Network Rail, which owns and manages 17 of the biggest and busiest railway stations in the UK, is very much focused on its employees, claims Joe Van Valkenburgh, its IM director. “I want it to be an attractive place to work and to have a career,” he says.

“We may be bucking the outsourcing trend a little bit but I think you’ll see other people following our lead”
– Joe Van Valkenburgh, IM director, Network Rail

The company has been on a massive recruitment drive and has doubled the size of the organisation from 15,000 to 30,000 in under six months, and Van Valkenburgh tries to stay connected to his rapidly expanding team. “I personally send an email to every employee in IM every two weeks, and we have IM employee briefings every six months. We have very consistent communication.” In line with this, all 4,000 managers are going through communication training at a new £20 million facility in Coventry. He has also been trying to encourage remote working. “We had a home computing initiative, which had a 12 per cent take up.” In 2005 Network Rail rolled out XP to 19,000 desktops. “On the back of that we piggybacked a refresh of 8,000 new flat screens. We are improving the look and feel of the organisation because staff need to feel they work for a world-class organisation.” It also supported one of its other initiatives – reducing and standardising applications. “It allowed us to clean up a lot of applications. I want everyone working on the same software – a policy of a ‘one Network Rail’ way. We are an Oracle estate so we are continuously driving through Oracle applications, e-business, CRM, Oracle projects and P3E, which provides us with better reporting and better control. We will roll it out for rest of the company over the next couple of years.”

The company also plans an HR project around training and recruitment this year. “It’s a phased approach that allows us to do it with minimal risk,” says Van Valkenburgh.

In 2004 it made a strategic decision to bring maintenance inhouse. “We decided it was core to Network Rail and that we needed that knowledge inhouse. We had to connect up a lot of sites and we needed people to be productive from day one. It was a challenge but we delivered it under budget, on time and with no downtime to the business,” he says. In 2003 it inhoused the helpdesk. “We may be bucking the outsourcing trend a little bit but I think you’ll see other people following our lead.”