With 1.3 billion journeys each year, a figure that is expected to increase 140% in the next 30 years, a workforce of over 10,000, and some of the largest projects taking place across Europe such as Crossrail, The Electrification Spine, Birmingham New Street and Reading Station, Network Rails commitment to safety is and must be paramount.

The Issue:

Over the past ten years, several major accidents have occurred in the UK rail industry and investigations have highlighted human performance as a contributory factor. Incidences of misunderstandings or employee error can result in litigation payments exceeding millions of pounds and lost lives.

All rail companies need formal competency management systems in place to maintain and assess the competence of operators responsible for safety critical work and ensure front line workforces are monitored and assessed. They also may be called on to demonstrate the competency and compliance of their operators to regulators, stakeholders and the public at any time, so managers need access to up to date information about the competency of all their employees.

The Key Objective:

The key objective for Network Rail was to minimise risk to the UK railways, ensure that only competent people carryout safety critical and safety-related work, and to comply with the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) requirements.

The purpose of competence management in the rail industry is to control risk. Legislation regulates safety critical work to manage the risk to safety but there is an increasing recognition of the need to consider business risk too. For example an error made by a signaller might cause an accident or delay a train: and both can be costly in financial terms and damage a company’s reputation.

The Challenge:

Network Rail needed a formal competency management solution to maintain and assess the competence of operators responsible for safety critical work. The company needed managers to have an up to date record of the competence, confidence, training needs, progress and performance of every individual – all in one place.

Previously, the company didn’t have a centralised source of employee performance records or assessments which made it difficult for managers to obtain important information for management reports and audits when needed. Network Rail wanted a competency management system that brought together performance assessments, appraisals and training and development programmes – all in one place.

What Cognisco provided:

Assessing competence efficiently, requires a lens on pre-existing third party systems and therefore the company invested in Cognisco’s MyKnow competency management system (referred to internally as the ‘Academy’) to measure the competence of over 11,000 front line operators including signallers, controllers and train drivers, and provide insight into the other HR, training, simulation and verification systems.

Using Cognisco’s expert occupational psychologists, consultancy and a unique, and penetrative situational judgement assessment process it is now able to regularly measure a combination of employee skills, knowledge and confidence.

The assessments are designed to ensure front line operators:

  • Perform to the required standard under normal and emergency conditions
  • Perform consistently to that standard whether under assessment conditions or not
  • Have the required up-to-date knowledge and understanding of relevant rules and procedures.

The results provide insight not only into how knowledgeable a person is but how they might act when performing their jobs and the decisions they might make. Such assessments work by asking employees a series of multiple response questions based on common ‘on the job’ scenarios.

The scenarios include specific ‘at risk’ circumstances and the answers can’t be guessed unlike multiple choice assessments. The results reveal how competent a person is in all aspects of their role and highlight knowledge gaps and where confidence might be an issue or pose a risk.

The Outcome:

Network Rail is managing all assessments and compliance requirements using MyKnow and now has a competency management solution in place that focuses on the management of People Risk at an individual, team and entire operations level.

The company has also been able to better use existing evidence about how employees perform at work, increase the use of simulation in training to test their performance in a range of work situations and ensure a more rigorous testing of peoples’ knowledge and behaviours.

By using MyKnow the company is:

  • Ensuring it can demonstrate compliance
  • Adopting a best practice approach to auditing and reporting
  • Complying with the RSSB requirements
  • Reducing health and safety risks as well as business risks

Using MyKnow Network Rail has an accurate, up to date, company-wide view of employee competence at all times. In addition to ensuring compliance, the company quickly identified further benefits and expanded its use to manage performance and the continual career development of front line employees, giving them individual accountability for their development plans.

Network Rail is now working with its supplier chain, making sure they also utilise MyKnow, which is now at the heart of their business mitigating People Risk.

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