Our employees are key to our success. We work hard to both recruit and develop the right calibre of people.
It is essential that we understand how our people feel about us as a business, the jobs they perform, the benefits we offer and support they receive. This is critical if we are to continue to make improvements. We undertake an annual survey and feedback the results to everyone. We regularly report our successes to the workforce. We have an active engagement process with the recognised Trades Unions regarding terms and conditions and have a network of Health and Safety representatives and Union Learning Representatives supporting the various activities.
Having people with the right knowledge and skill to carry out their role is integral to the success of the business and to keep our customers happy with the service they receive. To help us achieve this, we invest significantly in comprehensive and effective training and development for all our people. We have a detailed performance management process for managers to ensure that the objectives of our employees are aligned with the business challenges, and that their behaviours match what we expect of them.
As a business we are striving to ensure that we have a workforce and customer base that is a mix of people that reflects society today. We have specific aims and objectives and associated targets to help us achieve this. We believe the key is to engage the hearts and minds of employees, customers and stakeholders alike, fostering a culture where people respect each other and that is entirely consistent with our business values and behaviours.
We know that our employees are our most important resource, so providing a healthy, safe and energising work environment is paramount. We have a programme of investment to improve employee facilities across the estate, with better design and layout leading to more conducive working and relaxing environments. We encourage healthier lifestyles by supporting a better work/life balance as well as offering support, either occupational health schemes or through benefits such as reduced gym membership/bike purchase.
Our employees are vital to help us deliver many of our business aims and objectives, be they environmental, community, people, safety or health and wellbeing focussed. We actively encourage the use of champions who act as the local focal point for the various activities. They are involved in developing projects and campaigns and are essential to embed change within the business. We also encourage employees to become involved in supporting community activity and honour employees that go beyond the call of duty.
Our employees had a very successful 2011.
Bob Smith, a Driver Team Manager from Skipton won the 'Outstanding Personal Contribution' award at the 2011 National Rail Awards.
Mark Barker Client and Stakeholder Manager for the North West, was praised for his 40 years' railway experience by being 'highly commended' in the Outstanding Personal Contribution category at the National Rail Awards.
Angela Thompson, a station supervisor from Garforth was awarded our highest honour in customer service at the 2011 Northern Stars event.
We started the Made to Measure leadership programme in 2009 and we have ensured that it remains a key part of our current leadership development framework. Targeting middle to senior leaders, the programme raises self awareness to enable participants to identify the areas of personal effectiveness to be improved as well as existing strengths which will help them do this. In 2011, 32 middle and senior leaders participated in the programme. The programme continues to address both personal and business needs with common areas of progress being around self confidence and workload planning, and being able to lead teams to support the challenges of the business.
We operate an 'Educational Sponsorship' scheme to help cover costs and fees for external courses and qualifications, as part of our commitment to lifelong learning. In 2011, Northern funded £45k in educational sponsorship. Qualifications included Nebosh Diploma, CIPD, CIPS, IRO and BA (Hons) Leadership and Management. Such support for our employees' professional development is well received - employees receive a qualification which is transferable throughout their careers and we receive the benefits of improved performance and application of best practice from a range of fields.
We run 'Coaching for Success' courses for managers. As part of the training we invited volunteers to come along and be coached by the trainees. The course enables managers to proactively support the performance and development of their people by helping them to find their own approaches and solutions which really work for them. The programme is part of a wider initiative to promote both employee and leadership development and to unlock the potential of our people.
Members of the Northern Ethnicity in AcTion forum (NEAT) took part in a range of media opportunities to engage the Black and Minority Ethnic audience in service provision while promoting Northern as a local employer. Colleagues attended a live TV interview on the Islamic UK-based Noor TV channel (broadcasting throughout Europe, Africa, Middle East and many parts of Asia) where they hosted a number of questions from the TV audience, as well as taking part in a slot hosted by Rochdale's own community station, Crescent Radio.
Think of a stereotypical 'train driver' and traditionally it conjures up images of young boys playing with mechanical train sets. However we are working hard to change that perception. We have seen a record number of women apply for our train driver vacancies between 2011 and 2012, with an increase from 5 to 17% in the number of female applicants putting themselves forward to drive trains across the North of England.
Two members of our Safety and Assurance team spent two years preparing for a 250km sledding experience in the Arctic. Their preparations included both physical fitness and raising £8,000 for Barnardo's with a whole range of activities including raffles, bucket collections, a charity gig and even a naked calendar. The challenge saw them spending up to 14 hours a day sledding. Every evening they had to make camp, tend to their huskies and make dinner before finally getting some sleep in the minus 30 degree temperatures.