the outset meant new employee shift patterns and working practices were introduced without concerns being raised. The fundamental principle behind lean is continuous improvement, so there is ongoing dialogue with colleagues and union representatives to keep improving operations and enable innovation and evolution. While the Group’s engineering functions are the first to adopt a lean approach, the ethos that underpins it is common to other areas. Developing individuals through team problem-solving is about engaging colleagues and encouraging their contribution to the success of the team’s overall performance. Our operating companies understand that their strong performance at a local level ultimately leads to the overall success of Go-Ahead. 

Changing culture through collaboration

Adopting the Group’s vision, beliefs and attitudes has had a tangible, positive impact on the engagement, morale and working practices across the business, particularly at one of the Group’s largest companies: Go-Ahead London. With 7,000 employees and five different companies under the Go-Ahead London umbrella, all with slightly different employment terms, conditions and working practices, there were initial reservations about the effectiveness of any one-size-fits-all approach to culture change. However, the desire to work as ‘one Go-Ahead London’ overrode any misgivings and, since the beginning of the year, more than 650 managers and supervisors have had interactive sessions to discuss the values with the senior management team, as well as being encouraged to do what they can to make the business a better place to work.

All 7,000 employees have taken part in training and development sessions on the Group’s vision, beliefs and attitudes, diversity and inclusion workshops, and sessions designed to improve communication skills. As a result, a culture of ongoing engagement has developed across the organisation. In addition to Go-Ahead London’s specific programmes, all drivers are taking part in TfL’s ‘Hello London’ customer service training. The combined effect of these initiatives has been greater engagement and better two-way communication, embodying Go-Ahead’s ‘can-do’ attitude. Progress has been seen across the business, with a 12% reduction in costs associated with driver shift overruns. QICs payments have risen in the period, with a connection being made between this strong performance and the change in culture. Our Group-wide vision, beliefs and attitudes are ties that bind all our operating companies together and, in a devolved management structure, ensure that all employees are working to the same common purpose: to take care of customers’ journeys.