Following the success of its engagement programme on 2018, the Board decided to expand the range of events it holds to engage with more of the workforce.
UK workforce engagement event
Mike McKeon, a Non-Executive Director, attended the Company’s UK division headquarters in Birmingham where, after touring the coach station and customer service centre and receiving a presentation from the IT and digital teams, he hosted a roundtable discussion with a group of workers made up of drivers, vehicle technicians, coach station staff, bus revenue inspectors, and representatives of the UK customer service and UK IT and digital teams.
In view of the Group’s strategic priorities of growth, technology and excellence, which are often discussed in the Boardroom, the event was given a notional theme of ‘putting the customer first’ and discussions centred on how the UK division was putting the customer first in order to increase patronage and grow the UK bus and coach businesses through technology and excellence. Topics discussed included the new contactless ticketing technology on buses, the ‘NX Way’ philosophy of how contact centre staff are trained to provide customer service and the new IT applications being developed to improve the customer experience.
On the day, the discussions went wider to cover topics that the members of the workforce were keen to discuss, including how bodycams and DriveCam are making revenue inspectors and drivers feel safer at work and how the outsourcing of the UK datacentre is impacting people and the way they work. As Mr McKeon observed when he discussed the event with the Board: “While these latter topics were not ‘on point’, it demonstrates the success of the event that people are willing to talk openly about subjects that matter to them, which can inform the Board’s thinking and decision-making on these or similar matters”.
US workforce engagement event
The Chairman and Jane Kingston, a Non-Executive Director, attended a roundtable discussion with a group of workers from the Concord, California, school bus customer service centre. The group included drivers, vehicle technicians and supervisors. This event started from the premise of a more open agenda, with the workforce members attending invited to share their views generally on what they considered the Company did well and what it could do better. It also gave the Directors the opportunity to ask the workforce about the various safety and excellence programmes the Group had implemented over the last few years and the workforce the opportunity to ask Directors about the Company’s strategy and direction.
When reporting back to the Board on the event, Ms Kingston observed that “the members of the workforce participated in the event in a very open way, sharing their views about both positives and negatives”. She relayed some examples of the views shared, noting that drivers had praised the training they had received saying how well it had served them and that vehicle technicians had raised concerns about lack of spare parts but confirmed improvements were now being made. One of the Group’s major new excellence programmes was also discussed, and ideas were shared about how to communicate the rationale for the programme better, which prompted a Board discussion when the event was reported back to the Board. As Ms Kingston also observed: “It was lovely to hear from the school bus drivers that the best part of their job was looking after the children”.
Spanish workforce engagement event
Jorge Cosmen, the Deputy Chairman, hosted a roundtable discussion in Madrid with approximately 20 members of ALSA’s Spanish workforce, including drivers, service technicians, depot workers and sales agents who were drawn from multiple regions of Spain, from the North West to the Mediterranean. The event focused on seeking to answer the question: ‘are we living by our Values?’, with a particular focus on Customers and Safety Values. Members of the workforce shared their views on what ALSA does well with its customers and what can be improved, whether ALSA is considered a safe company by its customers and which features of ALSA’s services, in terms of both safety and comfort, are most valued by its customers. Recent technological developments were also discussed, such as the MiALSA app which ALSA uses as a means to communicate with its employees. Members of the workforce raised questions about matters of more individual concern to them and also asked Mr Cosmen about the Company’s strategy, including in regard to the Spanish concessions renewal process and international expansion.
As Mr Cosmen explained at the next following Board meeting: “I was pleased to see how deeply the commitment to safety is rooted in the business and that our workforce see safety, as we do as a Board, as a key way in which we differentiate ourselves from other transport providers. I was interested to learn about the different ways we are communicating with the workforce and how technology is making a difference even with this. I was also impressed by how aware our people are of the Company’s strategy and the risks and opportunities we face as a business”. Mr Cosmen also recommended these events to his fellow Non-Executive Directors, noting that “lots can be learned from them”.