Ask Richard Anderson CEO of Amtrak
Since his tenure as CEO, Anderson has made it a priority to allow a open line of communication amongst employees and management. On the internal portal, are a few of the questions and answers from town hall meeting and submitted questions.
Will we get another Virginia State Supported train to Lynchburg anytime soon with a morning train arrival before 12 noon from Washington, D.C., and with an afternoon departure after 4 p.m.?
Dennis Newman, EVP, Strategy and Planning: Virginia has not yet requested that we move forward with an additional Lynchburg frequency, and the decision is theirs since this is a State Supported service. We continue to work with Virginia on options for expansion of service to Lynchburg and elsewhere in Virginia.
While waiting for the train in New York Penn Station late at night, we were warned by a passenger not to sit in a specific area for Amtrak passengers. There were many mice roaming through the waiting area – we saw at least four or five. Other passengers were absolutely petrified to relax and to leave their bags/luggage on the floor next to their seat. What can be done about this?
Robert Jordan, AVP, Customer Service & Stations: We recently upgraded our janitorial vendor for NYP and have seen significant improvements—NYP CSI for cleanliness hit a 3-year high in June. With that said, we will share this information with the cleaning vendor to ensure the source attracting rodents is addressed more consistently. We will also increase the use of our exterminator to ensure this issue is resolved.
Career development at Amtrak is flawed. In terms of salary increase and title progression, if your department is not opening up senior leadership positions, it seems like the only way to grow professionally is to apply for another position. Even the 1-3 performance ratings fail to incentive employees, as 3s are only awarded within departments that are growing their teams. In other words, employees can go above and beyond for Amtrak, but still end up with a “2” rating due to lack of available positions. Amtrak’s current system does a better job at losing talent than it does at removing bad apples. Does Amtrak have any plans to change the current development system?
DJ Stadtler, EVP, Chief Administration Officer: Your question regarding employee development, retention and pay for performance is well-received. We are currently working with HR to improve in these areas of opportunity and will continue to make them a priority in FY 2020. When published, you will find pay for performance and employee development in the FY 2020 Annual Operating Plan under the People pillar. We recognize the organization is flatter and leaner that it once was, and we recognize more needs to be done to support career opportunity.
The bottom line is that we want all employees to stay and grow at Amtrak. Without the talent we have today, we won’t be able to compete in the future. In the coming months, you will learn more about our efforts to improve talent management, retention and development. We are working with HR to examine and recommend ways to incentivize and reward employees for high performance. Also coming soon, Amtrak will be launching an engagement survey to collect vital information to guide ways to improve the employee experience. Employee development needs to be a part of the employee experience at Amtrak. We will be asking all management employees to have development plans in the new fiscal year. HR will be providing guidance and resources to help employees with their development goals and activities, placing special emphasis on on-the-job learning. Additionally, HR will continue to expand the volume and quality of its instructor-led and web-based training offerings to meet the needs of employees.
Has Amtrak considered a program geared toward pairing junior/mid-level managers with senior leaders? Experiences like these allow junior managers to gain insight from senior leaders, while the senior folks are able to better understand how the company is operating at lower levels. As a mid-level manager, an opportunity to participate in such a program would be extremely motivating and enlightening.
DJ Stadtler, EVP, Chief Administration Officer: Learning from others “on the job” is one of the most effective ways to grow your experience and your career. It can happen anywhere and anytime there are willing participants. A pilot program has begun within the Human Resources organization. This pilot includes creating mentoring relationships, networking to gain awareness of other functions and job shadowing among other approaches. From this pilot a broader Amtrak-wide program is expected to be implemented.
Currently, there are two programs designed to build business knowledge through learning partnerships with other Amtrak employees. The New Employee Orientation Buddy Program and Amtrak Leader Exchange are two formal programs that can provide horizontal and vertical exposure to leaders in the organization. The Amtrak Buddy Program is designed to support our new employees in the first few months of on boarding. Studies have shown that an effective on boarding program is the key to driving productivity and retention with new hires. The value and purpose of the Buddy Program is to assist newly hired management employees to effectively transition into the organization. A “buddy” is someone in addition to the new employee’s direct manager, who can guide and answer questions about the work environment and the workplace culture in a positive and encouraging way.
Amtrak’s Leader Exchange program is targeted to high potential, key talent employees. The objective is to substantially increase their level of business acumen, while cultivating strong working relationships with other leaders across the enterprise. The leaders in this program will gain exposure to other departments and functions and have a unique opportunity to engage with company executives. Each leader exchange, also referred to as cohort, is comprised of a team of eight to 10 high potential, key talent employees. Each leader will take turns hosting others in the cohort for approximately one week each quarter, over a two-year period. The program requires a two-year commitment by each cohort member and each two-year rotation is self-managed by the cohort. If you are interested in learning more, contact HRtraining@amtrak.com.
We continue to explore additional programs to provide exposure and interaction throughout all levels of the organization.
For next year’s $1,000 HSA incentive, it asks that we get a physical and health assessment for $500 and then says for another $500 we can get “Preventive Care Available: 09/01/2018 - 12/31/2019. Goals include a colon cancer screening (preventive exam) or a prostate cancer screening (preventive exam) – but these exams are not usually done until a person is 50 years of age unless otherwise noted by a doctor. For those of us who are not in that age range, are we not eligible for the additional $500 or is there something else that can be done?
Jan Kelly, Director, Benefits: All employees can earn the $500 preventive care incentive. If you are up to date on your preventive care screenings, all you need to do is attest on the Cigna Wellness incentive website page that you are up to date on your preventive screenings – including your annual dental and vision check-ups. In doing so, you will earn the same preventive care incentives available to all other management employees.
Cigna allows us to receive deposits of $300 or $500 to our HSA for completing a physical, a mammogram, sleep apnea and other medical evaluations. Once they verify that an employee qualifies for the deposit to their HSA, they notify Amtrak that the employee qualifies for the monetary deposit. When does Amtrak make the deposits?
Jan Kelly, Director, Benefits: If you complete your annual physical and certain preventive screening exams in 2019, the incentives will be paid in January 2020. These incentives replace the Company’s automatic HSA contribution for 2020. .
When will we receive the $500 HSA deposit for completing the Project Z sleep study and assessment?
Jan Kelly, Director, Benefits: The Project Z incentives will be distributed by the end of September to everyone who completed the program by July 31. These incentives include a $500 deposit into your Health Savings Account, or a $250 gift card if you do not have an HSA. For those who complete after July 31, incentives will be paid out by the end of the year.
Is Amtrak considering a pension buyout of the frozen pension assets?
DJ Stadtler, EVP, Chief Administration Officer: We review this option on a regular basis, but at this point that is not imminent.
Why aren’t the Employee Appreciation Day gifts set by upper management, and then given to all employees?Right now, it's not cohesive and has the effect of making some employees seem more appreciated than others. In the West, the conductors and engineers got nice gym bags and a BBQ while the CSRs got a pizza party and not so much as a thank you email.
DJ Stadtler, EVP, Chief Administration Officer: Employee Appreciation Day is meant to honor employees over the entire Amtrak network. It offers leaders an opportunity to pause and recognize their staffs through acknowledgment and appreciation of their work. It is important that recognition is conducted at the department level, so it is unique and individual to employees and their work location. You are encouraged to team up or form Employee Appreciation Day committees with your department leader to work together, recognize and appreciate each other. As we model our new Amtrak Values and behaviors, managers will be asked to lead recognizing and appreciating our employees. New tools and training will be offered for managers throughout the year to ensure a consistent approach is practiced.
What type of reports are being looked at to justify the 20% reduction in APD? I believe that if you looked further into the actual number of reports submitted by APD, you'd find they do way more than what they're dispatched for just by being in or around a station. I feel as this is taking a step in the wrong direction for the safety and security of our passengers and employees.
DJ Stadtler, EVP, Chief Administration Officer: There is not a planned 20% reduction in APD. The work that the APD performs is critical to the safety and security of our customers and employees, and we are not backing away from that responsibility. We are in the process of redeploying officers to locations that will result in a stronger uniformed presence in customer and employee facing areas. We are also focused on leveraging areas where multiple police forces are in place, redirecting our APD officers to riding trains in order to increase onboard safety.