People person

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The first batch of electric buses at Waterloo are maintained by BYD, but the vehicles that have gone into Camberwell recently are looked after in-house. One of Go-Ahead London’s BYD ADL Enviro200EV single deckers, is seen on route 153 to Moorgate. KRIS LAKE

Debbie Lambshead, Human Resources Manager at Go-Ahead London, explains her role to Jade Smith and how the operator is looking after its employees

Imet Debbie Lambshead, HR Manager at Go-Ahead London at the operator’s head office in Merton, where she is based.

Debbie has been in the industry for 15 years, working across three different bus companies: FirstGroup, Tower Transit and now Go-Ahead. She began there last March and said that as Go-Ahead is the biggest operator in London, it is proving to be a big challenge.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying it – it is a wonderful company to work for,” Debbie said. “In the bus industry it’s the people that make the business what it is and they always have time for you.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working in Human Resources and the highlights are the people, tackling a huge variety of topics and having varying days. My favourite aspect is witnessing people develop through the business. As an industry we like to promote from within because to understand the driving aspect of the job is invaluable.”

Developing staff

Debbie said that succession planning within Go-Ahead is another challenge.

“It is important for us to grow our home talent as it’s a difficult market to recruit in,” she said. “If a driver has previously worked for a lot of other bus companies there’s usually a reason why you wouldn’t want to recruit them, but if they’re loyal you won’t necessarily be able to entice them away from a different operator.

“With operating managers the same rules apply: they move around amongst the businesses, so somebody somewhere will know if they’re someone you would want to employ.

“Growing our own talent is the best way forward. The challenge will be keeping them. For example, if we advertise internally for the position of general manager there may be three or four strong candidates and only one of them will get the position. How do I keep the others motivated to stay with us, rather than moving on to a different operator?

“To combat this we provide them with opportunities to show their skills, for example, with relief managers. We may appoint one general manager, but if we can say to another strong candidate we want them to cover several general managers for holidays, then they get the chance to show their skillset. They provide holiday cover for a couple of weeks where they have plenty of help and support.

“It allows them to learn a skill and see if it’s the job for them, as can we. We’re looking at implementing it across the board with assistant operating managers and engineering managers, for example.

“We’ve also taken ex-army people on because with a bit of creativity, we can apply the skills and experience they’ve learned in a different sector to the bus business. The traditional route doesn’t have to be the only way in.” […]

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