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NATS supports employees through major change

NATS supports employees through major change

"The support provided by Validium helped us to successfully move more than 800 employees to create the world’s busiest international air traffic control centre on time."

Sandra Barker | Relocation Manager | National Air Traffic Service (NATS) 

The challenge

A consequence of the £1bn longterm investment plan put in place by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, was the challenge of relocating most of its 5,000 employees. A major plank in the ten year vision was the consolidation of four air traffic centres down to two.

Sandra Barker, employment policies and relocation manager for NATS, explains, “We’ve stepped up the pace of change to a level our people have never experienced, from the technology we use to our international outlook. We are having to deliver a new project every two weeks, on time and to budget."

“By 2011 most employees will have changed the place where they work,” says Sandra. “At the same time productivity has to increase as we’re handling more and more flights every year. We had to find a way of supporting our people through change, and the demands being placed upon them, to ensure they could maintain their professional standards in safely and efficiently handling air traffic.”

"The practical and emotional support provided by Validium was exactly what we required..."

The approach

“Although we already had internal support processes in place, we recognised that the scale of change meant we had to be able to provide employees with access to someone they could talk to in confidence without constraint,” says Sandra.

“With over 800 staff due to move from West Drayton to Hampshire, there was a pressing need to provide confidential, emotional relocation support.”

Following an extensive tender process, Validium was the only provider fully to meet the brief. “The practical and emotional support provided by Validium was exactly what we required. Whereas other providers concentrated on giving information, Validium was also about active listening,” adds Sandra.

The solution

“As well as providing practical support on things like childcare and finance, the quality of the counsellors made available through the helpline enables employees to deal with their personal issues,” says Sandra. “This is essential to our ability to provide our service without personal distractions impacting on concentration.”

Validium provides round the clock access to a wide range of dedicated counsellors, who are all BACP accredited and experts in their own field.

Sandra adds, “Validium does everything possible to make the service suitable for our organisation. For example, regularly attending manager and trade union meetings to tailor their service based on feedback received. Our Validium account consultants also held eight road shows and talked to employees in person, to make them aware of the support available in an energised, enthusiastic and memorable way.”

The results

Sandra says, “Validium’s employee assistance expertise and commitment is helping us to make a challenging transition in a way that can only support our reputation as an employer of choice. It’s also helping us to retain people through a time of great change, enabling us to recoup the substantial investment made in training each of our air traffic controllers and also in our service assistants, engineers and support staff.”

The future

Validium continues to work with NATS to help its people prepare for the forthcoming consolidation of the Prestwick and Manchester centres and now also provides critical incident support training for diffusers.

“We have a good relationship with Validium and like the way they have embraced the challenge of helping us through a tremendous period of change. They communicate well, take on board everything we want and work with us to deliver whatever we require,” concludes Sandra.