5 Minutes With

Greater Anglia

Real world insights on Change Readiness from the Top Business Leaders of Today.


Greater Anglia is a train operating company in Great Britain. It provides train services between London and across the East Anglia region, running over 1300 trains a day serving 132 stations with a team of over 2800 people. In the competitive rail environment, characterised by franchises, having a strong vision for change is crucial for continued success.

Changing Point had a sit down with their Head of Learning and Talent Development, Dawn Robinson, to hear all about how they have continued to communicate such a strong vision throughout times of change.

Q: How do you create a shared understanding of organisational purpose across a geographically widespread workforce, including the most remote areas?

  • dawn-robinson

    – “There are multiple forums that we use. It is challenging, because not only do we have remote workers, but we also have shift workers. We have a number of communication tools such as our intranet, weekly newsletters, and e-mail, which we use to reach these different groups.

    We also have a performance management system that is very aligned with our vision and purpose in order to communicate what we are trying to achieve as an organisation. Every employee is given the opportunity to have open conversations with their managers to help bring that ‘line of sight’, so that they understand their part in achieving these goals and how their role is linked to the big picture. This is also one of the many elements that we measure on our employee engagement surveys, to assess how connected people are feeling to our organisation’s vision.

    In the context of our current changes, we have been utilising extra forums like booklets, management conferences, and road shows, where our MD and Directors will go out to depots throughout the UK to further connect with people and communicate latest news and updates.

    With such a disperse employee base, we rely on constant and consistent communication through multiple forums, and a trust in our managers and leaders to actively role model and demonstrate our vision. But we are constantly trying to improve our methods as well. The point of our engagement surveys is to make sure we are always searching for the areas that aren’t feeling aligned so that we can take action to re-build that connection.”

Q: What steps do you take to ensure there is continued alignment towards Greater Anglia’s vision during periods of change?

  • dawn-robinson

    – “There has been a lot of change for Greater Anglia over the last five years. In August 2016, we retained the East Anglia rail franchise. This was initially a short-term franchise from 2012 to 2016. The new franchise will now run until 2025, and this brings a number of revised requirements and responsibilities for the business to deliver.

    While we are officially a year into our latest franchise, we recognise that it’s still very important to ensure there is continued alignment across the business towards the obligations we are committed to deliver for the Department for Transport. We provide clarity through regular communications to each department. We now have a culture programme that is helping us embed the changes and challenge old behaviours and mind-sets. Understanding that this doesn’t happen overnight, the programme re-visits what the change means, key priorities to focus on for best results, and provides channels of communication to ask for help. We also ensure that everyone in the business is aware of our KPI measurements, and we entrust our managers and leaders to track and monitor with their teams.

    So again, we are using multiple forums, the newest being our online learning tool/platform called FUSE. This is a pivotal tool for us to use in embedding new behaviours over time. It’s important to make sure you are looking at the level of understanding and buy-in at each level within your organisation. You can’t offer a one-size-fits all approach, because people will handle change differently and travel along that change journey at different paces. This is where continued development and support comes into play.”

Q: How have talent development programmes for your future leaders – such as Grow* – helped you to deliver your vision and organisational goals?

  • dawn-robinson

    – “Lots of ways really. One of the things that we learned about ourselves as a company through these recent changes is that we depend quite heavily on our managers and leaders to deliver the change vision and make it a reality within their teams. So, we needed to stop assuming that everyone was up for the job and actually put steps in place to ensure it.
    Developing our future leaders across the business – in stations, at depots and across offices –helps spread the change vision. We know it’s really hard to deliver one change message from HQ in a way that will resonate across all of our different business areas. So, developing our leaders at different levels of the business with the skills to confidently deliver clear and compelling communications to their teams, and lead on driving change, allows them to go back and build a shared understanding of the change message and key deliverables. It also provides them with the opportunity to grow personally and empowers them to take ownership of their role.

    Our engagement surveys show that the leaders who participate in these programmes are significantly more engaged than non-participants. So that attention, focus, and investment we’re making in them, and they’re making in themselves, is showing in areas like; higher performance, higher retention, and increased internal promotions – which will only be of benefit to us when it comes to delivering the longer-term change vision and organisational goals.”

Q: What current and future leadership attitudes and behaviours are key to the success of your business during times of change?

  • dawn-robinson

    – “It’s easy to say things like positivity, but it’s deeper than that. You need your leaders to be open to change and natural drivers for it. One of our biggest challenges at the moment is that people are resistant to change because there is simply too much, so they won’t engage because they assume ‘it won’t last.’ We need our people to look for the opportunities that change can bring. For example, in a situation where a role may be changing, the ideal response is to embrace it and ask, “What can I do to better myself, so that I can move into a role with the Greater Anglia?” It’s important that our leaders lead by example and challenge themselves to learn new skills and continue their own development. Future leaders with increased self-awareness and openness to learn are essential to successful organisational change.

    Rail is a very traditional industry and can be resistant to change and modern advances. But what we have learned and started to embrace at Greater Anglia is that innovation is critical to moving forward for a successful future. Being innovative is a new concept in rail in many ways, so we are focusing on empowering our employees to embrace these new ideas and be proactive in looking for ways to support each other.”

Q: What is your top piece of advice for other companies looking to deliver a clear and compelling vision through change?

  • dawn-robinson

    – “It’s all about how you communicate it. Know why you are doing it before you dive in, be sure of the purpose and benefit of change. Knowing this from the very beginning really helps so that when change hits, people have clarity and answers for all the details and facts impacting on them. So being able to explain the benefits and their role in the journey will help in the transition. Don’t be afraid to answer the ‘obvious’ questions, because those are the ones that often unearth big assumptions.

    People want clarity, and that will build trust in the vision.”

*Grow Fast Track to Leadership and Grow Step Up to Leadership were in-house talent development programmes for junior managers, designed and delivered by Changing Point. Changing Point has been shortlisted for the HR Distinction Award in Supplier-Led Innovation & Collaboration for our work with Greater Anglia on Grow. The programmes have also been shortlisted for Talent Management Awards by Personnel Today and the Training Journal. Read the full case study on our website here.