Our first Group-wide employee satisfaction survey was undertaken in 2010, giving a benchmark for measuring future changes in satisfaction. Over 85,000 employees responded with an average response rate of 67%. We will be repeating the survey this financial year.
The results showed levels of engagement lower than industry benchmarks for much of the business and we have been working hard to address the key issues raised. These were:
- Development and communication of direction, vision and values.
- Supervisory and management behaviours, capability and knowledge.
- Customer service skills and information.
During the year we have made good progress in improving communication and manager visibility. We have not yet conducted a further Group-wide survey, but follow-up surveys in UK Rail and small test surveys undertaken in First Student suggest our actions have had a positive impact. Limited follow-up surveys at four locations in UK Bus suggest that this division still has some way to go in improving satisfaction.
- First Student has increased opportunities for location employees to feed back on how systems and processes can be improved. An Engineering Group intranet site has been launched to promote networking and increase collaboration between locations and have held management briefing roadshows. Pulse surveys taken after the roadshows suggest they improved both support for the company and understanding of our business aims.
- First Transit has held General Manager regional conferences to improve networking and share best practice. The events include an awards ceremony which recognises exceptional employees.
- Greyhound executives have conducted roadshows in Canada. In the US a video developed with senior leaders reviews progress made on business initiatives.
- In UK Bus we have significantly increased the focus of directors and managers at all levels on engagement and communication. We have launched staff magazines and bulletins, opened up more opportunities for staff to feed back to managers, introduced job chats and worked on clearer communication of the division's aspirations and commitments. However, limited follow-up surveys suggest that further work is required in these areas of management and communication to drive sustained improvements in engagement.
- In our Rail division managers now spend more time communicating with their teams about company direction, goals and plans. A follow-up employee engagement survey in 2011 showed a 4% score increase compared with the 2010 survey, mainly due to a perceived change in management and leadership styles and behaviours.
In addition, we have enhanced our management and customer service training. Further details can be found in training and development.
Freedom of association
We remain fully committed to freedom of association as set out in our Code of Business Conduct. The majority of our employees are represented by trade unions (over 90% in the UK and 62.8% in North America). In North America union membership is determined by a location rather than the individual. Our employees are free to choose whether they wish their location to be represented by a trade union through secret ballot. We now have one of the highest levels of union membership in the private sector in North America.
Our operating companies support the system of collective bargaining. Management operates an open door policy and functional heads meet with trade union officials regularly as well as holding quarterly joint consultative forums.
We have a procedure for dispute resolutions across all our businesses allowing employees to raise freedom of association issues. In North America we have an in-house compliance monitoring programme covering these issues.
Recognition and rewards
Our rewards and recognition programmes are advertised throughout the company. In the UK a 'My Rewards' website allows employees to buy discounted travel tickets, view share scheme benefits and check and update personal details. The online platform has contributed to an 83% increase in bus ticket purchase by employees. Approximately 30% of employees participate in share plans, whose performance is shared on a monthly basis. In North America our programmes go beyond the norm and are available to both full- and part-time workers.
We recognise our employees for their contribution to the success of the business through a range of award schemes at local, regional and national level. Examples include the First Student Presidential Awards of Excellence, Greyhound Faces of Excellence, our Superstars awards in the UK and national safety and environmental awards.
This year we publicly reaffirmed our commitment to increasing employee engagement by becoming a member of the UK Government's Employee Engagement Task Force - Engaging for Success.
"Engaging for Success is a movement involving a number of organisations who are committed to the idea that there is a better way to work, a better way to enable personal growth, organisational growth and ultimately growth for Britain by releasing more of the capability and potential of people at work. FirstGroup is proud to be part of this movement and we look forward to sharing best practice with our peers."
John Evans, HR Director, FirstGroup
In the UK we encourage employee participation in the management of the business. We have Employee Directors (Directors voted for by the employees to represent them) on many UK company boards and the plc Board.
"Employee directors are a central part of the company's decision making process. Employee related issues are able to be raised at the very highest level and the employee director plays a vital role in ensuring our two way communication process is effective. What's more, giving employees a voice around the top table enables us to have a far better understanding of strategic objectives and the measures the company might take to achieve them."
Mick Barker, Employee Group Director