People, Pride & Passion

Well, this Northern lass has been living it up in London again … this time at the National Rail Awards 2014, held for the 15th year in succession at The Grosvenor Hotel on London’s Park Lane.

The largest crowd ever – 1280 of the Railway Family – turned out in their finery to celebrate, to quote Nigel Harris, the “fantastic railways that the Victorians bequeathed to us” and the people that make it happen each and every day on the front line.

Having watched the now traditional film clip of the railway itself in operation, and the events which have occurred over the past year – obviously this time including the dramatic scenes at Dawlish – and then applauded as the Awards were introduced and handed over to the successful nominees, I would sum this year’s event up with three words – People, Pride & Passion.

And in true Awards fashion, I shall deal with these in reverse order!

Since I started working in the Rail Sector a couple of years’ ago, I have been consistently overwhelmed by the level of passion that is evident in the people that work in this industry. Having been involved in many other sectors throughout my career, I have never before met people who are so enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, and how the impact of what they do ensures that the UK can go about its business … This was again in evidence at the National Rail Awards on Thursday night as we watched and heard about many examples of hard work, commitment, innovation and achievement against the odds, and against nature itself in the case of the events at Dawlish!

The other feeling that is so evident in the conversations I have on a day-to-day basis, and in the room last Thursday night is Pride. Pride in UK Rail plc despite the many issues and challenges that we face as an industry sector, and despite the fact that there are many areas which need focused improvement. We are proud to be part of a sector that delivers people to their destinations around Great Britain, on the safest railway in the world and with some of the best and most knowledgeable customer facing staff performing their roles in often difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible circumstances.

Which brings me to the key to it all … People. Of all the Awards that were given at the National Rail Awards 2014 the ones that received the most rapturous applause were those that recognised ‘outstanding personal contribution’. The Awards for both frontline and management employees of Britain’s Railways who have given stellar performance above and beyond the call of duty; those who have really and truly gone the extra mile. In fact, the Judges were spoilt for choice and therefore Matt Lenton, Neighbourhood Officer at Southern Railway and Peter Harding, Train Carer, also from Southern were joint winners of the ‘Outstanding Personal Contribution – Workforce’ category. Julie Davis, Station Manager for C2C took home the ‘Management’ Award, for her approach to leading her team and for significantly reducing the levels of sickness absence.

It has long been my belief, and my experience has borne it out, that People are the key to continually improving business performance. There are many organisations in many different sectors who proclaim that ‘their staff are their greatest asset’ … the businesses that put consistent actions behind these words are the ones which stand out to the customer as the ones to do business with, and to give your custom and loyalty to. But don’t take my word for it, the Service Profit Link, developed by the clever dudes at Harvard Business School put it quite well too …

People, Pride & Passion – that just about sums it up.