Head of leadership development at Network Rail reveals lack of succession planning after Hatfield disaster

HR at Network Rail was so bad in 2004 that there were no plans in place to replace the executives facing corporate manslaughter trials over the Hatfield disaster, it has been revealed.

Marc Auckland, head of leadership development at the privatised track maintenance firm, spoke last week of his shock at the lack of people management when he joined three years ago.

He told delegates at a talent management conference run by Symposium Events that Network Rail received the world’s lowest ever score on the Q12 employee engagement questionnaire – the benchmark standard developed by business information firm Gallup.

“There was total disengagement and morale was very low,” said Auckland. “Performance management was sporadic there was no consistent approach.”

In 2005, three Network Rail employees faced corporate manslaughter charges over the October 2000 train crash in Hatfield that killed four people and injured 70.

“That shows the responsibilities that go with leadership,” said Auckland. “I asked at a governors’ meeting about successors to the people in court and got blank looks all round.”

Auckland was stunned by the lack of logic to the ensuing argument over success­ion planning and drew up a three-year leadership development plan to change the company’s culture.

Employees are now analysed, tracked and put through an in-house training centre.

“We now have a world-class training set-up,” he said. “Morale has improved and there is an internal talent pool that gives managers more choice when they interview for roles.”

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