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How face-to-face comms helped Network Rail relocation – part two

Face-to-face comms 'played role in Network Rail relocation'

January 14, 2014

Employee engagement has been hailed as one of the key factors in helping Network Rail’s biggest ever consolidation and relocation programme go smoothly.

In part two of our case study, Programme Manager Lisa Belsham reveals the crucial role that designated ‘champions’ played in ensuring employees settled into the new Milton Keynes offices as quickly as possible.

There was a lot of scepticism amongst the Network Rail workforce leading up to the move to Milton Keynes.

It wasn’t a popular decision for many across the organisation, as Lisa explains: “We had to bring people on the journey.

“The move was going to happen so it was our job to answer all of our colleagues’ questions to the best of our ability in an open and honest way.

“If we didn’t know the answer it was a case of ‘good point, let’s figure it out’.”

Network Rail appointed MK Champions in order to make the move as easy as possible.

MK Champions were on hand during colleague tours of The Quadrant:MK and the city itself in the run up to the move.

Lisa was the face of the tours having made the move to Milton Keynes herself. A mother herself, she was perfectly placed to offer real advice on what the move would really mean for families.

She says: “The MK Champions were a community of colleagues who had previously made the move themselves. This was very much about the people side of the transformation, not the corporate side.

“I was astounded by the level of support that we got from peoples’ partners.

“They were really engaged with the move and came along to offer guidance and support on what the move to the city would mean for colleagues’ families.”

“It would be a travesty if their first day at work was their first day in that building,” says Lisa.

Once the move was under way, it was vital that the colleagues felt as relaxed as possible in their new surroundings.

After all, it was very much business as usual, Network Rail couldn’t afford a halt to operations during the move.

“A lot of work was around migration and orientation was undertaken. We brought different teams and departments around the building to show them where the different functions were, and telling them how things were going to work.”

Lisa decided to introduce some of the new ways of working early, while staff were still operating from their old bases.

The idea was that it would create a ‘soft landing’ where the colleagues already knew of some of the new processes.

One such scheme was the SmartCard procedure, which, as well as acting as an ID card to get you in and out of the new building, activates the printer to process your print task when you scan it.

Lisa says: “The SmartCard implementation process was made easier because we phased it in much earlier into the transformation. These things helped to make sure things weren’t alien.

“That first day will also be the first day people dropped their kids off at their new school – the last thing people want to worry about is how to get into the car park.”

She believes that internal communication was vital in this transformation programme.

“Lots of people think internal communication is just about newsletters, but here it was very much face-to-face.

“It wasn’t always slick, and it wasn’t always glossy, but it was responding to their needs. It was always asking ‘what is it that you need’.”

She says that in her 18 years at Network Rail, this has been the standout project she has been involved in, on both a professional and personal level.

She adds: “It would have been easy for us to go it alone and simply deliver a new office building. It still would have worked, and we still would have got people here. But would people have owned it as much? Would that building have started to come to life?

“I’m not sure it would. I think it would have just been another corporate office.”

Lisa’s tips on approaching a large change project:
* Try to make corporate change projects as uncorporate as possible.
* For something so emotional, the messaging has to be absolutely tailored to the individuals involved.
* We used local champions, people on the ground, to really get the work force engaged.