Transport for London’s non‐traditional training

Published date01 September 2005
Date01 September 2005
AuthorKim Kneen
Subject MatterHR & organizational behaviour
10 Volume 4 Issue 6 September/October 2005
Short case studies that demonstrate best practice in HR
Transport for London’s non-
traditional training
ore than 27 million journeys
are made in Greater London
every day, and over 8 million
of these are on public transport.
Everyone you meet can share horror
stories of nightmare journeys. Transport
for London (TfL) is therefore rarely out
of the public eye, and rarely for positive
We were commissioned by TfL to
research, create and deliver an
innovative program for delivery to
managers and staff as an integral part
of a broader business and cultural
change program. The main objective
was to create a new standard in
customer service delivery and also
generate motivational and team
building opportunities.
The bigger picture
The first challenge was to try to
encourage staff to get the “bigger
picture.” This was important because
TfL is still finding its feet as an
organization and is often criticized on
issues over which it has little control.
We also had to work hard to combat
the legacy effects of corporate culture
and history. A phrase we heard a lot
was “we’ve always done it that way.”
To get to the bottom of this, we
knew we had to understand the
journey that led to the creation of a
new organization. Many staff had spent
most of their working lives at the
company, so it was important to
understand and make amends for some
natural cynicism on their part. Happily
we found a strong degree of pride in
TfL and a feeling that staff really felt
their company valued them.
So while the more vociferous
delegates shared the view that “we’ve
had this training before but nothing
ever happens,” it’s worth stating that
there was a clear hunger and
enthusiasm for change and
development from the majority of
delegates. We encouraged delegates to
“be radical in their approach.” As
someone once said: “You can’t cross a
chasm in two steps.”
“Real-life” training
We were fortunate enough to have a
client as trusting as TfL when we
started the training. Our approach
involved taking over a suite in an
upmarket hotel for the duration of the
program, the construction of a “real
life” set and the recording of material
such as genuine “vox pops.” All the
while, we were mindful that the use of
professional actors in the role of
customers could have been seen as too
“outside the box” by some
We allowed the delegates more time
to enjoy the set and the ambience we’d
created before leaping in with the
training. There is a temptation to play
down the investment level to counter
arguments like: “If they can afford this
why don’t they pay me more?” Our team
of experts learned to be very positive
about the investment TfL was making in
its training and therefore its staff.
Unleashing delegates’ experience
We were keen to encourage delegates
to “forget the traditional” in their
approach to the training. Classic visual
presentation tools like PowerPoint were
put aside. From the start, delegates
were involved in practical exercises,
working with professional actors and
tackling real-life situations that
immediately immersed them in the
training. The entire effect was anything
but conventional.
From our experience, using actors
can be very beneficial; however, there
are a number of issues that need to be
addressed to make their involvement
Transport for London is the integrated
body responsible for the capital’s
transport system. TfL manages London’s
buses, the Underground, the Docklands
Light Railway (DLR) and London Trams.TfL
also manages a 580km network of main
roads and all of London’s 4,600 traffic
lights, and regulates taxis and the private
hire trade.
Kim Kneen of MICE AGA explains how Transport for London used professional actors in creating a learning and
development program that reflected “the bigger picture” and brought customer service training to life.
© Melcrum Publishing Ltd. 2005 For more information visit or e-mail

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