Effective Implementation Through Employee Engagement
According to a Gallup’s 2013 “State of the American Workplace” Report, approximately 70% of employees are disengaged, resulting in lost productivity, poor customer service and safety performance. Gallup estimates the cost of lost productivity at $3,400 for every $10,000 of payroll.
Although there are many variables for effective execution of change in organizations, employee engagement is pivotal.
In 2016, The Wathen Group (TWG) conducted a Safety Culture Assessment and Rail Operational Review of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority (LA Metro) rail system – both light rail and heavy rail — to assess its culture and operations. A key part of the operational review was an analysis of the red signal violations over a two-year period and to gauge the level of employee engagement and assess the organization’s culture particularly focused upon attitudes and behaviors related to safety.
Utilizing our team’s experience in advising on industry best practices and innovative culture frameworks to establish effective metrics, the assessment included:
- A comparison of employee feedback from present day to previous surveys
- Analysis of policies and procedures with regard to Human Resources
- American Public Transportation Association (APTA) peer recommendations
- Interviews with key Rail Operations managers and agency leadership
- Nearly twenty employee focus groups
- A review of current technologies and how to mitigate for inconsistent operations
- Field observations at various facilities and along the rail lines with Operations and Maintenance to analyze operating rules and procedures along with planned revisions.
Once the above assessments were concluded, we used Dr. Reason’s Safety Culture Framework, a methodology used across industries, to determine at what stage the organization was in — having learning, just, flexible and reporting cultures that, when well-developed, create an informed culture which contributes to a strong safety culture.
The study conducted for the Office of the Inspector General resulted in over 150 findings and recommendations that included changes in technological support, technical processes, organizational management policies and practices, and employee engagement.
The report was so well received that LA Metro’s COO requested that TWG provide technical and management guidance to address and implement the recommendations in order to build a positive safety culture with a focus on systemic organizational change.
Starting with a workshop in 2017 to review the report’s recommendations, TWG facilitated a session for approximately thirty senior employees within the Operations department to review the findings, rank areas of priority action, and form Action Plan teams in order to brainstorm solutions and implementation plans to address the recommendations.
Not only did such a workshop help to create buy-in, but a Steering Committee was also formed that included the heads of several departments who committed to overseeing the process in order to keep momentum and showcase the leadership commitment.
Following that workshop, TWG’s Project Manager and Subject Matter Experts supported the cultural change efforts and technical changes by using a strategic process that created integrated, cross-departmental teams to develop and to implement action plans addressing the recommendations involving key areas that included:
- Signal Installations,
- Building Capacity,
- Corporate Communications,
- Operating Rules,
- Operating Practices and Procedures, and
- Incident and Accident Reporting.
The ultimate collaborative process included nearly 100 staff members, working to close out the recommendations in a formal capacity that included sign off from ‘Executive Sponsors’ who acknowledged the mitigating actions each team took along with the documentation supporting efforts.
Based on the implementation of nearly 80% of the report’s recommendations within 12 months, not only did LA Metro see a decrease in red signal violations, but the organization’s 2017 employee survey, following our implementation, showed an increase in employees acknowledging they follow workplace safety rules and procedures (68% in 2012 vs. 78% in 2017 responding “Very closely to somewhat closely”) and that they are provided with useful safety training (62% in 2012 vs. 80% in 2017 responding “Overall training was excellent / good).
As a result, LA Metro’s Operations Department is now using this new process for working on implementing additional multidiscipline recommendations and more complex issues facing their operations in a fast-paced, rapidly expanding rail system.
Greg Kildare, Chief Risk, Safety & Asset Management Officer at LA Metro also presented an overview of the work at the 2018 APTA conference with a session called Reinforcing a Safety Culture Through Safety Assurance and Deborah Wathen Finn, President of The Wathen Group co-authored an article for APTA’s Passenger Transport with the COO, James Gallagher.