Personnel Today Awards 2019: Great Western Railway on track with Managing Change Award

Great Western Railway accept the Managing Change Award at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards.

Train operator Great Western Railway got the green signal from the Personnel Today Awards 2019 judges, bagging the Managing Change Award for the way its HR team handled changes affecting its engineering workforce. We look at their winning entry and those of our other finalists.


Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway is in the process of changing 75% of its services, becoming faster and more frequent, and moving to more customer-focused ways of working. In order to do this, it faced a number of challenges including: depot closures, TUPE transfers to Hitachi Rail, a heavily unionised workforce, and historic terms and conditions (many of which were unsuitable for modern workplaces).

The changes were announced in 2015 but many were not implemented until 2017, so the company had to ensure workers were kept engaged and motivated in the intervening period. Before any announcement was made or plans were established, it put an HR project team in place to focus on the changes affecting its engineering workforce in each location, looking at whether TUPE regulations would apply to the transfer of maintenance work to Hitachi Rail. An arrangement was agreed with Hitachi to support GWR staff who wanted to apply for jobs at Hitachi after it was established that the jobs would not be transferring over.

Voluntary redundancy terms were agreed with trade unions and a Special Engineering Divisional Council that was formed. A member of the HR Projects team and an engineering manager attended the staff side pre-meets for these meetings – a first in GWR’s history. Staff were kept up to date with the changes via a website that allowed them to submit questions to management, as well as local briefings with management and HR and traditional noticeboards.

Affected staff were given outplacement support and were able to access opportunities for redeployment easily. A joint divisional council agreed to hold vacancies across the business to facilitate redeployment for as many employees as possible, while individual shadowing days and career coaching was put in place.

Of the 565 employees affected by the changes, 159 were redeployed internally. GWR’s engagement score increased from 84% in 2016 to 87% in 2018.



The UK’s largest insurance company Aviva embarked on a programme to create a flatter, less hierarchical structure. To do this it wanted to develop a new way of resolving disputes that was more aligned with its values-driven, employee-centric culture and would help managers “nip issues in the bud” and facilitate healthy a dialogue.

With the help of TCM Group it introduce Aviva’s Total Conflict Management System, which saw it move away from a traditional grievance procedure towards a mediation and resolution approach. The system was launched using a series of presentations, round table discussions and webinars for managers.

The system acts as a framework that guides the way Aviva deals with conflict. Key elements of the Total Conflict Management System include: resolution triage assessments; early resolution meetings between parties; facilitated conversations between line managers, employee representatives and HR; structured mediation; buddying and conflict coaching.

A team of 17 advisers were recruited from across the business to handle the triage and facilitated conversations. They act as the first port of call for staff with a problem. If necessary, the issue is then referred to one of 20 in-house mediators drawn from across the business.

Between July 2018 and April 2019 the company saw an 11% decrease in the number of cases being raised, with 71% resolved through an informal process such as a facilitated conversation or early triage.


After winning the contract to deliver the new 4G mobile network for the emergency services, Ericsson needed to transform its field workforce to ensure it was able to meet the project’s objectives. The changes saw a third of its field engineers leave the organisation between 2016 and 2018 and the recruitment of more than 120 staff into a new field operative role.

Working with trade unions, it drew up a voluntary redundancy process and an agreement for exiting field engineers to support new field operatives during their first six to 12 weeks in their role. The business worked to accommodate all redundancy requests across the UK, even if the mix in teams of existing and new employees wouldn’t be ideal in the first 12-18 months.

All leavers received outplacement support, financial adviser support, and a training package to help plan for the next stage in their career or to retire with a clear understanding of their finances.

Ericsson also introduced a six month induction plan for field operatives and brought in training for all field staff to support the delivery of the emergency services network. Topics included understanding satellite backhaul to enhanced power generators for off-grid locations.

The changing requirements of the network and feedback from staff around the career paths available  also resulted the introduction of two new roles: lead engineer and field technician.

The change programme has seen the average age of its field workforce drop from 47 to 43, improved coverage of field workers across the UK and a retention rate in excess of 90%.

One Housing

Following the appointment of a new chief executive and director of people and change, both of whom wanted to modernise the business, housing association One Housing launched its One Future programme to regain some of the identity it had lost in pursuit of commercial goals.

Its 2017 employee survey revealed that its vision and values were not the right fit, so One Housing held workshops with more than 400 employees and residents to determine new ones. These helped shape the One Future programme.

The programme covered three themes: improving access to technology and data, making One Housing a more collaborative environment, and ensuring processes help staff perform at their best and in a customer-focused way.

An internal resource was created to help review processes. This team was seconded from around the business into a People and Change team, which meant there was no over-reliance on costly external consultants and the skills gained during the process were retained in the organisation.

After previous change programmes had failed largely due to poor communications, information centres were formed across the organisation to ensure every employee was kept informed of the changes. They also allowed staff to track progress and see what each department was working on.

Ninety-nine per cent of managers confirmed they understood the aims of One Future and 97% said could articulate the focus areas to their teams. The successful roll out of new equipment, technology and modern ways of working has enabled One Housing to move offices to a smaller space, saving around £2 million annually.

Southern Water

Southern Water employs 2,500 people and supplies 541 million litres of drinking water to customers’ taps every day. In the face of an Ofwat price review and challenging operational and financial performance targets, the firm needed to reduce operational costs by 10% across corporate functions and significantly improve performance.

Its vision for the future included reducing customers’ water bills, becoming brilliant at “the basics” and building a resilient water network for the South East. Part of this involved reinvigorating the maintenance strategy; improving job flow and job management; improving “connections” across teams and improving solution-development capability.

Firstly, the leadership team came up with some core principles for the project, which included: clarifying roles and accountabilities; designing the future state of the business with a focus on end-to-end processes; delivering a clear sign-off process for the changes and driving a fair and transparent consultation process.

Once the principles were clear, the HR team then helped functional leaders to design new ways of working, incorporating feedback and ideas from teams. Unions and internal employee consultations groups were included in the process from the outset.

To ensure everybody was on board with the changes it provided a constant stream of information to staff through employee representation groups, unions, regulators and news outlets. Transition plans for each area were communicated and revised competency models and a leadership development plan were introduced.

The company has since seen operational expenditure reduced by up to 50% within corporate functions, engagement increase by 10% and a 21% reduction in customer complaints in 2017/18.

Wates Group

In 2016 construction business Wates Group, which employs around 4,000 people, announced a bold ambition to achieve a zero harm working environment by 2020. Although it was already in the top 10 for health and safety performance in the UK construction industry, it wanted to eliminate the attitude that “accidents are inevitable” and move towards a viewpoint that “accidents should never happen”.

The result was a strategy called “We’re Safer Together”, which was developed in partnership with consultancy Lane4. It was rolled-out via business-wide communications, eye-catching visuals, safety prompts via an app and workshops designed to shift behaviours and mind set.

Part of the programme was a two-day leadership workshop called “We’re Safer Together – Lead the Change!”. More than 560 leaders have so far attended the sessions, which challenge leaders continually reflect on what they learn about safety and apply it to their own leadership behaviour. They also identify personal “bold commitments” – actions and behaviours to drive zero harm.

This was coupled with a similar “Drive the Change!” one-day workshop for managers, which gives real-life examples of health and safety issues and toolkits on health habits to ensure behavioural change is embedded. So far more than 350 managers have attended.

To ensure engagement, 10% of bonuses are based on safety-related metrics. Every year as part of the chairman’s awards, employees nominate a person or team who has gone the extra mile to ensure zero harm.

Since 2016 lost time accidents have reduced by 70% and the target lost time injury rate of below 0.100 was achieved two years early. More than 250,000 safety observations have been made via the app.

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