Leading transport provider engages 19,000 employees in new vision and strategy

arrive logo effectively communicating business strategy case study

Key facts and figures

Business priorities: Communicating Business Strategy
Sector: Transport provision
Lead contact: People and Change Director
Employees in the picture: 19,000 people
Locations: Europe
Lead time to launch day: 5 months


“We have received an excellent response to the sessions and materials within the business. In one region alone, the customer complaints due to driver attitudes reduced by over 50% following the introduction of the sessions.”

HR Director, Arriva

Our client’s challenge

Arriva is one of the largest providers of passenger transport in Europe, employing more than 60,000 people and delivering more than 2.2 billion passenger journeys across 14 European countries each year.

Arriva operate a wide range of services including local buses, inter-urban commuter coaches, local, regional and national train services, trams and light rail, waterbuses, demand response, and non-emergency patient transport. Arriva is part of Deutsche Bahn (DB) and is responsible for DB’s regional passenger transport services outside Germany.

It was a challenging time for Arriva – public sector cuts, the takeover by Deutsche Bahn, and the impact of increased unemployment and people having less disposable income on patronage. But there is also a huge opportunity – for a significant number of people, the bus is replacing the car for some if not all journeys – due to cost, convenience and environmental pressures. In addition, some competitors are struggling. To take maximum advantage of the potential, Arriva Bus needed all 19,000 employees to be truly committed.

Arriva wanted to engage all 19,000 UK employees in the overall business strategy and to inspire them to want to actively participate in the achievement of the company goals. Effectively communicating the business strategy was vital. The internal communication programme was unique in UK public transport and provided a personal stimulus to all our people, drivers and directors alike. They knew from a previous employee survey that only 34% of employees were aware of what the company wanted to achieve in the next 12 months.

Arriva knew that enabling participation from every employee in defining what needed to change at a local level and understanding the role they each play would gain greater levels of loyalty and reduce resistance to new ways of working. With 19,000 people working in service of our common goal they knew that would have a far greater opportunity for success. By effectively communicating the business strategy they could enable employee ownership.

Once the key strategic pillars were determined, the most appropriate communication and engagement tool was determined.  Arriva chose to work with The Big Picture People to create a pictorial representation of the Why, the What and the How the strategy could come to life.  This formed the heart of the Learning Map that was developed.

Our solution and results

The Arriva UK Bus story had to reach every employee in a compelling, fun and interactive way. It had to be in an accessible form of language and allow the opportunity for sense-making, small group, leader-led conversations to happen at all levels within the business. This was critical – a conference speech would not enable the level of discussion and conversation that we needed to grow trust and commitment or to generate ideas and enthusiasm for what could be possible in their local environments.

“Would drivers and employees be interested?” And “Would they understand it?” were other questions raised requiring explanation of the further validation to convince the senior team that lower levels of academic qualification were not a barrier to participate or to contribute to the delivery of the company strategy. The Big Picture tool and exercises woven into the workshop enabled this to be accessible to all employees no matter what level.

To ensure consistency in message on the key points, a comprehensive facilitators’ guide was produced to aid the leaders as they took part in three hour workshops with 8-10 employees at a time. The construction of the picture itself and facilitators’ pack/materials in draft form were key milestones to enable pilot sessions with a variety of teams at different levels around the business.

The first delivery milestone was with the Arriva Leadership Forum where eight senior UK leaders facilitated a strategy session with groups of directors. Each of the 40 directors present then took this to their business regions with a milestone to engage all manager and supervisor levels within four months and all employees within 12 months. The approach to line manager cascade rather than a project team “doing” the workshop to the business was critical for the success of the programme, not someone who the group did not know. After discussions concerning the power of role modeling behaviours, and personal commitments being made with local managers, it was agreed to cascade this through the business supported by additional facilitation workshops as necessary.

Reaching all drivers in a cost effective and efficient way has resulted in a longer rollout programme linked to the Certificate of Professional Competence training.

As stated before, in an earlier employee survey only 34% of employees were aware of what the company wanted to achieve in the next 12 months. Following the roll-out of the Big Picture initiative and Learning Map, in a subsequent employee survey, across the board, the percentage of employees aware of what the company wanted to achieve in the next 12 months had increased to 67% – a fantastic 33% uplift.

These results are made even more impressive by some of the challenges Arriva had to overcome. The initial challenge posed by the business was in accepting such a radical move from the traditional “conference” style managers’ briefings where 250 managers would be herded together in a room, talked at for a day and then expected to pass the messages through their business with comments such as “it will not work in a bus garage”. A field trip to a client of The Big Picture People helped to convince the leadership team of the idea.

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