Faced with a major transfer of nearly 600 personnel and the eventual closure of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) in 2005, Gary Fisher of GEFConsult was appointed to the SRA on an eight month interim assignment to help handle the transition.

“Gary always took a pragmatic approach to the issues which arose and calmly focused on achieving what was required. He took the initiative on many occasions, steering a course that would ensure a successful outcome.”

Julia Evans, HR Director, Strategic Rail Authority

The decision was made by John Prescott, Secretary of State for Transport, late in 2004 that the responsibilities of the SRA should move to a new area of the Department of Transport Rail Directorate.

“There were many individual issues to resolve… both as a result of the transfer and outside it. I helped to resolve these issues, ensuring satisfactory outcomes for everyone.”

 

The people within the SRA were either to be transferred to the Department of Transport or to be moved to other rail organisations or made redundant. With COSOP (Cabinet Office Statement of Practice on staff  transfers in the Public Sector) to consider, regulations that ensure employees have the right to transfer to new positions on the same terms and conditions of employment, the transition period was complex and sensitive.

In his Interim HR role, Gary Fisher reported to Julia Evans, Director of HR and Chris Hills, the Head of HR Operations and he was appointed because of his public sector experience and his knowledge and experience with change management, TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Regulations) transfers and industrial relations.

“My role was primarily to ensure a smooth transfer of operations personnel from the SRA to the Department of Transport,” commented Gary. “There were many potential pitfalls and although my role was more tactical than strategic, the processes and procedures were crucial to a successful outcome.”

Gary led the strategic and operational HR resource for the Operations Executive, sitting in on weekly Operational and monthly SRA project review meetings involving all functions. He also carried out a project management role involving redundancy consultation both collectively and individually.

“There were many individual issues to resolve,” continued Gary, “both as a result of the transfer and outside it. I helped to resolve these issues, ensuring satisfactory outcomes for everyone.”

The employees were not unionised, but the staff council had a strong voice and the Public Sector Union became involved.

“The role was very hands-on,” commented Gary. “I had to deal with many different elements and levels within the organisation. I also initiated a programme of hour long training seminars for the HR community to help improve the outcomes of the HR initiatives and to boost morale. I also contributed to improving the internal communication within the SRA.”

Julia Evans, HR Director at the Strategic Rail Authority during this period commented: “Gary was very much a team player during this period of upheaval and transition. He always took a pragmatic approach to the issues which arose and calmly focused on achieving what was required. He took the initiative on many occasions, steering a course that would ensure a successful outcome.”