For over 30 years, V/Line has been moving and connecting people by providing public transport throughout regional Victoria. Each week, V/Line schedules more than 2,000 train services between the state’s capital and its regional neighbours like Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, and Seymour among others.
In addition to its public transport services, V/Line leases, provides access to and maintains over 3,500 kilometres of track, used by passengers and freight operators alike across the state.
Working to provide exceptional service to the public, V/Line employs a dedicated workforce of more than 2,100 people, including many who live and work in regional Victoria.
The inherent risks of a busy and rapidly expanding rail network meant V/Line required top quality procedures and processes in place to ensure the safety of all its passengers and workforce. With dedicated attention, their safety management system (SMS) and compliance indicators had stabilised and improved year on year.
With these key safety areas under control, V/Line looked towards their next area of focus – bringing exemplary safety leadership into the hearts and minds of all its employees. To do this would mean improving safety behaviours and encouraging safety growth mindsets across the entire organisation.
The decision was made to develop a bespoke safety leadership program that was targeted towards its leaders in the business – from front-line supervisors all the way up to the executive leadership team. Every member of this cohort would then be responsible for demonstrating the behaviours and cascading a consistent safety message across all parts of the V/Line business.
To transcend any knowledge gap within our audience, we knew we would need to create a program that connected with all participants, offering them a unique and memorable training experience.
Alongside a selection of the V/Line workforce, we co-designed the safety leadership program from the ground up. Across three rounds of design workshops, we tested and evolved the safety content with our ‘design partners’, ensuring we created a unique program to inspire all members of the leadership cohort. A quality safety leadership program, specifically designed to meet the needs of V/Line leaders, was born.
Connection to the journey ahead
Interchange produced tailor made video content with V/Line’s CEO who articulated his future vision for the company and unconditional approach to safety for all workers. He spoke of the significance of the safety leadership program and how it clearly aligned with the company’s vision. This introductory video was dispatched to all leaders prior to attending the 2-day workshop. His message positioned the need for the program, built anticipation for the journey ahead and established the link between the safety training and a more engaged and safe culture at V/Line.
Curated learning environment
This safety leadership program was not your standard workshop – there were no fluorescent flickery lights, no uncomfortable school-style chairs or monotone facilitators. We had a different idea. We took over the spectacular ‘refreshments room’ at the historic Seymour train station, giving it a cosy and unforgettable makeover. We moved in plush high-backed chairs, large rugs and furnishings, and soft lamp-lighting. By doing this, we challenged participants to leave their pre-conceived notions of ‘training’ at the door, and to instead relax and connect with the content in an open, honest and more personal way. Having all V/Line leaders engaged and feeling valued, was pivotal to the effectiveness of the program.
Tailored, engaging content
The content, delivered by our senior facilitators was custom designed, keeping V/Line’s goals and areas of opportunity in mind. The material was not only practical and educational, but it was also engaging, interactive, experiential, personal and fun. Participants were encouraged to express their views on the current state of safety and leadership at V/Line. They also were challenged to articulate a future vision for the organisation. Engagement in this process was strong and conversations were robust. Our facilitators, however, continued their role as moderators and respectful challengers in the moment!
Over the course of the workshop, participants began to shift their mindset towards the individual commitments they could take to improve safety, ensuring V/Line would always be a great place to work. One critical part of this was encouraging attendees to share their safety ‘why’ – their personal safety stories. This practice had a deep and lasting impact on all participants. It also contributed to building stronger relationships within the group and encouraging a sense of shared accountability across the broader organisation.
Create new connections
The V/Line leaders who attended the workshop were purposefully invited from all different parts of Victoria. By bringing together staff who are not usually in the same office or depot, and combining operational leaders with non-operational leaders, we fostered better collaboration to support the cultural journey. These connections were genuine. When we extended an offer to all have dinner together at the local pub, every attendee accepted so they could continue their conversations and tell stories. This important social occasion helped build collaboration within the group and established lasting bonds for the future of the business.
Cement the learnings into everyday life
To continue the momentum beyond the 2-day ‘Safety Leadership’ program, we gave all participants a range of tasks to complete, from self-assessments to positively recognising people within their teams. This would form the backbone of the Integrate phase of the program and help further instil the learnings back into their area of work. The post-workshop tasks also encouraged a far-reaching shift in mindset and got the momentum rolling for positive change across all levels at V/Line.
We know that safety performance is directly impacted by engaging the workforce and shifting behaviour and mindsets. By helping participants understand the impact of individual behavioural shifts, this program acted as catalyst to a wider cultural transformation that has and will continue to result in a safer V/Line.
V/Line celebrated a 60% reduction of procedural breaches, a 49% reduction of rail incidents, and a 63% reduction of significant injuries. These improvements were over the proceeding 5-year period with continuing positive projection post the Safety Leadership Program roll-out.
V/Line’s safety results highlight that work with intangible forces like mindset, behaviour and culture, has a very tangible impact on elements like safety. By inspiring businesses and their people through programs like this, we’re achieving our mission to create better, safer places to work.