High Speed 2 (HS2) 

HS2 is Britain’s new high speed rail line being built from London to the North-West, with HS2 trains linking the biggest cities in Scotland, Manchester, Birmingham and London. It is the largest infrastructure project in Europe and the most important economic and social regeneration project for the UK in decades.

Major civil engineering works are now well underway, with £23 billion contracted into the supply chain and over 350 active sites between Crewe, the West Midlands and London, supporting almost 30,000 jobs, including over 1,100 apprentices.

HS2 is now entering peak construction between the West Midlands and London, with early works underway between Birmingham and Crewe and the hybrid Bill to extend the line to Manchester progressing through Parliament.

How is your organisation putting the principles of employee engagement at the heart of its people strategy?

HS2’s Employee Engagement strategy is focused on three primary objectives:

  1. Improve the overall hire to retire ‘inclusive’ employee experience, underpinned by solid theory, including the Engage for Success 4 engagement enablers
  2. Develop an open and honest ‘employee voice’ culture with the use of an innovative employee survey cycle, using the latest industry knowledge and benchmarking, networks, and employee forums
  3. Enhance the existing values award programme and HS2 mission ‘to deliver the best railway in the best way’ – to be at the heart of everything we do

The strategy is designed around the key principles of employee engagement and focuses on the following areas:

  • Appointing an external employee engagement provider to deliver an agile engagement survey platform with intuitive real-time data
  • Producing people science reports from the survey feedback that align to our business performance diagnostics, e.g., turnover, sickness, performance
  • Delivering engagement surveys throughout the employee lifecycle, i.e., hire to retire, to measure the ‘moments that matter’ and identify areas of improvement
  • Introducing an effective comms and engagement plan
  • Enabling Line Managers to take ownership for engagement (and not HR), with support and development
  • Encouraging Line Managers to discuss survey feedback and agree action plans with their teams, and respond with ‘you said we did’ initiatives
  • Utilising our Values Champions to deliver quarterly Values event weeks by way of responding to survey feedback and aligning to our employee value proposition model (feeling cared for, connected, invested in, empowered and have a purpose)

Strategic Narrative

Our Mission to deliver the best railway in the best way is at the heart of everything we want to achieve, and the values are what underpins this.

Employee voice has also informed us there was a disconnect around people’s understanding of the mission and how they contribute to it. Our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) have since worked with their teams to create their own mission statements and goals, which feed into the overall company mission.

HS2’s progress, mission, performance updates and actions are communicated via regular All Staff events with our Exec, a monthly CEO newsletter and a manager’s monthly newsletter.

All people related changes are proposed through an internal people governance board and communicated via our employee representatives (an employee voice forum) and SLT.

We have 8 Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Networks, all of which are sponsored by a member of our SLT. These networks provide a confidential forum for people to talk openly about their challenges and discuss ways to improve this.

At HS2 everyone is encouraged to be themselves at work. Our Head of EDI and Networks run an Allies Programme which encourages everyone to be an ‘ally’ by getting involved and showing their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

We run a series of women in leadership events, whereby our leaders talk about their career journeys, challenges, and advice. We have recently introduced an Employee Value Proposition model which highlights what HS2 has to offer existing and potential employees. The model focuses on five success factors: cared for, connected, purpose, invested and empowered. This is promoted throughout all people initiatives and has its own page on our intranet. Each business area is creating their own mission delivery statement with team engagement. These will then be used to create interactive ‘workmats’ which start with the HS2 mission and then it moves on to individuals and gives guidance on goal setting. The aim is for people to see the connection between the company and department mission, through to their own objectives.

Engaging Managers

Our recruitment process aligns to our values and a behaviour framework. We also utilise an anonymous approach to recruitment to ensure we are fully inclusive.

Line Managers are invited to attend a Management and/or Leadership Discovery programme when they join HS2, where they learn different management and leaderships skills to help them to stretch, coach and engage with their team members.

Our EDI team facilitates a reverse mentoring programme where anyone in the organisation (including graduates and apprentices) can mentor a senior leader.

Based on continuous employee feedback, new and/or existing people policies are produced or updated, and updates are shared with line managers where relevant.

Survey feedback showed that employees felt confused by the hybrid working model. HS2 listened and acted on this feedback and implemented a new hybrid working approach. This has empowered managers to manage the process flexibly and according to their deliverables.

Performance Management line manager training sessions are delivered periodically through out the year and then at year end to ensure managers are comfortable with the process and encourage open and 2-way constructive feedback.

As with all employees, managers have access to a whole host of management courses on Government Campus, our internal Oracle training library and the Learning Space. For any specific management courses or qualifications, the training need analysis is completed.

In response to survey feedback, there are plans to roll out Line Manager engagement toolkits which will be supported by a short workshop.

Employee Voice

HS2 has implemented an agile engagement survey platform that enables ‘employee voice’ from hire to retire. We deliver a maximum of 2 engagement surveys each year. Topics are related to all in-flight employee experiences, such as leadership, culture, health, safety and wellbeing, empowerment, reward, etc.  

Qualitative and quantitative survey feedback is analysed by our engagement provider and we co-present the people science reports to each business directorate, usually 2 weeks after the survey closing. This demonstrates that HS2 are taking engagement seriously and action planning is essential to show ‘you said we did’ initiatives.

Survey analysis has not only supported the engagement strategy and KPIs but it has also contributed towards HS2 being the first to secure Clear Assured Platinum Standard for equality and diversity.

Our engagement provider support with HS2’s goal to measure the correlation between employee engagement, people demographics (including protected characteristics) and business performance diagnostics e.g., absence, turnover and performance.

Other than engagement surveys, we run ‘on demand polls’ which are focussed on specific groups of employees, departments, or topics relevant to business need.

We also obtain employee voice feedback from our networks, employee representatives, focus groups, future of work forum, employee experience working group, employee value proposition working group, all staff events, general employee activity or initiatives, our Intranet site and via our Internal Comms inbox.

We are in the process of transitioning our basic onboarding and exit survey process to our engagement survey platform which will enable trending and benchmarking.

Organisational Integrity

At HS2 our values are far more than words; they are the golden thread we expect all our people to always display when representing the HS2 brand. In fact, employee surveys tell us that 97% of employees understand the values and 85% live them.

To kickstart the HS2 values journey, we have a behavioural framework and values handbook. The purpose of the behavioural framework is to articulate and define the desired behaviours HS2 want to drive, not only by its employees but also its leaders.

The employee values handbook brings to life the desired behaviours in a meaningful way, with worked examples and case studies. New starters receive a digital copy as part of their onboarding journey and it is also shared with our supply chain.

We introduced the Values Moment initiative in 2019, where at the start of any HS2 meeting one person shares a personal story that’s linked to one or more values and resonates with the audience. This practice has been led from the top-down and has been pivotal in these values forming part of our culture.

Our Values Award nomination programme was introduced in 2019. The programme encourages employees to nominate their colleagues and recognise exemplary standards and behaviours that reflect our core values. The awards are designed to recognise and publicise the very best in behaviours – from inspiring teams and colleagues, to building a culture built around respecting others and putting safety at the absolute heart of what we do. End of quarter winners are invited to an exec lunch and end of year winners are celebrated at our HS2 annual conference.

We recruit Values Champions from each business area every year to help support the programme and bring the values to life each quarter.

In 2020, we started delivering inclusive Values Weeks where we provide events that focus on our Values and more recently, our employee engagement survey feedback and the five EVP success factors. These have proved to be highly successful and receive in the region of 1500 attendees during the week.

Lisa Mohabeersingh
Senior Employee Engagement Manager

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