Strategy & LeadershipMy Working Day: Alison Bell, HR Director, MTR Crossrail

My Working Day: Alison Bell, HR Director, MTR Crossrail

In a regular new series, HRD Connect speaks with leaders from all different industries about their working day. In our latest feature, we spoke with Alison Bell, HR Director, MTR Crossrail.

Learning from your peers is very important when it comes to overcoming challenges and adapting to new working environments. In a new series launched by HRD Connect we find out how your peers shape and craft their working days.

What time does your day start?

Usually, about 5 am, I have a two-year-old to get up and ready for nursery before getting the train to work.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Check on my little girl if she wasn’t the one to wake me!

What for you kick starts your day correctly?

A cup of tea and a cuddle from my little girl.

What is your commute like to work?

I get the Underground and it usually takes about one hour and 15 minutes with a short walk from the station to the office.

What is the first thing you do when you get to the office/start working?

I’ll speak to my team, see how they all are, and then make a round of cups of tea.

Can you talk me through a typical morning for you…?

No day is the same! It can be a series of meetings, talking to our union colleagues or staff or visiting stations and staff. The rail industry has become mired in poor industrial relations in recent years. We’re working hard to buck this trend and have formed excellent working relationships with all the main rail unions. We’re partners in making a success of the Elizabeth line, and there’s been no industrial action of any kind since the organisation started in 2014.

What do you have for lunch?

Usually a salad, soup or a baked potato.

Do you feel more productive in the morning, or after lunch?

As I have so many meetings during the day I feel most productive on the train on the way home and in the evening; this is the time when I really get the chance to think properly and get work done.

What do you think is the best way to motivate a team?

Know your team, listen to them and recognise when they have done a good job. It’s also about making sure you don’t forget about the importance of staying motivated yourself!

What time do you leave work?

There’s some flexibility here at MTR Crossrail, so I usually get to leave the office at 4.30 in order to get home in time to collect my little girl from nursery. I’ll work on the train and then usually log on to the work server once I have put her to bed.

Do you think you have a good work/life balance?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. There can be times when it’s incredibly busy and in order to keep on top of the workload I will have to work evenings and weekends.

What do you do in the evenings?

Once I’ve sorted my little girl out and put her to bed and made dinner I will often log on and do some more work, I also do pilates and love a good TV drama

When is bedtime?

Anywhere between 10.30 and 11.30

A bit about you…

What is your personal career highlight?

Winning HR Practitioner of the Year at the HR Excellence Awards was an important moment for me. More generally, the way in which we’re starting to create a new buzz around the rail sector. It’s an old-fashioned industry. Just 6% of train drivers in the UK are female, 5% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, only 10% are under 35. By comparison, the profile of MTR Crossrail train drivers is that 13.5% are women, 32% ethnic minority, 47% are under 35. In terms of our staff overall, around 33% are female, and half are from ethnic minority backgrounds. It feels like HR is making a real difference.

What do you do to unwind?

Pilates, swimming, walking and getting lost in a good TV drama.

What is your favourite food?

Indian takeaway or a traditional Christmas dinner.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Being a good mummy and being generous with my time. MTR Crossrail’s mission is to transform the overall culture of rail services, setting a new standard for rail travel. I’d like to think that’s what the HR team will have delivered, an exciting business that’s brought about a new vibe in the industry. We already think that when you walk into an Elizabeth line station onto an Elizabeth line train there’s an obvious difference.

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