Go North West is part of the Go-Ahead Group, one of five major groups involved in running buses in the UK. With over 550 staff, it runs an extensive network of routes across Greater Manchester and the surrounding area, recently winning franchise contracts to extend its network through the Bee Network.
John Roxburgh · Head of Operations, Go North West
Like many frontline organizations, Go North West faced difficulties in digitalizing its processes and communications. To begin with, internal communications were split across emails, depot noticeboards, mail to drivers' home addresses and unregulated social media platforms. With so many operational processes based on paper, Go North West faced inefficiency and high levels of non-adherence.
An additional challenge came when the organization attempted to introduce digital tools such as third-party scheduling. The team hit a roadblock because only supervisors were able to access the system, forcing them to relay schedule information to drivers through daily print-outs and phonecalls.
The team wanted a smarter approach to digital transformation in order to deliver cost savings and better employee experiences, a need exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and increased the need to deliver essential updates across the organization and upgrade operational processes.
The first solution to the challenge lay in using Blink’s Hub – the app’s central portal for accessing tools, processes and documents. This is where Go North West shared duties, rosters and running boards for easy updating and access.
The next was to make sure that critical information such as diversions could reach every member of staff quickly. This was where the team used Blink’s Feed – a company-wide communications channel, and supplemented it with the use of Chats in order to swap and fill shifts to ensure smooth service delivery.
Finally, the team at Go North West needed to streamline how drivers and other members of staff could access critical processes. This was where Blink’s Digital Forms and Custom Apps revolutionized how the organization worked, moving from paper-based to digital processes seamlessly:
- Drivers were able to request annual leave with a few taps from the app, made easier with functionality such as auto-population and validation
- Drivers were able to access their schedules through one-click access to DAS-Web
- Drivers were able to submit near-miss reports via a custom app on Blink, allowing them to log incidents quickly and easily, increasing the number of submissions to drive process improvement
Blink brought single-sign on mobile access to Go North West’s critical apps including Greenroad, DAS-Web and Hapi, eliminating the friction for staff trying to access key tools and systems and reducing the need for supervisors to spend time relaying information.
By driving engagement to these third-party platforms, the team ensures return on IT investment while reducing the burden on the IT team caused by access issues and password resets. Blink’s native SharePoint integration is also leveraged by the team in order to communicate key health and safety policies to staff without needing a Microsoft license.
The success of Blink’s technical delivery was such that following cyber-attacks on Go-Ahead Group systems in 2021, Blink was one of the few tools left running when other systems were taken out of action, maintaining essential lines of communication and supporting continued service.
Like many frontline organizations, Go North West faces an industry-wise staff shortage in the wake of COVID-19 and the Great Resignation. In this landscape, creating an employee experience that drives retention has never been more critical.
In addition to using Blink to streamline processes and access in a way that made the working day easier, Go North West leveraged Blink to drive employee engagement.
A key part of this was in making the organization’s leadership more visible and accessible to the frontline. Leaders began using the Feed on Blink in order to deliver recognition – such as the company’s Driver Awards - and promote health and wellbeing initiatives.
A particularly successful initiative was using ‘Question’ posts on the Feed, allowing the whole company to put questions to the leadership so that they feel heard and understood.
Being within a heavily unionized industry, Go North West faced strike action from its drivers for nearly a month in early 2021. In the period following this, Blink was critical as a central platform to bring the company back together and reaffirm the organization’s values and culture.
Expanding the Go North West network regularly involves tendering for competitive franchises. Increasingly for public services, franchisors evaluate bids based on criteria that indicate the enablement and engagement of their workforce.
In January 2023, Go North West competed for two major franchising contracts awarded by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) under its new Bee Network. One of the requirements of the bid was to show how the business drives exceptional service level through employee engagement, to which Go North West was able to demonstrate its wide range of initiatives and achievements made through Blink.
Go North West beat eight other operators to successfully win the bid and will begin new services in late 2023. Under the contracts, Go North West will operate 55 routes served by a fleet of 308 buses, and 750 employees will transfer across from existing operators.