Norfolk Southern (NS) on Dec. 6 held a town hall meeting for its railroaders—from conductor trainees to the executive team—marking one year since the Class I adopted the “A Better Way Forward” strategy.
The meeting was held at NS’s training center in McDonough, Ga., and broadcast to all 20,000 employees across its 22-state network.
“One year ago today [at NS’s 2022 Investor Day], we launched a brand-new vision for the rail industry,” NS President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said. “[I]t’s a balance between safe service, productivity and growth. We chose this, not because it’s easy … we chose it, because it unlocks the full potential of this awesome franchise, our great employees, and our desirable customer base.”
He noted that the company is “handling volumes that we haven’t seen in the last two and a half years.”
Shaw also shared insight from customer and stakeholder conversations, according to NS. “We’ve kept a lot of promises this year,” Shaw reported. “We’re becoming known as the railroad that keeps our promises, and that feels pretty darn good to me.”
During the meeting, Shaw emphasized the importance of “ownership, teamwork and continuous improvement at every level,” according to the railroad.
“Challenge yourselves,” Shaw told employees. “Challenge your teammates, including me, to give a higher level of performance and a higher level of results. We’re really looking for all 20,000 people at Norfolk Southern to think about how to make Norfolk Southern better and how to execute on this strategy.”
Also on hand to address the group were NS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Duncan, Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Annie Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mark George, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins, and Executive Vice President Corporate Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Nabanita Nag.
According to NS, Duncan stressed the role of leaders “in setting the tone and influencing the overall culture of the organization.”
“As leaders, we have to continue to take the time to always talk about safety, no matter how challenging those conversations are,” Duncan told NS railroaders. “Tone is what influences culture. We need to talk about rules checks and invest in training to ensure everyone on this railroad is given the tools, the training, and the leadership support to safely go back home every single day.”
Annie Adams discussed the importance of “cultivating a positive company culture” and investing in railroaders, according to NS.
“To achieve our better way forward strategy, we’re going to need the engagement of all 20,000 folks,” Adams said. “And that means creating an environment where you can contribute your talents, your experience and your perspectives. The bedrock of that engagement is trust, communication and collaboration.”
Mark George told the group that “[s]ervice, productivity and growth are interdependent. You can’t grow the railroad or grow the business on the railroad without outstanding service to your customers.”
Emphasizing the importance of growth “through problem-solving for customers,” Ed Elkins encouraged employees to “[t]ry to figure out what their problems are and how we’re going to solve them. We have to continue to solve problems for folks that want to use us.” He added that “[w]e are so well positioned for the future, and I’m excited for the next 30 years. The folks sitting in front of us right here, you’re going to have fabulous opportunities to grow this franchise.”
Nabanita Nag emphasized need to build trust with external stakeholders, according to NS. “We must build strong relationships with all of our external stakeholders, whether that’s customers, whether that’s shareholders, whether that’s communities in which we operate, or whether that’s our government officials,” Nag said. “We can’t succeed without investing in those relationships and building trust.”
Shaw concluded the town hall by sharing: “When I think about where we’re headed, I think about a railroad that delivers exceptional service to our customers … I’m really proud of what we accomplished in 2023, and our best days are yet to come.”