Driving change: How transportation teams can create effective partnerships with HR

With a myriad of factors to consider in return-to-workplace planning, transportation teams may feel unsure how best to engage with HR and leadership teams to effectively address the commute’s role in successful employee experience. How can transportation teams evolve their partnership with HR and other cross-functional teams to elevate awareness of their employee commute programs?

Even pre-COVID, your transportation team played a crucial role in contributing to employee experience from the moment your people left their homes to commute to the workplace—with mode choice, access, and cost all contributing to the end-user experience of your people. But in today’s landscape, your transportation team’s role is even more important than ever—considering now that one of the top three employee concerns of workplace reopening is the commute. COVID-19 has forced a transformation in the function of HR and benefits, transportation teams, and beyond to partner and work closely together to create effective communications that build trust and provide employees with peace of mind–and this starts with addressing the commute.

As organizations build, employ, and communicate their return-to-workplace and remote working strategies, the commute can’t be an afterthought in the conversation. One of the barriers Transportation Demand Managers (TDMs) and transportation teams routinely face is learning how to successfully partner with HR teams so that they can properly communicate their transportation and commuter programs to employees.

In a recent conversation during the Association for Commuter Transportation’s 2020 International Conference facilitated by Scoop CEO and Co-Founder Rob Sadow and LinkedIn Global Transportation Program Manager Danielle Glaser, heads of transportation from major employers, transportation agencies, and more shared their challenges and insights on how transportation teams can create effective cross-functional partnerships with HR to elevate awareness of their commute programs. Here’s what we learned.

5 main learnings that TDMs can use to partner with HR successfully:

1. Create cross-functional focus groups to identify communication gaps and opportunities for greater collaboration. Strong cross-functional partnerships between HR and transportation teams are built on a foundation of mutual understanding. Initiate internal focus groups to learn more about the processes and goals of the HR and benefits team and to discuss how and why transportation and commute programs can be interwoven into corporate strategies.

Use these focus groups across HR, talent, benefits, and wellness to identify how teams have worked cross-functionally in the past, how they currently work together, and what joint goals can be achieved in the future.

As a result of these focus groups, transportation teams can learn more about the HR and benefits world and establish a foundation of trust and understanding, increasing connection and opportunities to elevate transportation programs into programs like new-hire onboarding.

2. Demonstrate the impact and ROI of a safe commute when presenting your program to HR and other internal stakeholders. Transportation experts may already realize the importance of building a safe commute strategy as a core component of your return-to-workplace strategy–but this may not yet be at the forefront of an HR leader’s priority list. TDMs already know employers who recognize the connection between safety and the commute will benefit by having more engaged employees, a safer workplace, and stronger overall COVID-19 rebound. To build this business case to your HR and leadership team, highlight how your commute investments positively impact your organization’s overall employee experience and broader return-to-workplace strategy while remaining variable, flexible, and scalable in structure and cost.

3. Get creative and pivot the way you communicate your programs to reach and engage with your employees effectively. The methods transportation teams implemented to successfully reach employee bases before 2020 may no longer be relevant if most of an organization’s workforce is working remotely. Even workforces that are currently remote will still be left wondering about their return to the workplace and expect their organizations to address their future commute. Assess the ways your team has historically communicated transportation and commute program offerings to your people. What communication methods worked? What didn’t work?

LinkedIn’s Global Transportation Program Manager Danielle Glaser said her team had to get creative in how they positioned their transportation and commute programs in front of LinkedIn’s worldwide employee base once employees began working remotely. Before COVID-19, their transportation team used digital screens on LinkedIn’s campuses to spread awareness of their many transportation and commute offerings, including Scoop. Now that employees are working remotely and not onsite, Danielle and her team continue their partnership with HR and other cross-functional teams to share their latest news in the form of employee e-newsletters, such as their popular Bay Area Bike newsletter.

4. Keep your program’s purpose and intent at the center of your internal and employee communications, even if you can’t share specifics. Work to get on the same page with HR about how and when you will communicate transportation and commute news to your organization. Even if your transportation team has exciting news to share with employees about updates to your commute programs, you may have to wait to share specifics until the broader return-to-workplace strategy is communicated to your organization.

How can you balance the needs to keep people engaged with the latest from your transportation team and address employee commute concerns while not sharing too many specifics? Scoop CEO Rob Sadow recommends establishing a return-to-workplace philosophy and point of view when addressing employee concerns and questions. This way, you’re able to share the guiding principles that inform your commute and transportation decisions, even if you can’t yet share full details of your plan.

5. Now is the time for TDMs to champion the value of transportation and commute programs and help their HR leaders get ahead of the curve. Different organizations are in various stages of having collaborative relationships with their company’s HR leaders. At the same time, transportation and commute programs may not yet be front and center in the minds of HR leaders. Now is the time for transportation leaders to emerge as internal thought leaders on why the commute is more than just a way for employees to get to and from the workplace safely.

The commute touches all aspects of employee experience, from attracting and retaining talent to boosting employee engagement, connectivity, loyalty, and more. Whether or not your team currently has a strong relationship with HR, transportation teams can get ahead of the curve and help HR leaders proactively meet their employees’ needs and grant them peace of mind about one of the top three return-to-workplace concerns: the commute.

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