How a rail group maintained high engagement during widespread uncertainty and disruption

A public transport company – comprised of several companies (OpCos) that operate across the UK – partnered with Inpulse in 2018 to kickstart a completely new approach to engagement, to enhance the employee experience and elevate the engagement of their workforce. Since then, there have been huge improvements in engagement scores, with one company in the group seeing an increase of 36% over the past five years to 68%.

However, most recently, the rail industry has been going through an extremely turbulent and anxiety-provoking time, due to the ongoing rail strikes, the cost-of-living crisis, and the impending rail reform. So, more than ever, it has been important for each OpCo to listen to how their people feel and focus on their sphere of influence when taking consequent action, to maintain the engagement of their workforce. 

Railway station

The Challenge

Many external factors (relating to the rail strikes, cost-of-living crisis, and rail reform) have been causing job insecurity, financial stress and general uncertainty across the group. 

These difficult times and the general negativity surrounding these issues have presented a challenge: specifically, maintaining high morale, positive feelings about work and high engagement despite the ongoing issues.

In addition, the general lack of influence that employees feel they have (and the high proportion of offline workers) has also caused difficulty in maintaining high participation in surveys. Therefore, it was important to recognise this early on and for each OpCo to devote extra effort and resources to overcome this. 

Railway station

Our Solution

As colleagues have little control over these external factors, it has been crucial that when the results come in, teams focus on their sphere of influence to make positive changes wherever they can, however small. 

For example, once the survey closes, managers and leaders are given access to their team’s and/or department’s results. Once they have had time to digest them, they are encouraged to talk with their teams about the results and decide on what action they will take locally. This shared ownership heightens connection and helps build a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. It also enables colleagues to have input in decisions and changes.

To support this, one OpCo has recently launched Inpulse’s action planning functionality on the platform for their 2022 survey, so their managers have a supporting framework for this process, and they can be kept accountable (by being set deadlines and having their progress tracked). Although this is a new change (so its outcome is not yet evident), we are excited to see the additional benefits this brings to the employee experience in 2023 and roll this out to the other OpCos next year so they too can reap the benefits.

To encourage participation in the survey, several initiatives were run across the OpCos. These included:

  • Email reminders to encourage employees to fill out the survey
  • Senior leader encouragement of participation
  • Visits to stations and sites with remote devices
  • Utilising survey/engagement champions
  • Utilising people with less work in the survey launch period to encourage participation in the survey
Railway station

The Outcome

It has been remarkable that despite the external factors upon the industry, the group have been able to maintain and often improve their scores in their key people metrics (as evident in their latest November 22 survey), such as their Engagement Index.

Similarly, by focusing on their sphere of influence, the line managers have been able to drive change locally, and this is reflected by an increase in the Line Manager Index score (which measures the extent that recognition and feedback are given by managers as well as how much they model the company values).

The efforts to encourage participation in the survey were also successful, as the group obtained a slight uplift in their average response rate (by 3% to 61%) compared to last year.

It is, therefore, evident that despite widespread uncertainty and difficulty in the transport industry, the group have been able to maintain and often improve how their colleagues feel about their work by listening to how they feel, maintaining transparency and encouraging local-level action to be focused upon the team’s sphere of influence. 

“The Inpulse platform has been a game-changer in how we administer and facilitate surveys within the business. The Inpulse platform is super easy to navigate for both our colleagues, managers and also the survey administrators. 

Previously we have worked with partners where the collation of the data and feedback process can take weeks, but with Inpulse, this process is managed by us and is instantaneous. The user experience for our colleagues is excellent; our surveys literally take just a couple of minutes to complete and work equally as well on either mobile, laptop or tablets. The real bonus for us about the Inpulse platform is that as soon as a colleague completes their survey, they receive the latest feedback available at that point in time. The team at Inpulse have also been a pleasure to work with, always available to offer support and guidance when needed. From the creation of our first survey through to helping us maximise the tool on an ongoing basis, they have been excellent. I also like the way they are constantly looking to take feedback on board and are always looking for ways to improve their platform. The new V4 version of the Inpulse Platform is a perfect example of this. I would recommend Inpulse to any organisation looking to take their Engagement Strategy to the next level.”

Head of Engagement & Internal Communication