CAMPAIGNS: INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS - Railtrack sorts its signals out

Client: Railtrack Group plc

Client: Railtrack Group plc



PR Team: Hedron Consultancy



Campaign: Creation of a corporate internal communications programme



Timescale: June 1997-ongoing



Cost: pounds 650,000-pounds 700,000



By spring 1997, the British rail system had moved into private hands and

Railtrack had taken responsibility for operating the nation’s track

network. As Railtrack was now an established listed company on the Stock

Exchange, director of corporate affairs Philip Dewhurst decided the

company needed to address the internal impact of such changes.



Objectives



Railtrack has 10,500 employees, from signalmen to board level

managers.



At a regional level, there was already a local communications

infrastructure.



The challenge was to help employees on a national level adapt to the

challenges of becoming a radically different transport supplier and to

help them work with new audiences, such as industry regulators and

shareholders but, at the same time, uphold safety and efficiency.



Hedron and Railtrack began by establishing two communication

objectives.



The first was to ensure that every employee understood the new business

drivers (such as commercialisation and the regeneration of Britain’s

railways) within the organisation and how these would affect them.



The second was to create a structure whereby staff could offer input

about business performance. The overall strategy was to encourage modern

communication practice allowing employees to initiate communication and

be pro-active in discussions.



Tactics



One of the first projects for Railtrack following its flotation involved

holding a series of roadshows across the country. These were headed up

by board directors last July and addressed 10 per cent of staff.



Since October 1996, a company newspaper has been sent to employees at

their homes. Called Track Record, it gives a mixture of news and social

events.



Every office-based employee now has e-mail, and faxes have been

installed in 70 per cent of 1,100 signal boxes around the country.



Railtrack is split into seven zones and regional, one-page newsletters

are faxed or e-mailed on a regular basis covering current performance

issues.



In addition, board members and senior executives hold monthly

meetings.



Topics and key decisions from those meetings are passed down through the

company.



This year, Railtrack is developing proposals for two new communication

methods. The first is a magazine covering business issues affecting

Railtrack, such as industry regulation and training and development. The

second will create another forum for two-way communication with

employees through an intranet.



Results



A survey last year showed that staff satisfaction on communication

increased by 12 per cent, to 49 per cent. Hedron and Railtrack say they

have a long way to go to improve that rating. But the massive shift in

communication focus may pay off with a second survey next year.



Verdict



The task of refocusing Railtrack employees to understand their new

environment and to lessen the communication gulf is starting to pay

off.



Hedron believes last year’s roadshows involved too much one-way

communication.



Later this year, in August, a bigger version of roadshows will focus on

all seven Railtrack regions. The aim is to reach more than 50 per cent

of employees, involve more senior executive participation and encourage

two-way dialogue between management and employees.



The new Railtrack CEO Gerald Corbett has identified the importance of an

internal communications programme and next year its budget is set to

rise above pounds 1 million.



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