How Network Rail engaged staff before Milton Keynes relocation – part one

Employee engagement helps Network Rail relocation

January 13, 2014

Network Rail engaged its workforce ahead of the biggest consolidation and relocation programme in the organisation’s history.

In part one of our case study, Programme Manager Lisa Belsham reveals the extensive planning and employee involvement that went into the transformation.

On paper, it sounds simple enough – consolidate multiple office locations to a central base to reduce overheads and ensure the business is set up for future challenges.

Now the tricky part – moving thousands of employees, some from hundreds of miles away, to a new national centre – The Quadrant:MK – and introducing an entirely new way of working.

Step forward Lisa Belsham, Programme Manager at Network Rail.

“I worked on the people-side of the transformation,” she explains.

“This covered everything from who was to be relocated, how people relocated to what we did with the people who were not able to come with us, whether that was a redeployment or a redundancy exercise.”

Lisa has been at Network Rail for more than 15 years and began working on the transformation programme at inception.

In its infancy, the programme was very much a learning exercise.

“Everything we put in place was the result of an exhausting trip around lots of other companies to see what they were doing.

“The building we were creating would have 3,000 people working in it. We wanted to create something vast that had a sense of community.”

Major change and relocation programmes like these are exciting and provide many opportunities.

But, they are also scary for many employees.

The key, says Lisa, is to ensure that you spend as much time speaking with people who aren’t moving offices, as you do speaking with those who are.

Network Rail Programme Manager Lisa Belsham
Network Rail Programme Manager Lisa Belsham

“We made provisions for everyone who wasn’t staying with us. Working alongside agencies, we hosted displacement workshops where people were given practical advice on how to write CVs, and also general guidance on how to find a new role.

“A sizeable amount of the employees who were moving on had never had another job, so ensuring they were fully prepared for the next step in their career was very important for us.”

A move to a state-of-the-art office facility in Milton Keynes lay ahead for those staying with Network Rail and it was imperative that Lisa and the Change team worked to make things as easy as possible.

Some people were relocating from as far afield as Scotland, to a city they may never have visited before.

Lisa explains: “Human Resources did a magnificent job of keeping people informed. We sent out packs of information to people and used the intranet to share developments of the programme and offer resources.”

For Lisa though, the most valuable internal communications method for this programme was face-to-face.

“It was an emotive move, so the more support we could give people the better. It wasn’t just about us relocating, people had to find their partners’ new jobs and relocate their children to different schools – it was a very emotional time. For that reason we made as many people available to speak to people as possible.”

Creating a new way of way working was central to the transformation.

Network Rail needed to understand what people needed to do their jobs, and perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t as straightforward as a desk and a chair.

“We looked at how people spent their time at work. We’re quite a mobile company – people spend time in meetings, on projects and so on. So we ran an online survey to investigate how people spent their working day. This helped determine what the new office needed and what it would look like.”

To support the survey, Network Rail also continued to monitor the work patterns of those individuals affected by the move. “We spoke to colleagues about everything; whether it was what desk they sat at or to how they used the car park every day,” says Lisa.

Following the research it was decided that six desk spaces for every 10 employees would be installed, on average.

There are break-out areas and quiet zones throughout the building, storage facilities print areas and drinks stations ensure that every office is equipped for comfort and practicality.

The majority of the design features at The Quadrant:MK are a direct result of what employees told the project team before and during the construction and design phase.

“It was about breaking tradition,” says Lisa, “the move was geared towards making this building belong to the colleague working in it. It is much more than just a desk.”

Now the move has been made, this new way of working is seeing employees spend their day away from their desk, in the library, or in one of the many break out areas.

Lisa adds: “The cultural shift in our approach to work is enormous. Everything that we do now is directly fed from the feedback. Things aren’t designed by us; they are designed by our people.”

See part two of the story later this week – looking at the vital role that internal “champions” played in helping employees settled in the new premises….