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How can businesses engage employees and deliver growth for all?

Rachel Baldwin, Arriva

Arriva Bus UK realised from the outset of the economic downturn how important it was to engage our employees — our most important asset — to communicate the actions we needed to take to overcome trading difficulties. In the UK, Arriva employs around 26,000 people – three quarters of whom are employees of Arriva UK Bus – and operates over 6,000 buses and almost 400 trains.

Between 2010 and 2012 a combination of higher fuel prices, changes to rates for fares, and reduced footfall in many high streets created difficult trading conditions. Our challenge was to keep our employees motivated and engaged to deliver high levels of customer service whilst maintaining our revenue during the recession.

“Our challenge was to keep our employees motivated and engaged to deliver high levels of customer service whilst maintaining our revenue during the recession.”

To tackle this we developed a programme called “the Big Picture” which every employee took part in. This was an interactive session that enabled our people to discuss how our long term strategy, business objectives and plans were being delivered, and explained the shorter term challenges facing the business, the financial realities and how we were adjusting to the economic conditions. 

The Big Picture sessions were designed to engage employees with these challenges in a fun, compelling and participative manner. The opportunity for conversation in mixed groups helped people make sense of the changes needed in the business and provide shared goals as a focal point for discussions.

“This different, innovative and ambitious approach has provided the Arriva UK Bus division with a platform for growth to the benefit of our employees and customers.”

This different, innovative and ambitious approach has provided the Arriva UK Bus division with a platform for growth to the benefit of our employees and customers. Following the Big Picture sessions our employee survey showed that the percentage of employees who were aware of what the company wanted to achieve in the next 12 months increased to 67% an increase of 34%. Additionally, employee survey results showed 84% of employees understood how their work contributed to the company’s goals.

Three years on and our strategy has evolved, so to continue to keep our employees informed of the strategic aims of the business, we have now launched our second interactive Big Picture tool centred around a giant jigsaw. Again this was a highly participative and engaging session in which employees could build on their understanding of how they contributed to the business both individually and within their teams, therefore linking their work with the ‘big picture’.


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