Case study

Think, Act, Report: Virgin Trains East Coast

Improving the gender and ethnicity balance

Building on the legacy of East Coast Trains, new owners Virgin Trains East Coast (from March 2015) want to continue to deliver the best customer experience. We understand that to achieve this our teams and colleagues need to feel valued, included and continue to love working here, so they can be “the best they can be”.

Different and diverse people work here and our workforce closely matches the communities we operate in. However we have identified two issues:

  • There are some teams and roles which are male dominated. We are therefore working towards being more inclusive and addressing any gender gaps.
  • There are also still some ethnicity gaps, so we need to understand any barriers to progression and development, as well as reviewing what’s happening in recruitment and resourcing.

Issue to be resolved

The rail industry is perceived to be a white male dominated environment, it is therefore important that Virgin Trains East Coast take the opportunity to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation to enable us be even more high-performing, profitable and customer focussed.

Action Taken

The 2014 East Coast Employee Survey included diversity data to enable further understanding about where any particular groups of people felt excluded or unable to perform and be the best they could be.

The survey highlighted some interesting points and focus groups started in November 2014 to sense check these findings with our colleagues. We developed an Inclusion Plan for the next 2 years which includes a review of our recruitment and sourcing practices to ensure our recruitment is reaching out to our local community groups whilst recruiting and selecting the most talented individuals.

Progress so far in 2014 :

  • created a focussed HR Team and shared action plan working proactively on diversity and inclusion
  • production of detailed diversity and inclusion data and measures, starting with gender and BAME
  • development of workplace diversity KPIs for our “Good Together” dashboard
  • part of industry groups NSARE & RSSB to work collectively on this agenda
  • employee survey included gender, ethnicity and tenure enabling us to gather further insights and intelligence
  • employee focus groups designed and planned in November to communicate with our colleagues about inclusion and to explore and understand potential barriers at work
  • HR Policy Review underway to ensure they are inclusive
  • recruitment monitoring started to review job applicants in terms of diversity and to track them through the selection process
  • focussed on future opportunities for increasing diversity e.g. Intercity Express Trains
  • engaged with a specialist third party Inclusive Employers to introduce EC Annual Membership with access to training workshops, resources & expertise
  • continue with community engagement programmes to reach out to people on our route building our inclusive brand profile
  • First East Coast Ladies Event “Inspiring Women” held


Almost 9 out of 10 people completed the 2014 Employee Survey and more than three quarters of our colleagues feel proud to work for East Coast.

In 2009, when East Coast took over the franchise, our vision was to provide the best possible journey experience for our customers, and be a great place to work. At the time, the employee engagement score was 62% with just a little over half of people completing the survey. In 2014 we have scored 74% for employee engagement and have gone a long way towards achieving our vision.

It is too early to understand the impact of our 2014/5 diversity and inclusion work, although we do now have a greater understanding of our workforce make up and how this matches with our local communities. The focus groups will give us some rich information from our colleagues which will be used to help shape our future direction.

Next Steps

2014 - 2016

  • Understand more about Employee Survey diversity data and insights
  • Unconscious bias training programme for all people managers
  • Review make up of development groups e.g. Future Leaders, High Potential to enable these to be inclusive and representative
  • Review focus group feedback to help shape future direction
  • Create an internal cross function/cross grade working group to give focus and direction – working together proactively on this agenda
  • Develop and launch a role model programme – “I can, you can” to consider targeting underrepresented groups
  • Workforce data collection exercise
  • Further develop data and measures to include other areas of diversity
  • More events bringing people together e.g. ladies’ lunch
  • Implement findings from HR Policy Review
  • Review current Equal Opportunities statement to develop a shared commitment to inclusion
  • Review and develop our recruitment training programme to include unconscious bias
  • Review sourcing strategies to ensure our recruitment is far reaching and inclusive and brings the best talent to Virgin Trains East Coast
  • Develop a more deep-rooted inclusion approach so it’s embedded in everything that we do at Virgin Trains East Coast
  • More apprenticeships, community investment and opportunity.
Published 27 March 2015